F1 2020 Abu Dhabi GP – Verstappen Marks Season Finale With A Commanding Win

Grand Prix

Dec 16th, 2020

F1 2020 Abu Dhabi GP – Verstappen Marks Season Finale With A Commanding Win

Formula 1 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was held at the Yas Marina Circuit built on the Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This was the 12th running of the Abu Dhabi GP, which in 2009, held the first-ever twilight race in the history of the Formula 1. 

As the last round of the COVID-19-impacted 2020 Formula 1 season, this grand prix underscored the great effort exerted by the FIA and F1 teams to complete a 17-race calendar in 23 weeks (July-December). 

Abu Dhabi is a great place to go for an F1 race, although the racing itself is a bit boring. While the Yas Marina Circuit is being touted as the most expensive F1 track ever built, not a few drivers have commented that its configuration lacked action and entertainment. 

It was an unusual Saturday with Max Verstappen taking a sensational pole position from the Mercedes duo, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was in 4th place only two tenths down on Verstappen. The Dutchman won the race quite easily with a comfortable drive from start to finish by leading every lap. This was the first time during the season that Mercedes had no answer to the pace of Red Bull.

Pre-Race Preparations Thursday: Hamilton Back in the Final Race of the F1 2020 Season

It does not rain that often in this part of the world, and the weather outlook confirmed it as well. The conditions were predicted to be dry and pleasant for the last race of the season. Lewis Hamilton recovered in time for the final race of the season and was back in the car. George Russell was back to his team as well. There were a couple of power-unit-related penalties for the Racing Point of Sergio Perez and Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Both will start the last race of the season from the last row of the grid.

Friday Practice: Mercedes and Red Bull Lead Fastest Team Data

Mercedes was the fastest team on the last Friday of the season, and the data analysis rubber-stamped the timing screen results. Red Bulls was second on the list in the qualifying trim with a gap of 0.9sec/lap to the champions. Racing Point was third 1.1sec/lap, Renault 4th 1.2sec/lap, Ferrari 5th 1.3sec/lap and McLaren was 6th 1.4sec/lap slower than the Mercedes.

Long-run simulations analysis kept the order same, but the Red Bull was significantly closer to the Mercedes and on average only 0.4sec/lap slower. Behind the leading pair was the racing team of Racing Point, while Renault and Ferrari were equal on race pace and on average 1sec/lap slower than the top team. McLaren was also very close to the midfield teams and was only behind by a tenth on the race pace. Alpha Tauri was 7th 1.4sec/lap, Williams 8th 2.1sec/lap, Alpha Romeo 9th and Haas 10th with an average lap 2.4sec slower than the Mercedes.

Saturday Practice: Red Bull Outshines Mercedes in FP3 

Red Bull turned the table on Mercedes and went fastest from the two Renaults of Ocon and Ricciardo. Mercedes was only 6th and 9th quickest by the end of FP3 pointing towards a very close qualifying battle. Lando Norris was 5th quickest for McLaren, Stroll 7th, Sainz 8th and Sergio Perez was 10th fastest.

Qualifying: Verstappen Claims First Pole in F1 2020 Season

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen had to use two sets of tyres to progress into the second part of qualifying due to mistakes. Antonio Giovinazzi was the star of the first session as he scraped through to Q2 in 15th place and win the season-long qualifying battle from his teammate by 9-8. George Russell, Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi, and Kimi Raikkonen all failed to get out of Q1.

Most of the teams headed out on more durable medium tyres and tried to see if they could qualify on that, but it was only the Mercedes pair, Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc (3-place grid penalty for an accident in Sakhir GP) who qualified on medium tyres. The Renaults of Ocon and Ricciardo, Vettel, Giovinazzi, and Perez were all eliminated.

Mercedes went out early for the last qualifying session of the season and took provisional pole position in the hands of Bottas, but Verstappen was second only a tenth behind. All the ten drivers went out on brand new red boots for one last time in 2020, and once the dust settled, it was Max Verstappen of Red Bull who claimed his first pole position of 2020 season ahead of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Norris was quite close in 4th, Albon 5th, Sainz 6th, Kvyat 7th, Stroll 8th, Leclerc 9th and Gasly 10th.

Sunday Race: Verstappen Nails His First Win from the Pole for this Season

First P1 start by Max Verstappen this season, and he nailed it when the five red lights went off to signal the start of the race. The Dutchman emerged in the lead from the opening sequence of corners, and all 20 cars were still running by the end of lap 1 in perfect condition. He was very quick from the start and was out of DRS range by the end of lap 2. Albon was stuck behind Norris but eventually passed the Brit on lap 6 with the help of DRS.

Sergio Perez, who started last due to an engine penalty, was running in 14th place when suddenly the loss of oil pressure switched off the engine on lap 10. It was Sergio Perez's last race for Racing Point and his second retirement in 3 races. The DNF was heartbreaking for the Racing Point team who were leading McLaren by 10 points in the constructor's championship coming into the race and vying for 3rd place in the constructor category. With Perez out of the race and Stroll running in 8th place, however, it looked like they’d trail behind McLaren, who were running 5th and 6th, by the end of the race. 

The Perez incident brought out the VSC and then the Safety Car to recover his vehicle. Most of the drivers made their one and only stop of the race and switched to hard tyres to the end of the race. Ricciardo, Leclerc, and Vettel did not pit and were running in the top 10 when the race resumed on lap 14. Leclerc was soon passed by the drivers who were behind him but on fresh tyres. He was down to 12th and eventually decided to pit on lap 22 for hard tyres.

Vettel and Ricciardo pitted on lap 35 and 39 respectively for their only stop of the night. Ricciardo came out in 7th place behind Sainz, while Vettel dropped out of the points behind his teammate. With ten laps to go, Verstappen was still leading the race, and he was 9.6 sec ahead of Bottas. Mercedes did not have an answer to the pace of the Red Bull, and it looked like the race would finish in the same order. 

It was a commanding drive by Max Verstappen to win his second race of the season and first from pole position. Valterri Bottas finished second to confirm his 2nd place in the driver's standings, and Lewis finished 3rd ahead of the Red Bull of Alexander Albon.

Norris finished 5th ahead of Carlos Sainz, which meant McLaren finished 3rd in the constructor’s championship for the first time since 2012. Ricciardo finished 7th with the fastest lap, Gasly 8th, Ocon 9th and Stroll 10th. Daniil Kvyat was in 11th place ahead of Raikkonen, Leclerc, Vettel, Russell, Giovinazzi, Latifi, Magnussen, Fittipaldi and Sergio Perez (DNF).