By Shwetha Surendran
BU News Service
In a season where the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team was supremely dominant, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen spiced up the grand finale at the Yas Marina circuit with a masterclass. The Dutchman cruised to victory after leading every lap in the 55-lap race and finishing 15 seconds ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was back in the cockpit of the Mercedes after recovering from COVID-19, came home third.
Verstappen’s rapid race pace on Sunday came after he took his first pole position of the year in Saturday’s qualifying session. The other star of the qualifying session was McLaren’s Lando Norris, who put in an astonishing lap – a mere 0.25 seconds off pole position – to take the fourth spot on the grid.
Despite Mercedes not leading the field at the Yas Marina Circuit, the Grand Prix was fairly straightforward with no dramatic overtakes or crashes.
The closest battle was between McLaren and Racing Point for third place in the Constructors’ Championship. Racing Point lost out, with Sergio Pérez retiring on lap 10 due to suspected engine issues and teammate Lance Stroll finishing the race in 10th.
The McLaren pair, Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr., finished fifth and sixth respectively, securing enough points for the team’s best-ever finish since 2012.
Despite both their drivers picking up points, Renault narrowly missed out on the fight for third, settling for fifth instead. Outgoing driver Daniel Ricciardo – who will be replacing Sainz Jr. at McLaren next season – drove a long stint on his first set of hard compound tires, slotting him seventh after his mandatory pitstop. Teammate Esteban Ocon crossed the finish line ninth.
With their worst season since 1980, Scuderia Ferrari finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship after failing to score yet again. In his final outing in red, Sebastian Vettel finished 14th, just behind his teammate Charles Leclerc. Despite the team’s miserable 2020 campaign, Vettel burst into song on the radio, thanking the team and everyone back in Maranello, Italy.
AlphaTauri driver Daniil Kvyat – who has not yet been confirmed for a seat in 2021 – wrapped up his season with an 11th place finish, tantalizingly close to the points. Williams, for the first time, finished a season with absolutely no points on the board.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen ended his six-year Formula One career at Abu Dhabi with an 18th place finish.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was an emotional end to a packed 2020 Formula One season. Some drivers paid tribute to some of the year’s new beginnings and endings with their helmet designs. While Leclerc chose to honor his departing teammate, Haas driver Romain Grosjean’s helmet was designed by his three young children.
Heading into the winter break, Red Bull will hope to build on their momentum from Verstappen’s win to pose a challenge to Mercedes in 2021. The provisional calendar for the new season promises 23 Grands Prix, including a race in Saudi Arabia first time.
Will Hamilton win his eighth World Championship title? Could we see glimpses of a resurgent Scuderia Ferrari? Or will Formula One finally crown a new champion? Some of these questions could be answered when the new season starts on March 18 in Australia.