Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Max Verstappen triumphs at season ending F1 race

Red Bull world champion holds off Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Mercedes' George Russell at Yas Marina Circuit

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Max Verstappen triumphed in the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after battling to a hard-fought victory in the Formula One season's big finale.

Despite the Formula One championship being decided for both drivers and constructors months ago, the men at the sharp end showed no sign of letting the Dutchman have it all his own way, as has been the case in previous years.

Verstappen held off some spirited contention from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was runner-up, third-placed Mercedes driver George Russell and teammate Sergio Perez, who carved his way up from a relatively modest position early on in the race to finish fourth.

The gritty showing at Yas Marina Circuit extends Verstappen’s winning record to 19 victories in 22 races over the course of the season.

During that period, he has led more than 1,000 laps.

As Verstappen came to a halt on Yas’s main straight after a victory lap and the obligatory doughnuts, the driver stood on top of his car, raising his arms to the cheering crowd as bright red fireworks exploded above him in the night skies over Yas Island.

Things looked like they might turn out differently at the start of the event though, as the early racing wasn’t all straightforward for the man on pole.

Verstappen led into the first corner, seemingly encroaching on to the path of Charles Leclerc, who was approaching menacingly on the inside.

The Ferrari driver was evidently intent on snatching the lead from his Dutch rival early on, but Verstappen kept the nose of his car just a few inches ahead at all times.

The next closest pursuers at the start – McLaren’s Lando Norris and Russell – weren’t giving up easily either.

After less than half a dozen circuits, they and Leclerc had all posted faster lap times than Verstappen.

Good efforts by all, but to no avail, as the lead, for any length of time, was beyond them.

Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri had a brief moment in the sun as lead car, but a trip to the pit brought that episode to a close.

Despite the efforts of others, and the fact he has been rather more dominant in previous races before Abu Dhabi, Verstappen always looked the most likely victor today.

Verstappen said after the race: “It's been an incredible season, it was a bit emotional on the in lap, it was the last time sitting in the car which has of course given me a lot.

"Very proud to win here in the last race and I have to say a big thank you to everyone at Red Bull, it's been an incredible year, it will be hard to do something similar again.

"It will be very hard to have another season like this, we know that. Of course, you always want to do better but sometimes doing better is not only race wins and potentially winning the championship, we will see, we are working hard for next year to have again a very competitive car."

The rest of the field consisted of Norris finishing at number five, followed by Oscar Piastri of McLaren in sixth, with Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin, Tsunoda, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Lance Stroll of Aston Martin rounding off the top 10.

Hamilton put in a decent race today, but could not achieve enough consistency to get a higher placing.

The team radio revealed the Englishman was frequently being encouraged by team principal Toto Wolff, informing him he’d been the fastest on the track on a number of occasions.

The main news from the constructor’s side was that Mercedes kept ahead of Ferrari to secure the number two slot, and the McLaren drivers did enough to keep ahead of Aston Martin.

The 2022/2023 F1 season, then, is at an end.

There are now 97 days to wait until the first Grand Prix of next season in Bahrain.

Updated: November 27, 2023, 8:54 AM