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Verstappen strolls to season-end win in Abu Dhabi

Verstappen strolls to season-end win in Abu Dhabi

FORMULA ONE: World champion Max Verstappen dominated the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday (Nov 20) to complete his record-breaking year.

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 21 November 2022, 09:32AM

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

The Dutchman’s 15th victory, extending his record for most wins in a season, was controlled from pole position. He checked out of the race early and had enough pace in hand to make it to the end of the grand prix with only one pit stop when he had originally intended to make two, and he took the flag by a comfortable 8.7 seconds.

“It was a good race,” he said. “It was all about tyre management.

“It’s incredible to win again here. My 15th win of the season is unbelievable.

“It’s been really enjoyable to work with the whole team to be able to achieve something like this this year."

But the day wasn’t perfect for Red Bull Racing with Sergio Perez losing grasp of second place in the championship after a strategy error put him third behind Charles Leclerc at the end of the race.

Perez and Leclerc started the weekend tied on points for runner-up in the title standings and were locked in a battle early in the race, but when the Mexican dived into the pits to attempt to undercut the Monegasque, Ferrari left its leading car out on track.

It set Leclerc up for a grand defence to the finish, with Perez needing to close a 20-second deficit in 24 laps.

The Red Bull Racing driver charged through the field to close within striking distance on the final lap, but he fell agonisingly short, losing second in the race and the championship by just 1.3 seconds.

“I was 110 per cent from the first lap to the last lap,” Leclerc said. “Honestly, we had the perfect race for us. There was not much more today.

“We managed to make the one- stop work, so we’re really happy.”

It was Leclerc’s best championship finish, but having led the title early in the year, he said he hoped it proved to be just a stepping stone to a better 2023.

“I really hope next year we can do a step forward in order to fight for the championship,” he said. “Considering where we were last year, it’s a really big step forward.”

Laguna Phuket

Third in the championship was also a career-best result for Perez, who was sanguine about the loss.

“At the end of the day I’ve got to be happy,” he said. “As a team we gave it all through the season.

“When we come back we will be stronger.”

Carlos Sainz finished fourth for Ferrari after a similar late-race pursuit of the one-stopping Lewis Hamilton.

The Spaniard was on track to pass the Briton with laps to spare, but Hamilton’s car developed what appeared to be a hydraulics problem with here laps to go and retired, ending the chase on the spot.

Hamilton’s retirement also promoted George Russell to fifth after the younger Briton counted himself out of the podium battle with a five-second penalty for an unsafe release from his first pit stop.

Lance Norris headed the midfield for McLaren, but with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, which settled fourth in the constructors championship in Alpine’s favour. Lance Stroll was a competitive eighth for Aston Martin.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a late-race battle for the final points of the race, both in their final grands prix - at least, in Ricciardo’s case, for the foreseeable future.

Vettel had a slight tyre advantage and was enjoying sparkling form on his final weekend before retirement, but his former teammate Ricciardo was centimetre-perfect in defence to hold him off by just 0.6 seconds.

A point in his final race was consolation, but it left Aston Martin tied on points with Alfa Romeo in the championships standings, with the Swiss team staying ahead in sixth on countback.

Yuki Tsunoda finished 11th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Thai driver Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Valtteri Bottas and Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen.

Nicholas Latifi retired after a crash with Mick Schumacher in the pair’s final races, while Fernando Alonso was an early retirement with an engine problem.

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