Verstappen caps 2022 F1 season with Abu Dhabi win

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Verstappen caps 2022 F1 season with Abu Dhabi win

Formula 1

Verstappen caps 2022 F1 season with Abu Dhabi win

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Max Verstappen took a comfortable victory at the grand prix of the season in Abu Dhabi ahead of a nail-biting battle for second place between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen controlled the race from pole with ease, managing his tires to perfection to make it to the checkered flag with a single pit stop when he’d originally intended to make two.

It was the Dutchman’s 35th career victory and extended his record for most wins in a season to 15.

“It was a good race,” he said. “Incredible to win again here, and 15th win of the season is unbelievable.

“It’s been really enjoyable to work with the whole team to be able to achieve something like this this year.”

The battle to finish runner-up to the reigning champion was more dynamic, with Sergio Perez unable to pass Charles Leclerc for second place in the race and second in the drivers championship.

Perez ran a comfortable second in the first stint on medium tires, but the hard compound Ferrari was more competitive, and the Mexican came under pressure past middle distance.

Their races diverged on lap 33, when Perez, having had his lead reduced to just 1.5s, came in for a second set of hard tires.

Leclerc stayed out and committed to a one-stop strategy, setting up a 20s chase in 24 laps and a potential grandstand finish.

Perez’s progress was voracious, and he halved the gap with 10 laps remaining despite having lost precious seconds in a duel with Lewis Hamilton.

But it wasn’t fast enough to close the gap, and Leclerc held second place – and took second in the drivers championship – by just 1.3s.

“I was 110 per cent from the first lap to the last lap,” he said. “Honestly, we had the perfect race for us. There was not much more today.

“We managed to make the one-stop work, so we’re really happy.

“I really hope next year we can do a step forward in order to fight for the championship. Considering where we were last year, it’s a really big step forwards.”

Perez was magnanimous in defeat, with third in the standings a career-best result.

“At the end of the day I’ve got to be happy,” he said. “I gave it all.

“As a team we gave it all through the season. When we come back we will be stronger next year.”

Hamilton was the other one-stopping frontrunning driver and set up with a similar challenge imposed by Carlos Sainz, who enjoyed tires 21 laps younger in a final 19-lap stint.

But the gap had just shrank to less than 2s when Hamilton pulled off the racing line with a hydraulics problem with three laps to go, robbing the sport of a grandstand finish.

Hamilton retired from the race, promoting Sainz into fourth and George Russell, whose 5s penalty for an unsafe released at his first pit stop put him out of podium contention, up into fifth.

Lando Norris secured sixth at the head of the midfield, but it wasn’t enough for McLaren to overhaul Alpine for fourth in the constructors championship with Esteban Ocon taking the flag behind him in seventh.

Lance Stroll finished a competitive eighth as one of only three drivers in the top 10 to use the medium compound twice, helping him scythe up the order late.

Daniel Ricciardo saw off the retiring Sebastian Vettel for ninth after a five-lap scrap to the flag.

Both drivers were on one-stop strategies, and while Vettel was particularly skeptical about its merit, it launched Ricciardo up from 13th on the grid into the points in his final race for the foreseeable future.

Vettel’s sole point was enough to tie Aston Martin on points with Alfa Romeo in the constructors standings, but the latter held sixth place on countback thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s fifth-place finish at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

The German, who has now retired from Formula 1, ended the night with some celebratory doughnuts on the grid.

Yuki Tsunoda finished 12th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas.

Mick Schumacher led home Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen in 16th and 17th despite the German crashing with Nicholas Latifi earlier in the race, sending both into a spin, and the Canadian back to pit lane to retire.

Fernando Alonso was the race’s only other retirement, returning to pit lane with a power unit water leak after 27 laps.

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