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Max Verstappen wraps up F1 season with victory in Abu Dhabi

World champion Lewis Hamilton finished third under the lights at Yas Marina.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands leads the Formula One race in the Yas Marina.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands leads the Formula One race in the Yas Marina.
Image: Brynn Lennon

MAX VERSTAPPEN LED from start-to-finish to win Formula One’s concluding round of the year at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

On a turgid evening under the lights of the Yas Marina Circuit, pole-sitter Verstappen took the chequered flag 15.9 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas, with Lewis Hamilton completing the podium.

McLaren took third in the constructors’ championship – their best result since Hamilton left the British team for Mercedes in 2013 – after Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz finished fifth and sixth.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton was back in his Mercedes after missing the Sakhir Grand Prix with coronavirus.

But following a chaotic race in Bahrain last weekend, the 17-round campaign fizzled out on Sunday as Verstappen, Bottas and Hamilton finished in the same places they started.

The 21-corner, 5.3-mile Yas Marina circuit, which has been a mainstay on the calendar for 11 years, rarely throws up a thrill-a-minute spectacle.

And when the top three elected to pit for their only change of rubber, after Sergio Perez broke down in his Racing Point and the virtual safety car was deployed, a predictable finished ensued.

Hamilton, who admitted on Saturday he was yet to shake off the effects of Covid-19 which left him bed-ridden in Bahrain isolation for a week, questioned Mercedes’ move to bring him in on the same lap as Verstappen and Bottas.

“That doesn’t feel like a good strategy,” said Hamilton over the radio following the stop on lap 10 of the 55-lap race. He finished 2.4 sec adrift of Bottas in the other Silver Arrows.

For Verstappen, it ended up being a straightforward cruise to just his second win of the campaign, his first since the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone back in August, and the 10th of his career.

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Behind the front three, Alexander Albon improved his chances of a Red Bull stay for 2021 by taking the chequered flag in fourth – ahead of Norris.

McLaren, Britain’s most successful F1 team, have been on an upward curve in recent seasons, and their double-points finish here moved them above Racing Point in the constructors’ standings to finish behind only Mercedes and Red Bull.

However, Sainz is under investigation by the stewards for driving unnecessarily slowly in the pit lane.

As it stands, McLaren are just three points ahead of Racing Point so any punishment could yet have a detrimental impact on their position in the standings.

Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly 14th and a lap down on the final appearance of his six-season stay at Ferrari, one spot ahead of George Russell.

Russell, 22, was back racing for Williams, seven days after he was denied victory twice on his debut for Mercedes as Hamilton’s stand-in.

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