Abu Dhabi GP: Win No.19 for Max Verstappen as Mercedes beat Ferrari to P2

Michelle Foster
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen holds his cap wearing a very pleased smile.

Max Verstappen holds his cap.

It was a fitting end to the 2023 championship as the season’s dominant driver Max Verstappen cruised to victory in Abu Dhabi in yet another measured performance from the Red Bull driver.

The victory, secured by 16 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez on the road, marked his 19th win in a 22-race season.

Perez was second at the line as Charles Leclerc tried to play a strategy game to give the penalised Perez a five-second gap to fourth placed George Russell. It, however, didn’t work with Leclerc second in the race, Russell third and Lewis Hamilton ninth.

That meant Mercedes beat Ferrari in the battle to finish second in the Constructors’ Championship by three points while Yuki Tsunoda’s four points weren’t enough for AlphaTauri to pip Williams to seventh.

Another Max Verstappen masterclass to close out the season

As the sun began to set over the Yas Marina, it also did so on the 2023 Formula 1 season with just 58 laps of action still to be run and several battles still to be decided.

Runaway champion Max Verstappen started from pole position for the 12th time this season ahead of Charles Leclerc, Oscar Piastri, and George Russell. The Dutchman led the field away from the grid but Leclerc grabbed the slipstream and tried to pass, twice. Verstappen held him off.

Lando Norris got the jump on Russell to run fourth behind Piastri with Yuki Tsunoda and Fernando Alonso next in line. Lewis Hamilton made up two places for ninth with Carlos Sainz up from 16th to 14th.

Leclerc’s challenge lasted all of one lap with Verstappen pulling away, the Ferrari then coming under attack from the McLarens with Norris ahead of Piastri. Sergio Perez attacked Hamilton for 10th, with Nico Hulkenberg the big loser in the opening laps as he plummeted from eighth to 14th.

And so the Yas Marina DRS train formed, Leclerc in second down to Sainz in 13th all running less than a second ahead of the car behind.

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Daniel Ricciardo was informed by AlphaTauri that he had to pit as they’d noted a tear-off visor was overheating his brakes. He came out P19 behind the Williams drivers.

Hounded by Russell for several laps, Piastri was told “good defending” but it wasn’t enough as the Mercedes driver made the pass at Turn 7 on lap 11. Tsunoda was immediately all over the back of the McLaren while further back Perez had a difficult time passing Gasly but eventually made it stick on lap 12.

Alonso kicked off the pit stops as he came in at the end of lap 12, Piastri in the following lap with Norris and Russell next in. It was a slow stop for Norris who had a problem on the front left and the rear as well, which meant the Russell came out ahead.

The other Mercedes was involved in contact with Hamilton clipping the rear of Gasly’s Alpine and breaking his front wing. Gasly complained: “He hit me!” Hamilton pitted but didn’t change his front wing only to tell Mercedes: “I’ve definitely lost some front end.”

Verstappen pitted from the lead on lap 17 with Leclerc in a lap later. He came out three seconds behind Verstappen who lined up behind Tsunoda, Lance Stroll and Sainz.

Behind them, a frustrated Gasly complained to Alpine about giving Esteban Ocon the undercut with the Frenchman leapfrogging him in the running order. Tsunoda relinquished the lead to Verstappen on lap 23 as he pitted, the Japanese driver dropping all the way down to 12th place. Sainz’s stop also saw him fall outside the points to 16th place.

As the race reached half distance, Verstappen led ahead of Leclerc, Russell, Norris, Piastri, Perez, Alonso, Hamilton, Ricciardo, and Tsunoda. The live standings put Mercedes three points ahead of Ferrari, and AlphaTauri four behind Williams.

Verstappen built his advantage up to seven seconds, Stroll booted Ricciardo out of the points, and Toto Wolff encouraged “fastest car” Hamilton. Ricciardo was again the first of the two-stopping drivers to pit, followed by Gasly as this time Alpine gave him the undercut.

Norris was the first of the drivers fighting for the podium to stop, Russell the next in and told his out-lap is “critical”. Leclerc covered them, back on the track 1.5 seconds ahead of Russell and Norris.

Despite complaining about having the “slowest” car on the straights, Alonso overtook Hamilton for 11th. The Briton complained Alonso brake tested him.

Perez and Verstappen were two of the last to stop for a second time, the reigning World Champion back out on track in the lead by five seconds ahead of Leclerc while Perez dropped to sixth behind Tsunoda.

Heading into the final 10 laps, Ferrari were second and eighth with Mercedes in third and tenth. That put P2 in the hands of Ferrari. However, Sainz came under attack from Alonso, falling to ninth leaving Ferrari and Mercedes tied on points in the live standings. Hamilton then overtook Sainz to swing the battle in Mercedes’ favour.

Perez attacked Norris for fourth, the two bouncing off one another with Norris calling it “dangerous” and Perez given a five-second penalty. Behind them Piastri took sixth off Tsunoda, dashing AlphaTauri’s hopes of P7 in the championship. Perez overtook Russell for third, the Mexican driver left with five laps to build up a five-second gap.

With P2 on the line, Leclerc played a strategy game as he gave Perez second place in a bid to then slow Russell to allow Perez to gain that five-second advantage. It didn’t work.

Verstappen took the final chequered flag of the season 16s ahead of Perez with Leclerc and Russell next across the line. Perez, though, dropped to fourth due to his penalty. Norris and Piastri were next in line ahead of Alonso, Tsunoda, Hamilton and Stroll.


1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:27:02.624 58 laps
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +17.993
3 George RUSSELL Mercedes +20.328
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +21.453
5 Lando NORRIS McLaren +24.284
6 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +31.487
7 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +39.512
8 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +43.088
9 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +44.424
10 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +55.632
11 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +56.229
12 Esteban OCON Alpine +66.373
13 Pierre GASLY Alpine +70.360
14 Alexander ALBON Williams +73.184
15 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +83.696
16 Logan SARGEANT Williams +87.791
17 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +89.422
18 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1 lap
19 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1 lap
20 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1 lap

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