Max Verstappen wins season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Nov 27 – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended the most dominant season in Formula 1 history with victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his 19th win in 22 races.

The comfortable victory, after brushing off a brief challenge from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the opening lap, gives Verstappen an 86.4% win rate in 2023.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took second on the road after Leclerc let him by on the penultimate lap in a vain attempt to secure second in the constructors’ championship for Ferrari against Mercedes, but was demoted to fourth on the road by a five-second penalty.

That promoted George Russell to third for Mercedes and, with Lewis Hamilton securing two points for ninth place, that was enough to keep Mercedes in second place by three points.

Leclerc’s strategy had been to let Perez by in the hope that Mexican, on fresher tyres, could build enough of a lead to negate his penalty, imposed for a collision with McLaren’s Lando Norris.

But Perez did not quite make it, and he dropped down to be classified 1.1 seconds behind Russell.

Leclerc could have chosen to back right off on the last lap and delay Russell further in the hope that could make the difference, but continued to drive at his pace.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “At the end, he could have pulled the handbrake on in the last sector and I think that shows the character of a driver.”

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The scant consolation for Leclerc was that he vaulted both Norris and his team-mate Carlos Sainz to take fifth in the drivers’ championship behind Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

But Leclerc had said before the race that he did not care about that – and his face betrayed as much whilst he waited for the post-race interviews, his disappointment at the constructors’ result plain to see.

Norris was fifth ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri, with Alonso seventh ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Hamilton and the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

-By BBC Sports 

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