After cruising for 55 laps, Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by an easy margin of nearly 16 seconds. Verstappen launched from the pole and was never seriously challenged. It was his second victory of 2020 and first since round four at Silverstone.
After dramatic openings to the last two Formula 1 races that resulted in a fiery crash for Romain Grosjean in the Bahrain GP and a three-car accident in the Sakhir GP that sent its eventual winner Sergio Perez to the pits and brought out a safety car, the Abu Dhabi GP got off to a clean start. At the green, polesitter Verstappen pulled away in the opening laps with second-place starter Valterri Bottas and third-place Lewis Hamilton following the leaders.
Last week’s Sakhir GP accident forced Verstappen to retire with crash damage after he went off course to avoid the spinning Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc. This week showcased a reversal of fortune.
Verstappen exacted revenge for last week’s early retirement with this victory. Notably, the Sakhir GP winner went from first to last. Perez brought out the only caution of the race when his car lost power on Lap 10 to bring out a full course caution.
“It was really enjoyable; yesterday already of course” said Verstappen after the race. “But we had a great start … and of course you look after the tires, but the car had really good balance.
“Once you get to start up front, you can control the pace and it makes your life a bit easier. … I enjoy that I won. I’m going to enjoy the podium, then I’m going to enjoy going home.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 13, 2020
Verstappen’s previous win this season also came over the pair of Mercedes drivers. Hamilton finished 11.326 seconds behind at Silverstone in second with Bottas another eight seconds back in third. In the Abu Dhabi GP, it was Bottas who stood on the second step of the podium.
“I think Red Bull was too quick today, surprisingly quick,” Bottas said. “We thought the race pace would be pretty identical, but he was able to control the race and get the gap when needed. I was trying all I could, but couldn’t keep up with him.
“I feel I did a solid race from my side. No mistakes and I couldn’t get more out of the package we had today.”
After missing one week for testing positive with novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Hamilton had an opportunity to set a personal record for his most wins in a season at 12. Hamilton has five previous wins on this track including three of the last four. He has stood on the podium in seven consecutive races now.
“You can’t win them all,” Hamilton said. “I think considering the past couple of weeks I’ve had, I’m generally happy with the weekend. It’s obviously not 100 percent; it’s not as good as I’d like. … That was a really hard race for me physically. All year, physically I’ve been fine. Today I definitely wasn’t, so I’m just glad it’s over.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so blown. My body is not feeling great, but I look on the bright side. I made it through. I didn’t think anytime last week that I would be here, so I’m really truly grateful for my health.”
After practice and qualification for the Abu Dhabi GP, Hamilton admitted that he was not at 100 percent while still suffering lingering symptoms from his fight with the virus.
“The Red Bulls this weekend were just too far out of reach for us,” Hamilton continued. “We couldn’t hold onto the pace they had. Fantastic job to see Alex [Albon] right up there with us, so we had a two team battle, which is what the sport needs. I really hope in 2022 the cars are better to follow because – I don’t know if it was a boring race to watch – but as soon as you get within like four seconds, you’re just sliding around in turbulence the whole time.”
McLaren takes third in the constructors championship behind Mercedes and Red Bull. Lando Norris finished fifth with Carlos Sainz in sixth. They finished seven points ahead of Racing Point. Sainz ended the race under investigation for a pit lane infraction when he was alleged to intentionally slow on pit road. He was cleared of the penalty post-race.
Norris finished more than eight seconds ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 13, 2020