Last year Abu Dhabi was full of controversy. This year Max Verstappen made sure there were no questions. He started in front and comfortably cruised to victory at Yas Marina Circuit to finish off his second consecutive championship season. In a year where Max Verstappen’s biggest challenge was tire degradation, there was only one question left for the last race of the year: who would finish second in the drivers’ championship? With Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Ferraris’s Charles Leclerc knotted at two hundred and ninety points heading into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the suspense mounted.
Early on it appeared Red Bull had the plan to have Verstappen stay less than a second ahead to keep Perez in DRS. This would give him a speed advantage to stay ahead of Leclerc’s Ferrari. But Max’s faster car, in the fresh air, pulled away from Perez. This resulted in a brawl for second place.
The strategy war waged on through the middle of the race. Perez took a pitstop at lap thirty-four allowing Leclerc to stay out and retake second place. Perez dropped to sixth and had to battle back through both Mercedes. A late pitstop from Carlos Sainz moved Perez up to fourth with eighteen laps to go. With twelve laps to Perez passed Lewis Hamilton to move into third.
Heading into the last ten laps Perez was about seven seconds behind Leclerc. With Perez on full send, the gap began to shrink. With the gap down to three seconds with two laps to go Perez ran into lap traffic. This gave him a DRS boost. Just like last year, the race came down to the final lap. Charles Leclerc held on and was able to take second place.
Not the focal point of the race today as the eyes were on the battle for second place. Verstappen was fantastic. Capping off a record-setting season he cruised to his third consecutive victory in Abu Dhabi his fifteenth of the season. There was no challenge for the entire race as Max dominated the Yas Marina circuit. The question heading into next season and beyond will be if Max’s success carries over. Red Bull will be heavily punished for having exceeded the cost cap last season. Max will be looking to be the fourth driver in F1 history to win three consecutive driver’s championships and cement himself as one of the greats.
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