Max Verstappen wins F1 season finale in flawless drive at Abu Dhabi GP

  • Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas second and Lewis Hamilton in third
  • McLaren’s Lando Norris takes superb fifth ahead of Carlos Sainz

After a gruelling 17-race season, Formula One came to a close with Max Verstappen’s win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton wanting to complete one final piece of business before Christmas.

The world champion has yet to renew his contract with Mercedes but the deal that will take the sport’s most successful driver into 2021 is expected to be completed in the next two weeks.

Verstappen won with a flawless drive from pole in what was an uninspiring race at Yas Marina, a circuit where passing is difficult and which has repeatedly failed to deliver anything but anodyne spectacles. That should not detract from Verstappen’s exhibition of consummate control; he held his place throughout and unchallenged, and took the flag 15 seconds up on Valtteri Bottas in second and 18 clear of Hamilton in third. Both of the drivers behind him said they were simply unable to match the pace of the Red Bull.

Hamilton has already sealed his seventh title but his future in the sport has not been confirmed. Mercedes had said they would enter discussions after the championship was won, but then they were delayed when Hamilton contracted Covid-19, causing him to miss the previous grand prix.

Hamilton said he anticipated a deal to be done in short order, giving his strongest assurance yet that he would be on the grid in 2021 with Mercedes.

“We would love to get it done before Christmas,” he said. “I plan to be here next year. I want to be here next year. As a team we have more to do together, more to achieve both in the sport and more outside the sport. I hope we can begin discussions this week and get it tied up.”

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The expectation is that Hamilton will at least extend his contract for one year. His name, as driving for Mercedes, has already been published by the FIA on their entry list for 2021. He has said he feels fit and motivated enough to race on for another three years.

With the rules frozen for next season and Mercedes utterly dominant this year, they will be in every position to deliver Hamilton another winning car and the potential to go one better than Michael Schumacher with an eighth title.

Toto Wolff expects there to be a swift move towards concluding discussions. “That’s going to happen, there is no reason it shouldn’t happen,” the Mercedes team chief said. “We will have this conversation. We always said we would do it after the title was won, then the virus delayed us for another 10 days to two weeks, and now we just need to sit down, maybe virtually, maybe live.”

Lewis Hamilton did some donuts for the fans after the race.
Lewis Hamilton did some donuts for the fans after the race. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/Reuters

The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, praised Verstappen’s “most dominant race for us”. It was his 10th career win and his second this season, an enormous boost to end the year.

Beating Mercedes in a straight fight will be a huge fillip for the team going into the winter, and despite suggestions that Mercedes had turned their engines down, Wolff denied there had been a problem and conceded Mercedes had been off the pace all weekend.

Horner recognised what it meant to take some momentum into the close season. “2013 was the last time anyone but Mercedes won here. Max all weekend has been absolutely clinical,” he said. “You always want to win the last race because it sets up the winter.”

In the tight and financially vital battle for third, McLaren took the honours, with Lando Norris taking a superb fifth ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz. It was McLaren’s best result since Hamilton left in 2013. Racing Point were fourth and Renault fifth.

For Ferrari, who have had a trying year with a slow, difficult to handle car, the season’s end will be a welcome relief as the Scuderia were in sixth place, their worst season since finishing 10th in the championship in 1980.

Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were seventh and 10th for Renault, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly eighth and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll ninth.


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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