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Max Verstappen ended a bad season for Red Bull by winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the top.
The Dutchman achieved a second victory this year, beating Mercedes’ Valteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who were unable to participate in the second and third races.
The first safety car was included in the leading strategy and led to a sleepy race.
McLaren finished third in the constructors’ championship, while Lando Norris and Carlos Saines finished fifth and sixth.
The price of the overhaul of Racing Point – which started the race with a 10-point lead, but for which Lance Stroll only finished in 10th place. The total prize money he was able to secure in second place – thanks to the early retirement of his teammate Sergio Perez – amounts to about $10 million (£7.5 million).
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished fourth, 20 seconds behind teammate Verstappen, but close enough to the Mercedes to block any choice of adventurous strategy when the team wondered if the British-Thai driver should stay in 2021.
Too little, too late
Max Verstappen and Red Bull party on the 9th. August: their first victory after the 70-year-old Silverstone Grand Prix.
Verstappen put down a kind of performance that marked the beginning of a promising year for Red Bull, but which they could not maintain in the face of the overwhelming superiority of Mercedes.
With an unexpected pole position, the Dutchman kept his lead at the start and kept full control throughout the race.
When Racing Point in Perez came to a standstill after just 10 laps in the final part of the circuit, a safety car was called up, forcing most teams to put on new tyres and drive the rest of the race.
Mercedes decided to put Hamilton behind Bottas instead of betting on the world champion to continue risking time by stopping carefully, instead of betting on the second half of the race to fight the compensation strategy.
This meant that the rest of the race degenerated into a tyre maintenance race.
Bottas could not follow the long distance races and slowly withdrew from Red Bull.
Hamilton spent most of the race within two or three seconds of his teammate, apparently at high speed, but he was unable or unwilling to finish the race.
Hamilton also said that he struggled with racial fatigue due to the effects of the coronavirus, which forced him to miss the Saheer Grand Prix in Bahrain last weekend.
McLaren takes large profit
Lando Norris and Carlos Saines gave McLaren a good start after the announcement of new US investments.
Albon held an anonymous race in the fourth race, while the year ended with a huge bounce for McLaren.
Racing Point was a faster car for most of the year, but McLaren and its drivers made full use of their potential and stayed in the race, despite the strong second half of the season of their rivals.
This allowed them to keep fighting, and they delivered the race they needed when it mattered.
Norris got a good start and led Albon in the early laps before inevitably losing. He then drove with Sainz calmly and steadily until the end of the race to secure the championship position they were aiming for.
It was a good day for McLaren in two respects, after confirming a significant increase in cash flow from the investments of the U.S. consortium, which by the end of 2022 would take a third of the team.
Daniel Ricciardo made a long first stage behind the wheel of his Renault on a stiff tyre to move from eleventh to seventh place at the end ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, while the Renault Esteban Window finished ninth in the final lap on Stroll.
Director of the day
On the day of the boring races Verstappen was an excellent runner.
What happens then?
After 17 cancelled races and five and a half months, teams and drivers enter the short low season, in which some changes to their cars still have to be made for the pre-season tests at the end of February.
The next season should start in Melbourne in mid-March, but with the pandemic still raging, who knows what the year 2021 will bring?
Day bench game