Max Verstappen made it a perfect sign-off on a near-perfect Formula 1® season for Red Bull Racing in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the dominant Dutchman taking his fourth win in succession at the Yas Marina Circuit and 19th in 22 races this season on Sunday night.
Red Bull came into Abu Dhabi chasing one of the sport’s oldest records; after setting a record for most wins in a season (20) with victory in Las Vegas eight days previously, Verstappen’s seventh win in a row to end 2023 gave the team a winning percentage of 95.4 per cent this season, only Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz preventing a clean sweep when the Spaniard won in Singapore.
Previously, McLaren held the record for best winning percentage in a single season (93.8 per cent) when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost combined to win 15 of 16 races in 1988, the benchmark season that Red Bull has blown to smithereens this year.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who briefly challenged Verstappen on lap one from second on the grid, finished 17.993secs adrift in second place after 58 laps when Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who crossed the line in second place, was demoted to fourth after a five-second penalty for colliding with Lando Norris when he attempted to pass the McLaren driver on lap 47.
The sanction meant George Russell (Mercedes) inherited third, the British driver’s second podium of a difficult 2023 season and first since round seven in Barcelona.
With little intrigue up front, several fights in the drivers’ and constructors’ titles were settled in Abu Dhabi, with seventh for Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) securing fourth in the championship for the Spanish veteran, and Leclerc’s second successive second place elevating the Monegasque driver past Norris for fifth by just one point.
In the teams race, Mercedes held on to the runner-up spot by three points, a whopping 451 points behind Red Bull. Russell (third) and Lewis Hamilton (ninth) combined for 17 points to counter Leclerc’s 18, with Leclerc’s teammate Sainz finishing 18th and failing to score for just the second time all season.
Oscar Piastri wrapped up his rookie season with another solid showing in Abu Dhabi, the McLaren driver scoring eight points for finishing sixth, his 12th weekend in the points this season.
Piastri, who produced a superb lap on Saturday night to line up third on the grid and becoming the first teammate to beat Norris in qualifying in Abu Dhabi, couldn’t sustain the pace over 58 laps, but again showed how much he’s progressed since the opening nine races of 2023 produced only five points. The 22-year-old finished ninth in the championship with 97 points for the season.
Compatriot Daniel Ricciardo missed out in Abu Dhabi, the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver finishing a frustrating half a second out of the points in 11th after being forced into an early pit stop when a helmet visor tear-off got stuck in a brake duct.
It was always going to be difficult for Ricciardo, who had qualified just 15th, to scramble back into the points after pitting on lap seven, but he was catching Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at a rapid rate for 10th before running out of laps to overtake the Canadian.
AlphaTauri came to Abu Dhabi with a new floor for the AT04 as it attempted to score the seven points it needed to overhaul Williams for seventh in the constructors’ standings, and Yuki Tsunoda looked like a chance of overhauling the deficit by himself before fading to eighth place when a bold one-stop strategy just failed to pay dividends.
At the circuit where he took the best result of his three-season career (fourth in 2021), Tsunoda was electrifying in qualifying, starting sixth for his best Saturday showing yet. He led the race for five laps through the first pit stop phase, but ran out of tyre life late as Piastri and Alonso both came past in the closing laps.
The 23-year-old’s fighting qualities didn’t go unnoticed, Tsunoda being voted as Driver of the Day by the sport’s fans.
Number to know
9: Verstappen’s victory made it nine races running that the pole-sitter has won in Abu Dhabi, extending the longest streak of any F1 venue.
I'm really pleased to finish on this high because it's been a really challenging season … it's been a difficult one as a team, but on a personal side, just not getting the results that we probably deserve.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: top 10
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 1hr 27mins 02.624secs
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +17.993secs
- George Russell (Mercedes) +20.328secs
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) +21.453secs
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +24.284secs
- Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +31.487secs
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +39.512secs
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +43.088secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +44.424secs
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +55.632secs
Standings (top 5)
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 575 points
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) 285 points
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 234 points
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 206 points
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 206 points
- Red Bull Racing (860 points)
- Mercedes (409 points)
- Ferrari (406 points)
- McLaren (302 points)
- Aston Martin (280 points)
Round 1, 2024: Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuit (Feb 29-Mar 2)