Verstappen scores second championship victory after Abu Dhabi win

Verstappen scores second championship victory after Abu Dhabi win

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen easily wrapped up a historic season with his 15th Grand Prix victory of the year following a comfortable, commanding performance in Abu Dhabi.

The fact that Charles Leclerc came in second allowed him to surpass Sergio Perez, who had fought valiantly but ultimately ran out of laps to press the advantage on Sunday, and claim second place in the drivers championship.

Carlos Sainz finished fourth, one position off the podium, ahead of George Russell and Lando Norris, and Sebastian Vettel finished in the top ten to cap off his F1 career.

In the last laps, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton retired due to a hydraulic problem, and Fernando Alonso experienced a third DNF due to what was possibly a water leak in his final Alpine race.

The cars were making their way to the grid as the sun was sinking over Yas Marina and the entire 2022 Formula 1 season. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of Red Bull were in the front row, followed by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, and then teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell of Mercedes, all of whom were starting on medium tyres. 

The front three rows lined up two-by-two. The season finale had the feel of an exhibition race rather than a Grand Prix because that was also the order of the top three teams in the constructors standings.

When the lights went off, Perez made a strong attempt to pass Verstappen on the inside, but he was unable to keep the position through the first corner, leaving him briefly vulnerable to Leclerc’s charge.

Hamilton initially overcame Sainz, but he did so by violating track limits, which led to a race control order to hand the position back. Lando Norris of McLaren defeated Russell to take sixth place, and Esteban Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10.

Leclerc and the rest of the field began to lose ground to the Red Bulls. After just five laps, the Ferraris’ tyres were already degrading, which allowed Hamilton to rapidly retake the position he had just been forced to relinquish.

In a similar manner, Russell had reclaimed the position he had lost to Norris and was now pursuing Sainz, who was in fifth. Two laps later, the pendulum appeared to swing the other way as Hamilton began to lose momentum. 

This allowed Sainz to quickly regain fourth and left Hamilton vulnerable to Russell, who was able to pass through turn 9 after confirming his eligibility with the Mercedes pit wall.

Verstappen had established a comfortable lead of 3.2 seconds over Perez by lap 11, and Leclerc was closing in on Perez. The Ferrari crew informed Sainz that the medium degradation was less than anticipated, to which the Spaniard responded with a snappy “I don’t agree.”

Following a reported loss of power, which his head engineer said was caused by a battery issue, Hamilton was now a second per lap behind than the leaders. Behind them, Alonso was waiting to take advantage of any opportunity to attack. Further back, Vettel was putting pressure on Ocon for ninth.

Ocon avoided this battle by making his pit stop for a set of the hard compound on lap 15 before any other competitor in the top ten. Perez and Russell both made pit stops on lap 16, with Russell informing his team that his front tires were compromised at the same time. Russell came to a delayed stop due to a sticky right rear and ultimately pulled out directly in Norris’ path as he was also coming in.

Despite the fact that they narrowly escaped a serious accident, Russell was penalized five seconds for an unsafe release. In the meantime, Perez had entered the chicane deep in an attempt to pass Vettel, costing him precious seconds. 

Sainz was finally pitted by Ferrari on lap 18, while Hamilton entered for service on lap 19 and said that his floor might have been damaged due to driving wide on the opening circuit.

On lap 20, Alonso and Ricciardo entered the pits, and Verstappen was the second driver to do so after claiming that his front right was damaged.

Verstappen’s lead over Perez was then reduced to two seconds as Leclerc took over and switched to the hard tyres. Russell was in fifth place but still had the five second penalty, while Leclerc rejoined in third place ahead of Sainz. 

Vettel, who had not yet stopped, pursued him. Hamilton soon passed him, and Norris was the next to catch and pass the Aston Martin. Lance Stroll and Ocon rounded out the top ten.

Having lost so many positions, Vettel finally made his pit stop on lap 26, and by the time he returned after locking up at the pit exit, he had fallen all the way back to P19. 

He was then forced to rely on everyone else using a two-stop plan. Unfazed, he made rapid passes on Kevin Magnussen, Pierre Gasly, and Valtteri Bottas while on his brand-new tires. At least his day was going better than Alonso’s, who on lap 28 slid into the pits after experiencing what appeared to be a water leak – another DNF after yet another set of severe technical issues in his previous Alpine race.

Although Leclerc was steadily closing in on Verstappen and Perez, the gap between them was still about two seconds. Verstappen reacted and quickened the pace, but Perez didn’t seem to be able to keep up and elected to pit on lap 34.

Ferrari instructed Leclerc to do the opposite and stay out. Verstappen was warned by the Red Bull pit wall for his spurt and told to prioritize tyre management, which annoyed the Dutch driver who could see Leclerc getting bigger and bigger in his wing mirrors.

The race was becoming into a tense game of cat and mouse regarding when (or whether) to make a second stop and what pairs of tyres each driver had left from their allocation to switch on to.

Sainz chose to pit on lap 40 to go back to medium tires after an incident between Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi at turn 5 on lap 39 caused the Williams to crash into the barrier and resulted in a five second penalty for the Haas driver.

Verstappen, Leclerc, and Hamilton were still in the top three, and Perez was rapidly narrowing the gap while Sainz, Russell, Norris, Ocon, and Ricciardo were already behind him. Despite the Red Bull’s obvious speed advantage, Perez attacked Hamilton on lap 46, but he locked up in the process, letting Hamilton to regain the lead into turn 9.

Despite losing important time, Perez finished third on the following lap round after making no mistakes. With 11 circuits left, he was still ten seconds behind Leclerc. Verstappen, who was eight seconds in front of Leclerc, was not showing any signs of slowing down to keep up with him and allow Perez to catch up to them for fear of giving the Ferrari the advantage of DRS.

Russell was remained in sixth place ahead of Norris, who had also stopped twice, after having stopped again, serving his penalty, and switching to medium tyres. 

Despite Sainz being eight seconds behind Hamilton and appealing for permission to make a second pit stop, the Mercedes team informed him that doing so now would cost him several positions. 

With four laps left, Hamilton was within DRS range thanks to the Ferrari’s usage of its fresher tyres to whittle down the deficit and being held up by backmarkers. In the end, a Mercedes hydraulic breakdown on lap 56 took control of the situation out of his hands.

Leclerc was still being pursued by Perez, but Perez was out of laps. He ultimately finished 1.3 seconds short at the finish line, which allowed the Ferrari driver to pass Perez for the runners-up spot in the drivers championship.

Russell, Norris, Ocon, and Stroll were next, after Sainz narrowly missed the podium. With points earned in their final F1 races, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten.

Vettel performed donuts on the start/finish straight to join the top three in celebrating the end of the season, drawing raucous applause from the grandstand spectators.

Due to Hamilton’s untimely retirement, Sainz finished P5 in the drivers title ahead of the Briton, and Ferrari easily defeated Mercedes to claim second position in the constructors standings. Despite finishing on equal points with Aston Martin, Alpine edged out McLaren for fourth place, and Alfa Romeo got sixth.


1Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing58 Laps
2Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari+ 8.771s
3Sergio PerezMEXOracle Bull Racing+ 10.093s
4Carlos SainzESPScuderia Ferrari+ 24.892s
5George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team+ 35.888s
6Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team+ 56.234s
7Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team+ 57.240s
8Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team+ 76.931s
9Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team+ 83.268s
10Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team+ 83.898s
11Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri + 89.371s
12Zhou GuanyuCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen+ 1 Lap
13Alex AlbonTHAWilliams Racing+ 1 Lap
14Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri+ 1 Lap
15Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen+ 1 Lap
16Mick SchumacherGERHaas F1 Team+ 1 Lap
17Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team+ 1 Lap
 Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team 
 Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing 
 Fernando AlonsoESPBWT Alpine F1 Team

Leave a Reply