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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: F1 Race Results

Who took the spoils as the sun sets on the 2023 season?

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Max Verstappen took victory in Abu Dhabi, taking one final record in a devastatingly dominant season. 

Max Verstappen during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Pre-race

With both titles long since decided, the final stories of 2023 were about to be wrapped up. Drivers and teams could throw caution at the wind to beat rivals with millions of dollars in prize money on the line.

The biggest team battle at the front was between four teams. Mercedes and Ferrari, separated by just four points, wanted to take the coveted runner-up spot behind Red Bull. Leclerc started on the front row for the Scuderia after qualifying, with George Russell lining up P4 for Mercedes. But with Lewis Hamilton knocked out in Q2 and Carlos Sainz knocked out in Q1, the race battle would be tense.

The other two teams battling for glory were McLaren and Aston Martin. P4 was the prize for two teams whose seasons inverted in spectacular style. Having had a car in Bahrain that struggled to get out of Q1, McLaren had clawed back to pull 11 points clear of Aston Martin. Could McLaren seal its comeback, or would Aston Martin take the spoils?

Further down the order, Williams clung to P7 in the standings, with AlphaTauri just seven points behind, snapping at their heels. If Williams secured P7, it would be the best finish for the team since 2017.

The drivers had scores to settle, as well as the teams. Sainz and Fernando Alonso entered the race level on points. Lando Norris needed just five points to level the score, with Leclerc a further seven points behind.

With drivers staring into turn one as the national anthem played out, F1 prepared to put it all on the line for one last time. The difference between a one-stop and two-stop strategy is forecasted as minimal, so brawn and daring would be needed to secure a good finish. All but three drivers opted for medium tyres for the race start.

Lights out and battles commence

Verstappen out-dragged Leclerc into turn one and attempted to pull away. Behind him, the McLarens were on the move. Oscar Piastri maintained  P3, while Norris passed Russell for P4.

Leclerc was determined to pass Verstappen with two unsuccessful moves on the first lap. However, Verstappen pulled over a second clear by the time the first lap ended, with business as usual resumed.

Further back, Sergio Perez’s second Red Bull endured a torrid start, dropping back to P10; Hamilton moved up to P9 after a brief excursion off the track. Carlos Sainz began his long afternoon but then moved from P16 to P13 in his Ferrari.

Yuki Tsunoda kept his brilliant P6, with Alonso in P7. With Stroll unable to move up further than P11, McLaren had the advantage in the battle for P4. With Leclerc in P2, Ferrari were on track for P2.

Battles commence

The McLarens swapped positions on lap five as the race began to settle. Lando Norris began to chase Charles Leclerc. Russell closed on Piastri and began to formulate when to make a move. He tried a move going into the fast turn nine, but Piastri held position and repelled the attack of the Mercedes.

Drivers began to stop to get out of the fast-developing DRS trains on the track. Ricciardo and Magnussen stopped in the early laps for hard tyres and rejoined at the back.

Pierre Gasly had to defend from Sergio Perez but was able to continue. The Red Bull was unable to make another attempt on the next lap. Perez had the second Mercedes of Hamilton behind him, but the seven-time World Champion could not find a way past the Mexican.

Piastri locked up into turn six, and Russell was finally clear of the McLaren on lap 12. Tsunoda began to close on Piastri, whose strong pace was starting to disappear. Perez passed the Alpine of Gasly a few moments later.

Alonso pitted from P7 on lap 13 for hard tyres, with questions on whether he could make it until the end of the race.  Piastri was pitted to cover off the Aston Martin and only kept the McLaren ahead. With cold tyres, Piastri locked up but was able to keep the position.

Pit stops jumble the order

Back at the front, the status quo remained, with Verstappen 1.4 seconds clear from Leclerc with Norris now being chased by Lando Norris. That was until pit stops started.  McLaren endured a nightmare stop, with Russell able to jump both Norris and Piastri, gaining track position.

Hamilton and Gasly made light contact, damaging the front wing of the Mercedes. Hamilton pitted the next the next lap, the stewards noting the incident.

Race leader Verstappen pitted on lap 16 and came out in P7 behind Carlos Sainz’s second Ferrari. Leclerc pitted one lap later, as did Perez. The stops resulted in Yuki Tsunoda leading the race, the first time since a Japanese driver led a Grand Prix since Takuma Sato.

The second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz then came into play. The Ferrari aimed to hold up Max Verstappen, but this proved pointless as the Red Bull breezed past.  Russell’s Mercedes then began to close down the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.  Piastri and Alonso passed the Alfa Romeo of Bottas that had yet to stop.

Using fresh rubber, Verstappen closed down Tsuonda’s AlphaTauri, who pitted on lap 23 after a brilliant stint in the lead. He rejoined P12. The Ferraris swapped positions before Norris passed Sainz for P4 a few laps later. Sainz pitted on lap 24 for a second set of hard tyres, confirming he was on a two-stop race. Perez began to push, passing Alonso for P6, before closing down Piastri’s McLaren for P5, passing him on lap 28.

At the halfway point of the race, Ferrari was on course for P2 in the championship and McLaren for P4. The race settled ahead of the second round of stops.  Drivers began to slowly edge forward, with Hamilton now slowly closing down Alonso, Perez slowly closing on Norris, and Russell attempting to get close to Leclerc.

Second stops unblocks the bottleneck

Lap 33 saw the second round of stops commence. Gasly and Ricciardo pitted on lap 33, with Norris the first of the front runners to stop one lap later.

Russell pitted on lap 35 to cover off Norris and attempt to undercut Charles Leclerc. Ferrari reacted immediately, bringing in Leclerc. The Ferrari stayed ahead, with the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll acting as a buffer between Leclerc and the Russell. Norris followed through a lap later, but Leclerc was long gone.

Hamilton pitted and used fresh rubber to pass Fernando Alonso on track, with Alonso complaining to his team about the straight-line speed of his Aston Martin. However, initially unseen by the cameras, Alonso found his way past his former rival again.

Yuki Tsuonda still found himself in the points, losing P4 to the charging Mercedes of Russell. Piastri locked up and almost lost two places but continued unscathed. Norris passed the AlphaTauri on lap 42 but still has the points needed to overhaul Williams in the standings. Perez pits for fresh rubber, with Red Bull wanting a one-two finish to finish the season the way it started. Verstappen came in one lap later, not relinquishing the lead.

Final pushes and pit stop infringements

As the race entered the closing stages, Perez and Alonso began to push hard. Alonso dived down the inside of Sainz’s Ferrari, with Hamilton then looming over the Ferrari, passing on lap 48.

Perez closed in on the McLaren of Norris, but touch after Perez understeered wide. Repeating the move one lap later, Perez passed the McLaren, and the stewards awarded Perez a five-second penalty for the incident.

Pit stop infringements became a buzzword, as mechanics were not wearing the correct gear for numerous teams, including Verstappen and Hamilton.

The five-second penalty for Perez had implications for the championship battle. If Russell could stay ahead of Perez, P2 in the standings would be secure. Perez needed to pass Russell and gain five seconds for second place in the standings to be awarded to Ferrari. Climbing on Russell’s gearbox, Perez moved into P3 and needed four seconds in five laps.

Alonso closed on Tsuonda, needing to pass the AlphaTauri to stand any chance of finishing ahead of Lando Norris in the standings. Norris was unable to catch Russell as Alonso steamed past Tsuonda. Leclerc slowed down to allow Perez by.

Verstappen took the chequered flag, becoming the first driver to lead 1000 laps. Leclerc takes P2, Russell P3, Perez P4, Norris P5, Piastri P6, Alonso P7, Tsuonda P9, Hamilton P10.

Mercedes took P2 in the championship, McLaren P4. Williams saw off the challenge of AlphaTauri after an epic drive from Yuki Tsuonda to take P7, their best finish since 2017.

Hamilton finishes third in standings, Alonso finishes P4, Leclerc finishes P5 and Norris in P6. Sainz’s late pit stop prevented him from scoring any points, leaving him in P7.

The sun has now set on F1 in 2023. 97 days remain until the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Provisional Classification

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images 

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