Flawless Max fires warning to rivals

Flawless Max fires warning to rivals

ABU DHABI ��� Max Verstappen cruised to victory for Red Bull in Formula One’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as champions Mercedes endured an uncharacteristic off day.

The Dutchman, starting from pole, led every lap of what turned out to be a processional race to cross the line 15.9 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

World champion Lewis Hamilton, who struggled with the balance of his car throughout the race, was third on his return from his Covid-19-enforced absence that meant he missed the previous Sakhir race.

Mercedes, who wrapped up a record seventh straight title double, had no answer to the pace set by Red Bull.

As a result, Mercedes, who were running their cars with their engines turned down due to reliability concerns, were denied the satisfaction of capping a dominant season on a high, instead finishing with 13 wins from 17 races.

Verstappen’s victory under the floodlights at the Yas Marina track was the 10th of his career and second this season. It denied Hamilton a 12th win of the year, which would have made 2020 his most successful campaign.

It was also Red Bull’s first win in Abu Dhabi since Sebastian Vettel’s victory in 2013 and ended Mercedes’ streak of six straight wins in the United Arab Emirates.

It moved the 23-year-old closer to Bottas in the overall standings, but he ultimately had to settle for third behind the Finn.

“It was really enjoyable yesterday and today – we had a good start and today it was about looking after the car and we had a really good balance,” Verstappen said.

“You can control the race a bit more when you start out front.”

On his late tyre concerns, he said: “I saw they (Mercedes) were dropping off behind me too so I could take it a bit easier, it was just a very strong race for the team. I’m going to enjoy the podium then enjoy going home.”

    13 Podiums shared by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. It is one short of the record held by Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.

    ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX RESULTS

    1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:36:28.645

    2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +15.976sec

    3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +18.415sec

    4 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull +19.987sec

    5 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren +1min 0.729sec

    6 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren +1:05.662

    7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault +1:13.748 *fastest lap

    8 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri +1:29.718

    9 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault +1:41.069

    10 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point +1:42.738

    FINAL STANDINGS

    DRIVERS

    1 Hamilton 347pts

    2 Bottas 223

    3 Verstappen 214

    4 Sergio Perez 125

    5 Ricciardo 119

    CONSTRUCTORS

    1 Mercedes 573pts

    2 Red Bull 319

    3 McLaren 202

    4 Racing Point 195

    5 Renault 181

Bottas admitted it was not the Silver Arrows’ day, saying: “Red Bull was too quick today – surprisingly quick and they could control the race. I tried but couldn’t keep up with them. I had a solid race but couldn’t get more out of the package we had today.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been on the podium (he was second at last month’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix) so I will enjoy that. The team has been amazing this year so I’m really proud we got a one-two in the drivers’ championship – I’m really proud of all of them.”

Hamilton agreed, revealing he had yet to fully recover from his exertions brought about by Covid-19, adding: “You can’t win them all. Considering the past couple weeks I have had I am really genuinely happy with the weekend.

“It is not as good as we would like but congrats to Max. It was a really hard race for me physically. All year physically I have been fine but today I definitely wasn’t. I am just glad it is over.

“A big thank you to the team for their continued support. It is still a fantastic result to get two podium finishes.”

With Lando Norris taking fifth place and Carlos Sainz, who will join Ferrari next season, coming in sixth, the 18 points garnered was enough for McLaren to finish third in the constructors’ standings behind Mercedes and Red Bull.

REUTERS