Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with ease after fighting off Charles Leclerc’s attack on the opening lap.
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc lined up on the front row of the grid for the final time this season, hoping to complete their season on a high note with a podium, if not a victory. Oscar Piastri and George Russell trailed them.
2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Results
Lando Norris was Verstappen’s closest competitor in qualifying, but an error on his penultimate lap caused him to fail to improve, meaning he’ll start fifth. Sergio Perez finished second in the championship last weekend, marking Red Bull’s first 1-2 finish in the Drivers’ standings. The Mexican, on the other hand, had his last qualifying lap removed, meaning he’ll start ninth. Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton were the surprises in Q1 and Q2, failing to progress and starting P16 and P11, respectively.
For the race, seventeen of the twenty drivers lined up with the yellow-ringed tyres on, but Lance Stroll P13, Sainz, and Valtteri Bottas P18 chose to try something different with that hard compound instead. Stroll, along with Williams’ Alex Albon P14 and Logan Sargeant P20, were the only drivers who did not start on fresh tires.
When the lights went out, Verstappen had to defend against Leclerc but maintained his lead; behind them, Norris and Russell ran side-by-side around the first curve, with the McLaren driver edging ahead. On the first lap, Leclerc made a couple of other passes for the lead and almost got it, but Verstappen was having none of it.
After the first lap’s pressure, Verstappen opened up a distance on the second lap, pulling over a second ahead of the Ferrari driver, while Piastri moved closer on Leclerc. Norris, on the other hand, got ahead of his teammate on lap four and moved into the podium positions as he began setting fastest laps.
By lap 7, Piastri had moved out of Russell’s DRS range, making it easier for Russell to try a move on him. The Mercedes driver attempted to go around the outside at T9, but the Australian managed to hold him off both then and later in the race.
Russell didn’t make the move stick until lap 11, with the Mercedes driver making the move on the run down to T9.
After dueling Hamilton from the start, Perez didn’t make much progress until lap 12 when he passed Pierre Gasly for P8 before being awarded another position when Fernando Alonso went into the pits from P7.
On lap 14, Piastri pitted to swap to the hard tyre, emerging in P15, slightly ahead of Alonso. The following lap saw Norris and Russell execute their own pit stops; however, a slow stop for McLaren allowed the Mercedes driver to overtake Norris in the pits and finish P13 ahead of him.
Back on track, Hamilton was battling Gasly for fifth place, and the two collided as the Alpine driver locked up through T6. The front wing of the Mercedes was somewhat damaged, but the team chose not to replace it when he came to a stop at the end of the lap.
The race leader pitted at the end of lap 16 and emerged in seventh place, with the six cars ahead of him still to pit. The following time around, Leclerc stopped and rejoined behind Verstappen, however the margin between the two was wider than before the stops. That put Yuki Tsunoda in front of Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz, but that trio didn’t last long as Verstappen overtook the Ferrari and the Aston Martin over the next several laps.
Tsunoda’s era came to an end on lap 23, when the AlphaTauri driver entered the pitlane. Stroll followed him in, leaving Sainz as the last of the top 10 to stop, but he did so on the next opportunity, taking another set of hards before returning in P16.
Perez had been closing in on Piastri at the midway point of the race and went down the inside of the McLaren driver at T6 to claim P5 and split the two McLarens.
Norris was the first of the frontrunners to enter the pits for the second round of pit stops on lap 34. He progressed from P4 to P10 and then to new hards. Russell passed him on the following lap, coming out barely ahead of the McLaren driver.
Leclerc then had to pit to cover those two, which he did on lap 36, with the Ferrari racers emerging in P6, while Hamilton pitted from P6 to P12, 8 seconds behind Sainz.
At the same time, Russell and Norris were closing in on Stroll, with the Mercedes going ahead to give him some breathing room from the fast McLaren. Norris had lost a second and a half to Russell by the time he cleared the Canadian driver.
The Spaniard had gotten ahead of the Brit but then seemed to brake earlier than usual at T5, Hamilton telling his team that he was brake-tested, and while the Stewards noted the incident for potential erratic driving, they decided not to investigate.
Verstappen pitted for the final time on lap 44, comfortably maintaining his lead when he exited with Leclerc in P2 just over five seconds behind the leader. Soon later, a notification from race control appeared on the screen, informing Hamilton of a pit stop violation.
Following the race, the seven-time champion will be investigated for a possible violation. Gasly, on the other hand, will be examined for the same offense. It was later determined that the problem was caused by pit workers not wearing their required eye protection throughout the stops. Verstappen, Sergeant, and Zhou Guanyu have all been put to the list of pit stop violations that will be examined.
On lap 47, Perez was closing close on Norris and attempted to run down the inside at T6, but the two collided. The McLaren driver took the run-off and therefore maintained his lead. The Mexican, on the other hand, kept the charge going and made the pass stay a lap later. Perez received a five-second time penalty after the Stewards investigated the incident.
There were a couple more passes going on at the same time, with Hamilton moving ahead of Sainz for P9 and Piastri getting ahead of Tsunoda for P6.
Perez passed Russell for the final podium slot on lap 55, but he needed to put his foot down to pull a five-second gap on the Mercedes driver if he wanted to keep the spot once his penalty was applied.
While Sainz was racing in P10, with Stroll right on his rear wing, Ferrari had only ran the Spaniard on the hard compound, expecting for a Safety Car to bail them out. Instead, Sainz had to pit on lap 57 to swap compounds before resuming in P15.
At the front, Leclerc was thinking critically and let Perez through to see if the Red Bull driver could close the five-second gap to Russell and help Ferrari finish second in the Teams’ title ahead of Mercedes. Perez didn’t quite make up the time and dropped to P4, 1.1 seconds behind Russell after the penalty was given. Verstappen, Leclerc, and Russell completed the podium, with the Red Bull driver also setting the fastest lap time of 1:26.993.
Norris and Piastri finished fifth and sixth, respectively, ahead of Alonso, while Tsunoda and Hamilton contended for eighth place at the conclusion. The Mercedes driver temporarily led on the final lap, but then locked up, allowing the Japanese driver to pass and provide AlphaTauri points in their final race under that banner, as well as Team Principal Franz Tost’s final race. Stroll earned the final point, while Sainz was the sole retirement of the race, having returned to the pits the lap after switching to soft tires.