ABU DHABI GP – Max Verstappen dominates to deny Mercedes an eighth consecutive victory

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has taken victory in a dominant fifteen-second lead ahead of Valtteri Bottas to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Dutchman looked to control the race from the start as the Mercedes appeared not to have the pace to challenge Red Bull.

Verstappen’s fight with Mercedes never came, the Dutchman pulled away, building the lead over Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull was a surprise all weekend as they looked to be the team to beat, Verstappen took his first victory since the Anniversary Grand Prix, denying Mercedes a seventh consecutive victory in Abu Dhabi.

Verstappen steadily increasing his lead through the race, and not even an early safety car caused by Sergio Perez suffering a transmission issue interrupted his lead. Perez drove an excellent drive in the opening phase working his up from the back of the grid into the points before retiring on lap ten.

Bottas finished two seconds ahead of Hamilton, the Finn holding of the seven times champion who admits he was still feeling the effect of coronavirus.

A race which will give hope of a closer fight when the season begins in ninety-six days in Melbourne. Mercedes lack of pace throughout the race, with the early safety car playing into Red Bull’s hands.

Verstappen said “It was really enjoyable out there today. We did everything right.”

Hamilton added, “Considering the past couple of weeks I’ve had I really am generally happy with the weekend. It’s obviously not as good perhaps as we would like, but congratulations to Max.”

Verstappen’s teammate Alex Albon was fourth finishing a second and a half behind Hamilton. Hamilton appeared never to get close enough to Bottas in the final laps, before settling into third ahead of Albon. The British-Thai driver finishing fourth, a second and a half behind Hamilton.

Albon was however close enough to take advantage of any misfortune for Hamilton, just a second and a half behind the seven-time champion.

Red Bull and Mercedes strategy didn’t allow them to go head to head for victory in an on-track battle, both going for the conservative one-stop turning the second part of the race into one of tyre management.

McLaren have secured third, after the stewards decided not to penalise  Carlos Sainz for going slowly in the pit lane under the VSC holding up Lance Stroll. Sainz finish sixth, almost five seconds behind his teammate Lando Norris.

Norris made a good start and at one point leading Albon, but it was soon clear he didn’t have the pace to keep the Red Bull behind, once the British-Thai driver got past the McLaren settled into a drive to fifth comfortably ahead of Sainz.

For McLaren, it’s their highest finish in the constructors in eight years. McLaren hoping that the return to Mercedes power next season will allow them to return to the front of the field, they cap off their best season since 2012 with third place.

On a day they announced a major cash injection following an investment by a US consortium that is to take a third of the equity in the team by the end of 2022. McLaren will look to us 2021 as a building year, with a return to Mercedes engines and the new regulations in 2022.

Daniel Ricciardo was seventh, the Renault driver leaping up after choosing not to stop under the VSC and ran long on his hard tyres. The Australian gifting third to his new team, as following his late stop he was unable to use the fresh tyres to close the gap in the closing stages.

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly made a brilliant move on Lance Stroll halfway through the race, sweeping round the outside at Turn Eleven he gained eighth place. Stroll was then past by Esteban Ocon, pushing him down to tenth.

Kimi Raikkonen finished twelfth, the highest Ferrari powered car almost three seconds behind Daniil Kvyat.

Ferrari’s dire season saw both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel finish thirteenth and fourteenth. The team took a gamble which didn’t pay off as they stayed out behind the safety car, which didn’t allow them to gain the lasting advantage.

George Russell was fifteenth ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, the Italian managing to spilt the Williams. Nicolas Latifi finishing ahead of both Haas’s, Kevin Magnussen eighteenth and Pietro Fittipaldi nineteenth.

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