Max Verstappen never looked under threat as he won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to end his season with a record 19 grand prix victories.Sergio Perez to win by almost 20 seconds, but a five-second time penalty dropped Perez behind Charles Leclerc and George Russell, who were promoted onto the podium.
Ahead of the start of the race, the vast majority of the grid headed off on the formation lap on medium tyres, with only a handful of drivers down the order choosing to start on hard tyres. Verstappen lined up on pole position with Leclerc alongside him on the front row for the final start of the 2023 season.
When the lights went out, Verstappen got a good launch off the line but Leclerc was alongside him into the first corner. Verstappen held the lead but Leclerc continued to challenge the Red Bull over the opening lap, attacking into turns six and nine but being rebuffed by Verstappen each time.
Verstappen led at the end of the first lap from Leclerc, Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in fourth after jumping George Russell at the start. Verstappen broke out a lead of over a second by the time DRS was activated at the end of lap two but it was Norris who passed team mate Piastri with DRS along the back straight to move up into third.
The leader continued to hold his advantage at around 1.3 seconds as the drivers at the front of the field all appeared to be managing their tyres. Russell was eager to retake fourth place and successfully did so on lap 11, demoting Piastri down to fifth before quickly dropping the second McLaren out of DRS range.
Piastri was the first of the top drivers to pit at the end of lap 13 for hard tyres. Norris and Russell both followed him in at the end of the next lap, but the Mercedes team had the superior pit stop and Russell emerged ahead of the McLaren. Lewis Hamilton lost part of his front wing after making contract with Pierre Gasly in turn six, but despite immediately pitting Mercedes decided not to change his front wing.
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Verstappen pitted soon after from the lead for hard tyres, handing the lead to Leclerc. The Ferrari driver was in the next lap and emerged out of the pits behind Verstappen, just over three seconds behind.
Yuki Tsunoda inherited the lead of the race having stayed out on his medium tyres, while Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz Jnr ran behind him on the hard tyres they had started on. Verstappen picked off Sainz and Stroll with each to move second, before Tsunoda finally pitted at the end of lap 22 to hand the lead back to Verstappen, with Leclerc taking back second and Russell third ahead of the two McLarens of Norris and Piastri.
On the hard tyres, Verstappen began to slowly pull away from Leclerc behind. Further back, Sergio Perez passed Piastri to move up into fifth place. After complaining of struggling for grip on his hards, Norris was called in at the end of L33 for a second set of hard tyres.
Norris pitting triggered a chain reaction with Russell, Hamilton, Leclerc and Piastri all pitting for a second set of hard tyres with well over 20 laps still remaining. Leader Verstappen was happy to stay out on his hards, while Perez also remained out to move into second.
Perez was the first of the Red Bulls to make his second stop, emerging in fifth, before Verstappen pitted a lap later for a second set of hard tyres, retaining the lead by just over five seconds.
In short order Perez caught Norris for fourth and attempted a move into turn six at the end of the back straight, but the pair made wheel-to-wheel contact. The Red Bull driver overtook the McLaren the following lap at the same corner, but was handed a five-second time penalty by the stewards for the collision.
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Out front, Verstappen continued to pull away from the field behind as Perez moved up to third by overtaking Russell into turn nine. With Leclerc in second looking to try and take as many points off Mercedes as possible in the battle for second on the constructors’ championship, the Ferrari driver allowed Perez through into second place knowing the Red Bull driver would have a penalty in a bid to try and keep him ahead of Russell at the finish.
Verstappen took the chequered flag to cap off his dominant season with his 19th win, with Perez crossing the line in second place. However, Perez’s penalty dropped him behind both Leclerc and Russell, who were promoted into the podium positions, meaning that Mercedes were confirmed in second place in the championship over Ferrari.
Perez was classified forth ahead of the two McLarens of Norris and Piastri. Alonso finished seventh with Tsunoda in eighth, unable to prevent Williams from securing seventh in the constructors championship. Hamilton and Stroll took the final points in a race where all 20 drivers finished.
2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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