Verstappen takes Abu Dhabi GP for 19th win of record-breaking season
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Max Verstappen's outstanding season ended with a comfortable victory at the Abu Dhabi on Sunday, earning the Formula One champion a record-extending 19th victory of the campaign and 54th overall to move into third on the all-time list.
Verstappen finished ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Mercedes driver George Russell, and also collected a bonus point for the fastest lap. His 54th career win moved him one ahead of former Red Bull great Sebastian Vettel, with only Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103) left ahead of him.
“What an incredible year,” Verstappen said after crossing the line.
Red Bull won 21 of 22 races this season, with Sergio Perez claiming two wins.
“You’ve smashed it out of the park this year,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told him on the radio. “We’re all incredibly proud of you.”
Perez crossed the line in second place but dropped to fourth because of a five-second time penalty. Leclerc let Perez go past him on the final lap in the hope that Perez would finish more than five seconds ahead of Russell, with Mercedes and Ferrari both fighting for second place in the constructors' championship.
With Russell's teammate Hamilton finishing ninth for two points and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. out of the points, Mercedes clinched second behind Red Bull in the constructors' table.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t enough,” Leclerc said.
Verstappen started from pole position for the 12th time this season — more than twice as many as any other driver — with Leclerc alongside him and McLaren's Oscar Piastri third.
The Yas Marina track is one of hardest to overtake on and Verstappen made a good start, holding off a couple of attacks by Leclerc.
Verstappen switched to hard tires on lap 17 of 58, followed by Leclerc on the next lap, leaving AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda in the rare position of leading a race on team principal Franz Tost's last grand prix before retiring.
Verstappen regained the lead a few laps later and was never troubled.
Perez was given a penalty for bumping tires with McLaren's Lando Norris late on, although it appeared that Norris had enough space and turned into Perez's front right tire.
“Why are we given this penalty? I was ahead," a bemused Perez said on team radio.
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