Max Verstappen ends F1 season with a processional victory in Abu Dhabi

From: Reuters |

Updated: December 14, 2020 11:48:23 AM

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is celebrating winning the race on the podium. (Reuters)

Max Verstappen dropped the curtain on the Formula One season 2020 with a light-to-flag cruise to victory on Sunday in the year-end Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman led every lap of what turned out to be a processional race in his Red Bull to cross the border 15.9 seconds ahead of Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on an uncharacteristic outside day for the otherwise dominant champions.

“It was really enjoyable today,” said Verstappen, who finishes the season third behind Bottas in the overall standings after he took his 10th career win and second this year.

“We basically did everything right.”

Mercedes, which performed a record seventh straight title double, did not respond to the speed of Verstappen’s Honda electric car.

Undefeated in Abu Dhabi for six years in a row, with Red Bull’s 2013 victory in the Gulf Emirate the last time another team tasted victory at Yas Marina, Mercedes drove their cars with their engines off due to reliable concerns.

That denied them the satisfaction of a predominant season limitation, with the Brackley-based team signing with 13 wins from 17 runs.

“We thought a racing pace would be really identical,” said Bottas, who returned to the podium for the first time after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in early November.

“But they could really dominate the race and reach the gap when needed.”

Verstappen’s victory denied Hamilton 12th victory of the season, making 2020 his most successful year, with the Briton never winning more than 11 races in one campaign.

But the 35-year-old, still struggling with the aftermath of COVID-19, was relieved to simply cross the race.

“That was really hard for me physically,” said Hamilton, who finished a record seventh title last month.

“I’m just glad it’s over.”

Alexander Albon, who faces an uncertain future with Red Bull considering whether to retain him, has put a solid drive to take fourth place.

Land Norris took fifth ahead of Ferrari-bound McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth, allowing the Woking-based squad to override rivals Racing Point and secure third in the overall constructors’ standings.

Daniel Ricciardo was seventh in his farewell from Renault, the Australian signed with the fastest lap of the race. Sebastian Vettel dropped the curtain on his Ferrari career finishing a lap on Verstappen and behind Charles Leclerc in 14th.

Sergio Perez, who became F1’s newest winner in Sakhir last week, was the sole victim of the race.

Still without a drive the next year, his Racing Point suffered a loss of power just 10 laps into his swan song for the Silverstone-based team, which brought out the virtual safety car.

The 30-year-old still claimed fourth in the overall standings.

Kevin Magnussen, in what could be his final F1 outing, was 18th for American Haas.

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