Max Verstappen keeps Mercedes behind to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

13-12-2020 14:49
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Max Verstappen keeps Mercedes behind to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Max Verstappen has won the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after leading the race from the start to the finish. The Red Bull driver completes the season with a victory after trying to close the gap to Mercedes over the last six months. For the 13th time, Verstappen is joined by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on the podium.

On the final day of a season full of near-misses for Verstappen and Red Bull, he managed to keep the Mercedes cars in his mirrors. Before the race, Mercedes suggested they needed to turn the engines down. In what could be Alex Albon's final race for Red Bull, he managed to keep reletaviely close to the front three cars. This helped limit Mercedes strategy options. 

Verstappen, who started from pole position, wins his second race of the season and 10th of his career.

McLaren wrapped up third-place in the Constructors' Championship, even with Carlos Sainz's pending penalty. Lando Norris finished in P5, with Sainz one place behind. Daniel Ricciardo drove a strong race with a long stint on the hard tyres, and finished seventh. On his last race for Racing Point, Sergio Perez retired early hampering their chances for third. 

How did it happen?

Verstappen aced the start to keep both Mercedes drivers behind him going into the first corner. All 20 cars survived the first lap without any contact. By the third lap, the Dutchman had a two-second gap to second-placed Bottas.

In what could be his final race for Red Bull, Albon managed to get past Norris on lap six after a good battle. But crucially, the British-Thai was six seconds behind the podium places, and 12 seconds behind his teammate.

From the jubilation of winning his first Grand Prix last weekend, Perez was left frustrated on lap 10 when he had a transmission issue. The Mexican retired in what was his last race for Racing Point, and potentially last F1 event.

The stewards put out a virtual safety car. More or less every driver came into the pits apart from the two Ferrari cars. Hamilton, who was now on the hard tyres, suggested Mercedes had opted for the wrong Pirelli compound. After the flurry of pitstops, the safety car came out because the broken Racing Point car needed further assistance.

Restart

The race restarted on lap 14. Once again, Verstappen perfected the start and opened up a 1.3.second gap in one lap. On fresh tyres, Sainz managed to overtake his future teammate Leclerc.

The stewards started investigating Sainz for driving slowly in the pitlane. But that didn't stop him attacking Vettel on the circuit. He managed to overtake the German to put McLaren in a strong position for third in the World Championship.

On lap 28, Verstappen had a six-second lead over Bottas. Hamilton was a further 2.5 seconds behind Bottas, but the Brit was hinting he could go faster. The top four drivers weren't confident they could get the hard tyres to the end of the race. Ricciardo, in P5, was the hard tyre marker because he didn't remove his hard tyres during the VSC.

On lap 40, Ricciardo ended his super long stint on the hard tyre. He pitted from fifth and only dropped to seventh. The front runners had hard tyres 10 laps older than Ricciardo. The potential for a final shake-up in the last few laps never lived up and the order remained the same. 

Mercedes' era of dominance in under three minutes

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