Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Verstappen cruises to victory as Leclerc prevents Red Bull one-two

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - AFP
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - AFP

03:23 PM

Report

Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi - Karim Sahib/Getty Images
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi - Karim Sahib/Getty Images

It could not have felt more different to 12 months ago. After last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, chaos and confusion reigned for five hours post-race as the FIA’s stewards heard various protests and decided the fate of the 2021 title.

Team members, media, drivers, assorted flunkies, milled about in the paddock, trying to make sense of what we had just witnessed. The repercussions of that race rumbled on all winter and are still being felt even now.

This time around, the atmosphere was flat by comparison. We had the same winner; Max Verstappen taking the 15th victory of a record-breaking year. But there was no controversy over the result. Red Bull’s double world champion was miles ahead of the field, as he has been for most of this season.

The drivers all said their bit afterwards and then shuffled off into the desert night, the attention of the sporting world long since having switched to nearby Qatar where the opening fixture of the Fifa World Cup was being played.

So ended the 2022 campaign; one which promised much, with Hamilton gunning for revenge after having that eighth title so cruelly snatched from his grasp, and Ferrari expected to challenge for once. But one which ultimately fell way short of expectations, Mercedes producing a dog of a car, and Ferrari imploding as they so often do.

With the title long since wrapped up, the main area of interest heading into yesterday’s race was the battle for second spot in the drivers’ championship between Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

And the ingredients were reasonably spicy. The two men began yesterday’s race tied on 290 points, with Perez annoyed not to have a couple more; Verstappen refusing a direct order from his team to gift his sixth spot at the previous weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix to his teammate.

The fallout from that decision was messy, with allegations that Verstappen was still angry at Perez because he suspected the Mexican had crashed on purpose in qualifying in Monaco back in May in order to secure pole – an allegation Perez denied.

Whether he did or did not, the team orders row did nothing to help soften Verstappen’s image and he found himself booed by sections of the crowd at Yas Marina all weekend.

Seeking to make amends, Verstappen gave Perez a tow in qualifying on Saturday, helping the Mexican to second spot on the grid, one place ahead of Leclerc.

It did not prove enough of an advantage. While Verstappen roared away and won the race at a canter, Leclerc made a one-stopper work for him to claim second spot. Perez, who stopped twice, ran out of time to catch back up to the Ferrari, finishing 1.3sec behind in the final reckoning.

Abu Dhabi GP - Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Abu Dhabi GP - Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

There was the potential for Verstappen to slow at the front and try to help Perez by backing Leclerc up. But the double world champion’s charitable instincts only extended so far.

“It is how it is,” Perez said. “At the end of the day, I’ve got to be happy. I gave it my all. As a team we gave it all through the season, and I’m sure we will come back stronger next year. Time to relax a bit, play some golf, get the handicap down.”

There was disappointment, too, for Mercedes, as Formula One prepares to go into its winter hibernation.

One week after his maiden race win in Brazil, George Russell could only finish fifth after a bungled pit stop saw him released into traffic, incurring a five-second penalty, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire from fourth place just a few laps from the finish after developing a hydraulic issue.

Abu Dhabi GP - Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi - Kamran Jebreili/Shutterstock
Abu Dhabi GP - Verstappen reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi - Kamran Jebreili/Shutterstock

It meant the seven-time champion, who had a lively battle with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the opening lap, ended the season without a victory for the first time in his entire career.

There were two other major storylines to resolve. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth in what may have been his final F1 race as he prepares to rejoin Red Bull as their reserve driver next season. And Sebastian Vettel finished 10th in what was definitely his final race after his team Aston Martin opted for a one-stopper.

The sight of the four-time world champion doing a few doughnuts for the crowds at the finish was fun. But it was nothing like the fireworks we had last year. The hope is next year we will get the championship we were promised this season.

03:16 PM

Danke Seb

That concludes our coverage of the 2022 season. It's been a dramatic and eventful year dominated by Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

They are the team to beat for 2023 and we wait to see whether Mercedes and Ferrari can build cars strong enough to compete.

And we say goodbye to the man below after a brilliant career.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - GETTY IMAGES

03:08 PM

When does the new season start?

It's 95 days to the start of winter testing and the 2023 season begins on March 5.

02:59 PM

Vettel farewell

Overall a big day, and a big thank you to all the support. So many flags and so many smiling faces, which has been very special, very nice.

I’m sure I’m going to miss it more than I understand right now. I had a nice battle with Daniel but I just couldn’t get close enough. But I think it’s nice to have fought the last couple of laps with him, with both of us finishing in the points. It’s been a big weekend

I hope to pass on to some of the other drivers to carry on some of the good work. It's great to see that we have the power inspire you with what we do and what we say.

I think there are far bigger and far more important things than racing in circles, but obviously it's what we love, through that if we can transfer some of the really important values that's big.

Thank you for the support, thank you all the messages, the letters, and all the love in general. I will miss that. it's been an absolute joy throughout my career, so thank you.

02:54 PM

New for this year

The podium finishers receive a medal, which they will keep so they have a personal record of their achievement.

Trophies tend to be kept by the teams so the medals according to the FIA will be "a unique personal memento to commemorate their outstanding achievement".

02:50 PM

Verstappen reacts

It was all about tyre management. I think we looked after the mediums quite well. And then on the hard tyres, I was looking after them from lap one until the end, but incredible to win here again.

15th win of the season is unbelievable. It's been really enjoyable this year, working with the whole team to be able to achieve something like this this year. I know it's going to be hard to replicate something this but it's also very good motivation to try and do well next year.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS

02:46 PM

Leclerc reacts

I was 110 per cent from the first lap to the last. We had the perfect race. I knew the only way for us to beat Checo was with a different strategy and playing with time management, which we did really well. We made the one-stop work so I am really happy.

I really hope next year we can make a step forward and fight for the championship but considering where we were it is a step forward. We still need to work on race pace as we tend to struggle on Sunday but we will push during the winter break.

02:43 PM

Perez reacts

It is how it is. Sometimes everything can be really close. At the end of the day, I’ve got to be happy. I gave it all, as a team we gave it all through the season, and I’m sure we will come back stronger next year.

We had great moments, great battling. I think I struggled a bit this year in terms of managing the tyres in the race, so hopefully that can be something that we will improve for next year, and generally just be a bit stronger.

02:39 PM

Delight for Leclerc and Ferrari

Yes baby, we got it. Good job guys....good race, really good race

02:37 PM

DONUT TIME

For one last time, Vettel comes down the home straight and ends his career with a series of donuts on the start/finish line to the delight of the crowd.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS

02:35 PM

VETTEL FINISHES 10TH

Old Red Bull team-mates Ricciardo and Vettel battle for ninth place but the former gets the job done in the end.

Tremendous fight back from Vettel after dropping to the back.

02:32 PM

VERSTAPPEN WINS

15 wins for the season for the world champion.

Leclerc holds off Perez for second place and second in the drivers championship.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates - REUTERS

02:30 PM

Lap 58: Onto the final lap

Leclerc leads Perez by 1.9s as we enter the final lap of the 2022 season.

02:28 PM

Lap 57: Hamilton retires

First mechanical failure of the season for Mercedes. Leclerc leads Perez by 2s.

02:27 PM

Lap 56: Sainz passes Hamilton

Hydraulic issue for Hamilton. Sainz passes through easily. That looks like the end of the road for him.

02:25 PM

Lap 55: Thrilling finish

This could be a very dramatic end. Any chance of a safety car?

3.6s lead for Leclerc over Perez.

1.8s lead for Hamilton over Sainz.

02:24 PM

Lap 54: Five laps to go

4.6s lead for Leclerc over Perez.

2.9s lead for Hamilton over Sainz.

02:22 PM

Lap 53: Black and white flag for Hamilton

Hamilton has exceeded track limits too many times and one more will result in a time penalty.

02:20 PM

Lap 51: Battle for 2nd and 4th

Leclerc vs Perez & Hamilton vs Sainz.

Those are the two main fights right now.

Verstappen has this race wrapped up. Impeccable drive.

02:18 PM

Lap 50: Stroll passes Vettel for 10th

Vettel on team radio:

How did we get the strategy so wrong?

02:15 PM

Lap 49: 10 laps to go

Verstappen on team radio:

The tyres are good. Just tell Checo to go full send, the tyres will be fine.

02:14 PM

Lap 47: Perez gets Hamilton

Perez learns his lesson from the previous lap and passes Hamilton to move up to third.

He will now chase now Leclerc, who is 9s down the road.

Sainz is now hunting down Hamilton, who earlier warned his team not to leave him on a one stop...

02:12 PM

Lap 45: Perez catching Hamilton

We can't lose time here. Catch and pass Hamilton.

Perez is urged to pass Hamilton by his team. He gets DRS and gets the job done. But Hamilton retakes the place after Perez locks up his breaks.

This is good news for Leclerc, who remains on a one stop.

02:10 PM

Lap 44: Perez starting to catch Leclerc

Perez, in fourth, is taking a second a lap out of Leclerc.

Ferrari tell Leclerc that they think they will be overtaken by the Red Bull as things stand.

02:06 PM

Lap 42: Schumacher penalty

Five-second time penalty for Schumacher for causing a collision with Latifi.

Judging by the replays, the Haas driver can have no complaints.

02:03 PM

Lap 40: Latifi and Schumacher clash

Latifi and Schumacher tangle and make contact. Both are able to continue but face an investigation.

Sainz and Russell pit. Russell serves his five second penalty.

02:02 PM

Lap 39: Perez given rallying call

Expect Leclerc to go to the end. Reel him in.

Hamilton now in DRS range of Russell. In this phase of the race it is the seven time champion who looks strong. Perez is setting the fastest laps at the moment.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS

01:59 PM

Lap 38: Ferrari on the attack

The Ferrari's seems happy on the hard tyres and appear ready to go to the end.

Perez is 18s behind and in sixth place. Leclerc is second and Sainz is third.

01:58 PM

Lap 36: Red Bull problems?

Verstappen is told to increase tyre management.

Hamilton is closing the gap on Russell, it is now less than two seconds. With Russell's five second penalty, Hamilton should finish ahead of his team-mate.

01:54 PM

Lap 34: Perez pits

Quick 2.4s stop from Red Bull. Leclerc stays out.

Perez now needs to go quickly to stay ahead of the Ferrari.

01:52 PM

Lap 32: Vettel on the charge

Vettel is making his way up from the back. He's now 15th.

Perez pitted earlier than Leclerc. He leads the Ferrari driver by 1.5s.

A reminder that those two are battling to finish second in the drivers championship.

All to play for!

01:48 PM

Lap 30: Perez wants Verstappen to speed up

I'm being held up by Max.

01:47 PM

Lap 28: Alonso retires

Oh dear. Just as I said we still had all drivers, Alonso retires in his last race for Alpine.

He will drive for Aston Martin next year.

01:45 PM

Lap 27: Battle for second

Leclerc is starting to catch Perez and could be in striking distance within six laps.

All 20 cars are still on the track. Latifi is bringing up the rear.

01:43 PM

Lap 26: Vettel frustrated

It's the worst. We're just getting eaten up by everybody.

Vettel now pits, 4.1s. He puts on the hard tyres. He's now 19th. Can he get back into the points?

01:41 PM

Lap 24: We've reached the halfway point

  1. Verstappen

  2. Perez

  3. Leclerc

  4. Sainz

  5. Russell

  6. Hamilton

  7. Norris

  8. Vettel

  9. Ocon

  10. Stroll

01:39 PM

Lap 23: Hamilton passes Vettel

Vettel is the only person not to pit yet and he is dropping back now. He might be looking at a one stop race.

Hamilton passes him for sixth.

01:36 PM

Lap 22: Russell penalised

Five-second time penalty for Russell for an unsafe release.

Leclerc now pits, 3s. He returns to the track just ahead of his team-mate Sainz.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS

01:34 PM

Lap 21: Verstappen pits

Our race leader pits, 3.4s.

Leclerc takes the lead but Verstappen remains ahead of Perez, who has closed the gap.

01:32 PM

Lap 19: Hamilton pits

Hamilton pits for hards, 2.3s. Russell is under investigation for an unsafe release now.

Hamilton on team radio:

I think the floor is broken.

  1. Verstappen

  2. Leclerc

  3. Perez

  4. Vettel

  5. Sainz

  6. Alonso

  7. Russell

  8. Ricciardo

  9. Hamilton

  10. Norris

01:30 PM

Lap 17: Vettel battles Perez

Perez brakes too late, Vettel gets DRS and passes him. That won't help the Red Bull driver in his battle with Leclerc.

Possible unsafe release for Russell in the pits to compound his problems.

01:27 PM

Lap 16: Perez pits

Leclerc gets within DRS range of Perez and the Red Bull decides to pit.

Russell pits and it is a long stop. He was complaining about his tyres. He is now on the hards. Russell is now ninth.

01:26 PM

Lap 15: Verstappen in control

The world champion leads by over 5 seconds now.

In the fight for eighth, Ocon leads Vettel and Alonso. But the Frenchman opts to pit which releases the retiring German.

01:23 PM

Lap 14: Hamilton woe

There is something up with the car, mate.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES

01:22 PM

Lap 13: The top 10

  1. Verstappen

  2. Perez

  3. Leclerc

  4. Sainz

  5. Russell

  6. Hamilton

  7. Norris

  8. Ocon

  9. Vettel

  10. Alonso

01:20 PM

Lap 11: Hamilton struggling

Hamilton is now two seconds behind Russell. He hasn't enjoyed this year's car and this race won't improve his mood.

01:18 PM

Lap 9: Russell through on Hamilton

Hamilton is now passed by Russell and is going backwards.

Hamilton on team radio:

I'm losing power, what's going on?

01:16 PM

Lap 8: Sainz sweeps past Hamilton

Sainz gets within DRS range and retakes fourth from Hamilton.

01:13 PM

Lap 6: Russell putting pressure on Sainz

Sainz now coming under pressure from Russell.

Verstappen leads by 2.1s ahead of Perez, Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz, Russell, Norris, Ocon, Vettel and Alonso.

Russell on team radio:

Lewis needs to pick up the pace so Sainz doesn't get DRS. We're quicker than the Ferraris. We can beat them.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES

01:11 PM

Lap 5: Hamilton told to let Sainz through

Hamilton is instructed to let Carlos by for P4. But with the use of DRS, Hamilton gets back ahead of the Ferrari driver.

01:09 PM

Lap 4: Hamilton under investigation

Stewards are having a look for Hamilton cutting the track and gaining an advantage.

01:08 PM

Lap 3: Red Bull are streaking clear

Verstappen and Perez are moving clear of their rivals. Already looks like it will be a battle for third between Ferrari and Mercedes.

01:07 PM

Lap 2: Hamilton and Sainz under investigation

But the FIA rule no further investigation needed.

Sainz said on team radio:

I overtook him, he needs to give me the position back. Super unfair. He did exactly the same last year with Verstappen.

01:05 PM

Here we go!

It is lights out and away we go.

Verstappen leads into the first corner from Perez. Hamilton up to 4th.

Sainz pushes Hamilton for the track and it is a bumpy ride for the Mercedes driver.

Russell has dropped to seventh.

01:01 PM

Formation lap

The formation lap is underway for the last time in 2022.

Every driver will start today's race on the medium tyre, except for Magnussen (P16) and Bottas (P18) on the hards and Gasly (P17) on the soft rubber.

01:00 PM

Hamilton fined

Hamilton has been fined 500 euros for doing 84.5 km/h in the pits on his way to the grid.

The speed limit is 80

12:59 PM

Quite the flyby

12:55 PM

Pre-race thoughts from George Russell

It's going to be tight with the Ferrari's. Max is going to be too far ahead

12:47 PM

Guard of honour

Vettel gets a guard of honour from his fellow racers, shaking hands with all of them. Not long to go now and the sun is starting to set.

12:44 PM

Martin's grid walk is under way

Martin grabs a quick word from Ricciardo and Vettel's father Norbert. England cricketer Ben Stokes, who is with Red Bull, says it is his first race.

Joe Root adds: "We're in a really special place, hopefully we produce in Pakistan."

A bit of a snub from Pep Guardiola to Martin. He wanted to discuss F1 but it appears Martin didn't have a question ready for him and the Man City manager walks away.

12:32 PM

The starting grid

12:27 PM

Vettel leaves the pit lane

Vettel exits his garage and is applauded by his Aston Martin team. Fingers crossed he makes a strong start and finishes the race in the points.

12:23 PM

The sports stars are in town

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - GETTY IMAGES
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - SHUTTERSTOCK
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - SHUTTERSTOCK

12:15 PM

Hope for Mick Schumacher

Mercedes look set to hand Mick Schumacher an F1 lifeline by offering him a reserve seat for next year.

It was announced this week that Schumacher would be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg at Haas, leaving the German without a drive in 2023.

But Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says the 23-year-old could join the team as a deputy to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

"Mick is someone that has always been close to our heart because of Michael or the whole Schumacher family," Wolff said.

"We believe that we can look after him if the situation were to happen... but we haven't really put pen to paper, we haven't really come anywhere close to any terms. I think he just fits and now we need to make it happen, if he wants to, (manager) Sabine (Kehm) wants to and then we see where that goes to.

12:02 PM

It's also Danny Ric's final race for Mercedes. Will he return to the grid?

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS

11:52 AM

The class of 2022

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 live: latest updates as Max Verstappen starts from pole - REUTERS

11:38 AM

Danke Seb

Hello and welcome to coverage of the final F1 race of the season from Abu Dhabi.

Unlike last year where we had a showdown for the title between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, today's race should be less dramatic.

But it will be emotional for Sebastian Vettel, who will hang up his helmet when he steps out of his Aston Martin for the last time. The four time champion will start from ninth after an impressive qualifying session.

"It was coming alive, I was coming alive," Vettel said. "I'm happy with how the session went. It was a bit emotional before getting in the car, but once I was in the car it was all thoughts in into qualifying the laps."

After a dominant season, Red Bull lock out the front row with Verstappen on pole ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez. Following the controversy of last weekend in Sao Paulo, Verstappen and Perez have put on a united front publicly but it remains to be seen whether things will remain cordial when the lights go out.

"Very pleased for (pole position) and very happy that both cars are on the front row because we want to win the race but we also want to finish second with Checo (Perez) in the championship so that's definitely a great start for Sunday," he said.

Behind Verstappen and Perez are Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who was ourth ahead of the Mercedes pair of seven-time champion Hamilton and George Russell.

"I am looking forward to the end of Tuesday which is the last time I will have to drive this thing," Hamilton said.

"I don't ever plan to drive it again. It will not be one of the cars I request to have in my contract. Everyone in the team knows the problems and where we have gone wrong. I am pretty confident that they are not going to build the next car with any of those characteristics."