Abu Dhabi GP: Verstappen thumps Mercedes; McLaren third

Max Verstappen won the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix , the final round of the Formula 1 World Championship season in what turned out to be a snoozefest at Yas Marina Circuit.

The Red Bull driver led from start to finish, heading Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas in second and Lewis Hamilton claiming the final step of the podium.

The three finished as they started, in two hours of very little to get excited about or write about for that matter.

Not to detract from Max who called it “a simply lovely race” and who outclassed the World Champs with a dominant performance to claim the tenth victory of his career in the top flight.

The Dutchman summed up in parc ferme, “It was really enjoyable yesterday already and today, of course. We had a good start and from there on, of course you look after the tyres, but the car was having a good balance.

“It was really enjoyable out there today. We did everything alright. Once you start upfront you can control the race a bit more and it makes your life easier,” added Max of his lights-to-flag victory.

Teammate Alex Albon finished fourth, crossing the finish 20 seconds behind the winner.

For a change, Mercedes had no answer and among them it was a stalemate, at the end of a race that had a distinct end of the year feeling about it, almost a bridge too far at the end of championship they wrapped up long ago. But that did not stop them doing doughnuts afterwards!

At the end of the race, Valtteri was 16 seconds down on Max at the end with Lewis a couple of seconds behind where he spent the race.

Valtteri acknowledged, “Red Bull was too quick today – surprisingly quick. We thought race pace would be identical today. I was trying everything I could, but couldn’t keep up with them.”

“You can’t win them all,” added Lewis, the winner of 11 races this season, “Considering the past couple of weeks I’ve had I really am generally happy with the weekend. It’s obviously not 100 per cent and not as good perhaps as we would like, but congratulations to Max.

“That was a really hard race for me physically. All the year physically I’ve been fine but today I definitely wasn’t. I’m just glad it’s over and a big, big thank you to the team for their continued support. It’s still a fantastic result to get two podium finishes for us.”

On Sunday, McLaren sealed third place in the constructors’ championship while Racing Point imploded with luckless Sergio Perez stopping with an engine failure early on; and lacklustre Lance Stroll – who scored a point for tenth on the day – powerless to avoid the demotion from third to fourth in the final standings.

Instead, the job was done by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were fifth and sixth respectively, enough to end the season third in the constructors’ standings, the team’s best finish to a season since 2013.

Yas Marina Circuit also marked the last race for McLaren-Renault as Mercedes will be bolted on to the cars at Woking going forward

Daniel Ricciardo, seventh, and Esteban Ocon, in ninth, delivered a good recovery for Renault after neither making it into Q3 yesterday.

Splitting the Renaults on the result sheet was Pierre Gasly, the AlphaTauri one of the few who had a feisty race to finish eighth.

It was another miserable day for Ferrari with neither driver scoring any points with the hopeless SF1000 and a sign of this great team in rapid decline in front of the powerless eyes of anguished Tifosi.

Charles Leclerc was 13th, followed by teammate Sebastian Vettel in 14th, the German’s final race in Red fittingly summing up what has been the worst season of his illustrious career.

He was lapped by the winner, the driver who now drives the Red Bull he once drove to four-world titles.

But then won us all with a tear-jerking in cockpit ballad to his crew:

A class act, but adding insult to injury, veteran Kimi Raikkonen finished 12th ahead of both the Scuderia drivers in the Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo. Insiders fear Maranello will not be a nice place to be this winter.

Daniil Kvyat’s final race for AlphaTauri (still to be confirmed by Red Bull) ended out of the points in 11th, despite starting ahead of his teammate from seventh on the grid, the Russian went backwards as he has done too often this year, and was again outshone by Pierre in the sister car.

Kevin Magnussen’s final race mirrored this last chapter of his career at Haas, almost invisible and insignificant on his way to 18th.