Verstappen beats Leclerc in season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen ended the season in dominant fashion, winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from Charles Leclerc and George Russell. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó reports on the season-closing race.

Verstappen had a great getaway at the start, but Charles Leclerc was adamant to overtake the Dutchman on the opening lap, attempting multiple overtaking moves into Turns 1, 6 and 9.

In the meantime, McLaren's Lando Norris got past George Russell on the first lap, moving up to P4. Three laps later, the Briton charged his way past his team-mate Oscar Piastri and tried to close in on second-placed Leclerc.

On Lap 6, Kevin Magnussen boxed for new Hard tyres, rejoining the track in P20.

A lap later, Russell attempted an overtaking move on Piastri into Turn 9, but the Australian fended off the attacks on the inside line.

On the same lap, AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo dived into the pits for his first stop after he was informed by his race engineer that a visor tear-off got stuck in one of his brake ducts.

On Lap 9, Russell did the same move on Piastri than two tours earlier, but he failed once again. However, two laps later, Piastri locked up into Turn 6, and Russell managed to get past the former F2 champion.

Fernando Alonso was the first driver in the top ten to box as he changed his mediums for hards.

The next lap saw Verstappen report some degradation to his front right despite running in free air. Following the battle between Piastri and Russell, Yuki Tsunoda also closed in on the McLaren driver.

On Lap 14, Piastri opted for his tyre change as he tried to cover Alonso's undercut. McLaren managed to change the Australian's tyres with a 2.7s stop, and he rejoined the track right in front of Alonso, but managed to defend on his cool tyres.

The next lap saw Norris and Russell come in for tyre change. The McLaren driver had a slow stop with a 5.1-second tyre change, which enabled the Mercedes racer to get past his rival.

In the meantime, Hamilton and Pierre Gasly made contact as the Frenchman locked up into Turn 6 and the Englishman slid straight into the back of him.

Hamilton and Ocon pitted on Lap 15 for fresh Hards. The Briton's front wing picked up damage, but Mercedes deemed it minor and did not change it during the pit stop.

Verstappen came in on Lap 17 with his stop lasting 2.9s. The Dutchman came back in seventh place behind the Ferrari of Sainz, who was yet to pit.

The next lap saw Leclerc pit from the lead, leaving Yuki Tsunoda in the lead. The Monegasque had an avarage stop of 2.8s, but he only rejoined the track ahead of Russell, who showed how powerful his undercut strategy was.

On the same lap, Verstappen breezed past Sainz with only Tsunoda and Stroll having been in front of the Dutchman. However, the three-time world champion picked off Stroll with Tsunoda coming in for fresh tyres on Lap 23.

Verstappen found himself back at the front of the field as Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff tried to encourage his driver Lewis Hamilton, claiming that the Briton was the second-fastest on the track.

On lap 28, Perez continued his charge through the field and got past Piastri after having just overtaken Fernando Alonso.

At the same time, Sainz also worked his way through the field after his late pit stop. Lap 30 saw Bottas pit with the Finn having become the last driver to box for new tyres.

On lap 33, Norris boxed for new hards with McLaren servicing him in just 2.3s.

Russell wanted to commit himself to a one-stop strategy, but his race engineer Riccardo Musconi asked him to dive into the pits for new tyres. McLaren's and Mercedes' pit stop urged Ferrari to respond, and serviced Leclerc's car in just 2.6s.

On Lap 39, Leclerc picked off the one-stopping Tsunoda as Alonso got back past Hamilton. While the stewards investigated the two-time world champion for driving erratically during his battle with Hamilton, the Spaniard avoided a penalty.

Perez came in into the pits on Lap 43. The Mexican came back behind Tsunoda, but he picked off the Japanese driver easily.

On Lap 47, Alonso managed to get past Sainz, who started to struggle on his old hards. On the next lap, Perez closed into the back of Norris, and dived down the inside into Turn 6. The pair touched, and Perez had to give the position back as he went off the track.

The Mexican driver was handed a five-second penalty for causing a collision. Nevertheless, Perez managed to go past Norris and started to hunt down Russell.

On Lap 54, Perez got past Russell into Turn 9, and attempted to pull out five seconds on the Mercedes driver.

In the meantime, Alonso picked off Tsunoda for seventh as Sainz finally dived into the pits to complete his mandatory tyre change.

With Ferrari hoping to seal P2 in the Constructors' Championship, Leclerc let Perez go past in the hope that the Mexican could pull out the crucial five seconds on Russell.

In the meantime, Hamilton closed in on Tsunoda, and overtook the AlphaTauri driver into Turn 9, but slid wide which enabled the Japanese driver to fight back.

At the front, Verstappen cruised to victory with Leclerc and Russell completing the podium. Perez dropped back to P4 due to his penalty with Norris and Piastri finishing in P5 and P6. Aston Martin's Alonso ended the season with a P7 finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Tsunoda fought for his team in the last race, but it was not enough for AlphaTauri to snatch P7 in the Constructors' Championship away from Williams. Nevertheless, it was a nice end to the season for Tsunoda with a P8 in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton showed flashes of strong pace in the race, but he was not consistent enough and had to settle for P9 in the end with Stroll bringing up the rear of the top ten.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt581:27:02.62426
216Charles LeclercFerrari58+17.993s18
363George RussellMercedes58+20.328s15
411Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt58+21.453s12
54Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes58+24.284s10
681Oscar PiastriMclaren Mercedes58+31.487s8
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes58+39.512s6
822Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Honda Rbpt58+43.088s4
944Lewis HamiltonMercedes58+44.424s2
1018Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes58+55.632s1
113Daniel RicciardoAlphatauri Honda Rbpt58+56.229s0
1231Esteban OconAlpine Renault58+66.373s0
1310Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault58+70.360s0
1423Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes58+73.184s0
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari58+83.696s0
162Logan SargeantWilliams Mercedes58+87.791s0
1724Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari58+89.422s0
1855Carlos SainzFerrari57DNF0
1977Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari57+1 lap0
2020Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari57+1 lap0