Verstappen victorious in season finale

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen drove a brilliant lights to flag race to win the season finale at Yas Marina, finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton as Formula 1’s 2020 championship ended with a straightforward race.

At the start, the top three appeared to launch equally well, with Verstappen moving to the middle of the track from pole to fend off any threat of attack from the Mercedes duo behind, moving clear as Bottas had a slight slide exiting the first corner.

The race quickly settled down, with the top three running as they lined up on the grid, as Verstappen quickly pulled a healthy gap to the following Black Arrows.

By the start of lap four of 55, Verstappen’s lead was 2.2 seconds, as he and Bottas were able to run in the mid one minute, 42 seconds, while Hamilton dropped back – lapping in the one minute, 43 seconds.

Verstappen edged his lead up to three seconds over the next five laps, but had to surrender that when the race was neutralised – first with a virtual safety car, then a full safety car – after Sergio Perez retired with what appeared to be a transmission problem exiting Turn 19 on lap nine.

The Racing Point driver, who had been working his way up from P19 on the grid following his pre-race penalty for taking a fresh power unit, pulled over to the side of the track just past the left-hander under the W Hotel in the third sector after losing drive.

The top three immediately pitted – then under the VSC – to switch their mediums for hards, with the situation upgraded to a full safety car as the Racing Point could not be quickly moved out of harms way.

That meant Verstappen’s lead was erased, but he quickly set about re-establishing it after acing the restart at the beginning of lap 14 – pulling away by 1.4 seconds in the ensuing tour.

The leaders were then able to run in the one minute, 41 seconds as they ran clear of Alex Albon, who had passed McLaren’s Lando Norris shortly before Perez retired, with Hamilton again falling a chunk behind Bottas in third.

Verstappen kept increasing his advantage, despite concerns about making his hard tyres last to the finish, during the next phase of the race, where he was regularly able to lap in the low one minute, 41 seconds while the Mercedes drivers swung between the mid-high one minute, 41 seconds.

By lap 35, Verstappen’s advantage had reached eight seconds, as he committed to controlling the careful way he treated his front and rear tyres to maintain the balance he was enjoying.

Although the gap between the top two then ebbed and flowed fractionally between Verstappen and Bottas as they negotiated backmarkers, with the leader concerned about vibrations he was feeling as his tyres wore further with just over 10 laps to go, but the Red Bull driver never looked under major threat.

He came home to win by 15.9 seconds after staying in the one minute, 41 seconds in the final stages as the Mercedes regularly fell back to the one minute, 42 seconds, with Hamilton finishing 2.4 seconds behind Bottas on his return following his COVID-19-enforced absence after the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The world champion had closed in on his teammate during the closing phase of the race, but never looking like he’d be able to get close enough to make a pass and indeed fell back away in the final laps.

Albon finished 1.5 seconds behind Hamilton, closing in suddenly as the laps ticked down to the flag, with Norris leading home his teammate Carlos Sainz in fifth and sixth.

The result secures P3 in the constructors’ championship for McLaren, although Sainz faces a post-race investigation for possibly going too slowly in the pitlane during the VSC when running in front of Lance Stroll, before he arrived for the second part of McLaren’s double-stack stop.

Daniel Ricciardo rose from P11 on the grid to finish seventh, not stopping under the VSC to leap up the order and then running long on the hards he had started the race on.

In his final race for Renault, Ricciardo was able to produce strong pace as his long opening stint wore on, but after he’d pitted to take the mediums with 16 laps left the tyre advantage he had was not significant enough for him to close in on the driver he will replace at McLaren 2021.

Ricciardo set the fastest lap on the race on the last lap – a one minute, 40.926 seconds.

Pierre Gasly took eighth, putting a firm pass at Turn 11 on Stroll’s remaining Racing Point just past half-distance, with Esteban Ocon getting ahead late on to steal ninth.

Stroll therefore rounded out the top ten ahead of Daniil Kvyat.

Charles Leclerc finished P13 ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the four-time world champion’s final race for Ferrari, with the duo also not stopping under the VSC to climb up the order before they fell back struggling for grip compared to those that had come in earlier.

So not the most thrilling race but really happy for Max Verstappen in winning the final Grand Prix in this surreal 2020 season. Congratulations to Red Bull Racing in being victorious at Yas Marina. Fingers crossed, next year will be back to normal and bring on the fight for the championship.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda     1:36:28.645
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 15.976
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 18.415
4 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 19.987
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:00.729
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1:05.662
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:13.748
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:29.718
9 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:41.069
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:42.738
11 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 1 lap
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 lap
13 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1 lap
14 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1 lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 lap
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1 lap
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas-Ferrari 2 laps
– Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes DNF

Verstappen snatches pole position from the Mercedes duo

Max Verstappen finally achieves his first pole position of the 2020 season by snatching the top spot from the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton at the Yas Marina circuit.

Bottas edged Hamilton on their final runs as the world champion returned to qualifying action following his absence from the Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19.

All three of the leading drivers will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the advantageous medium compound.

After the first runs had been completed in Q3, Bottas’s lap time of one minute, 35.415 seconds led the way by 0.104 seconds over Verstappen, with Hamilton 0.135 seconds adrift – losing time to a snap of oversteer exiting the Turns 5/6 chicane early in the second sector.

But the 2020 world champion quickly found time on his final Q3 run, looking as if he would get the jump on Bottas through the opening two sectors before losing time as the lap wore on.

Hamilton nevertheless jumped to provisional pole, but was shuffled back to second position by Bottas’s one minute, 35.271 seconds before Verstappen stole ahead of the Mercedes duo on his own finale effort.

The Red Bull Racing driver set the fastest time in the middle sector before hanging on with a personal best in sector three to take pole with a one minute, 35.246 seconds, 0.025 seconds up on Bottas and 0.086 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

Lando Norris took fourth position for McLaren, securing his 2020 qualifying head-to-head against teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished sixth but will also start the race on the mediums.

Alex Albon split the McLarens in fifth, with Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll seventh and eighth.

Charles Leclerc qualified ninth but will shuffle back three places on the grid due to his Sakhir Grand Prix penalty for clashing with race winner Sergio Perez and Verstappen, but he at least got through Q2 on the mediums.

Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten for Scuderia AlphaTauri.

Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo were eliminated at the end of Q2, with the former shuffled down by Albon’s late improvement.

Ricciardo did not have a time on the board ahead of his final Q2 lap after losing his first for running too wide at the exit of the last corner, but he went quicker in any case on his last lap, it just wasn’t fast enough to get him any higher than P12.

Sebastian Vettel’s final qualifying session for Ferrari ended with the four-time world champion out in P13 and eliminated in Q2 for the fourteenth time this season.

Antonio Giovinazzi finished P14, losing his last and best lap to track limits at Turn 21, the last corner, while Sergio Perez only appeared to register sector times during the mid-segment lull ahead of his back-of-the-grid start for taking a fresh engine in his Racing Point.

Perez ended the session in P15, but will drop back for the race following power unit changes.

In Q1, Kimi Raikkonen was eliminated by Giovinazzi, who had lost the time from his first run for going too wide out of the penultimate corner, improving from last to P15 on his last run.

This result settled the 2020 intra-Alfa Romeo qualifying battle in Giovinazzi’s favour, with Raikkonen failing to set a personal best time on his last run.

Behind them came Kevin Magnussen and Williams returnee George Russell, the pair improving on their last laps but unable to find a way out of Q1, with Russell unhappy with his tyre temperature.

Pietro Fittipaldi did not set a personal best on his last Q1 lap, nevertheless finishing P19 and ahead of Nicholas Latifi, who did not get to set a flying lap on his final run as he spun coming out of the final corner at the end of his warm-up lap.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen who finally records his first pole position this season. Saving the best till last for Max to grab P1 for Red Bull Racing.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:35.246
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:35.271
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.332
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:35.497
5 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:35.571
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1:35.815
7 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 1:35.963
8 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1:36.046
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:36.242
10 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:36.359
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:36.406
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:36.065
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:36.631
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:38.248
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:37.555
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:38.045
17 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas-Ferrari 1:38.173
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:38.443
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1:37.863
20 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes –

Perez takes his first victory as Mercedes messed up pitstop

Sergio Perez took a brilliant win for Racing Point in Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix after a messy Mercedes pitstop and then a puncture cost long-time leader George Russell his dream result.

Esteban Ocon finished second for Renault ahead of Lance Stroll’s Racing Point, with the Mercedes cars down in eighth and ninth – Valtteri Bottas, also delayed significantly in the pitstop fiasco, in front of Russell.

Perez also faces a post-race investigation over a lap one incident that eliminated Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, in which Perez was spun around and fell to the rear of the field.

At the start, Bottas and Russell launched in unison from the front row, but Bottas was slower in the second phase and Russell pulled alongside, with Max Verstappen having a look in between them.

Russell seized the lead at the apex of Turn 1, with Bottas forced wide and then sliding at the entry for Turn 2, which let Russell run free and bunched the pack up behind.

This ended in contact at Turn 4 – the right from the traditional Bahrain Grand Prix layout where the drivers then sweep quickly left to start the outer loop – despite Verstappen braking early behind Bottas and the attacking Perez on the outside.

Bottas locked up but stayed clear in second, as Perez swept into the Turn 4 apex and collided with a locked up Leclerc, who suffered a broken left-front in the contact while the Racing Point was spun around.

Verstappen stayed free of contact but seemed to carry too much speed through the gravel trap beyond Turn 4 and he slid into the barriers and out, with the safety car deployed immediately.

The race resumed at the start of lap seven of 87, with Russell already well clear as he crossed the safety car control line and Bottas under pressure from Carlos Sainz, who had risen to third in the first lap chaos.

Sainz attacked Bottas into Turn 1 and held on around the outside take second, but he slid out of Turn 2 and cut the oncoming Turn 3 kink, which allowed Bottas back to second.

At the end of the first lap back at full speed, Russell had a lead of 1.1 seconds, which he set about extending as the Mercedes drivers were the only ones to run in the low 58 seconds.

This quickly pulled them well clear of Sainz, who headed a train of runners during the opening phase of the race, before Bottas was able to stabilise the gap when it reached 2.4 seconds on lap 17.

Bottas edged back towards Russell as the Mercedes drivers were told they were well over their target for stopping before George was able to extend his lead again approaching one-third distance.

As the rest of the top ten runners, most of whom had started on softs compared to the mediums on the Black Arrows, stopped, the two leaders were soon lapping backmarkers, which caused the gap between them to fluctuate.

Russell’s lead was 3.1 seconds when he came in to change to the hards at the end of lap 45, with Bottas left out for a further four laps.

Despite a scare with a sensor issue, which caused Russell to report “no power” on his out-lap, the significant undercut factor meant Russell’s lead ballooned to 8.5 seconds at the end of Bottas’s out-lap.

Both Mercedes drivers were then warned about the loads their left-front track rods were taking through the punishing Turns 7/8 chicane, before a virtual safety car was called when Nicholas Latifi pulled over on the inside of Turn 8 and retired due to a suspected oil leak.

Bottas had cut Russell’s lead to under five seconds with strong pace on his new hards either side of the VSC, but the race was then turned on its head when a second safety car was called after Jack Aitken spun off at the final corner and wiped the nose off his Williams.

A second VSC was upgraded to the full safety car so the debris could be recovered and Mercedes called its cars in for what turned out to be a calamitous double-stack stop.

After Russell had a slightly slow change he was sent out with a mixed set of mediums and had to be called in again a lap later, while Bottas lost nearly half a minute waiting as the team realised the error and sent him back out on the same hard tyres he had taken at his first stop.

The Mercedes pitstop gaffe meant that Perez, who had pitted for hards before the first VSC has he quickly recovered up the order following his first lap off, led ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll – as those that had been following Mercedes had come in during the Latifi VSC.

The race restarted again on lap 69, with Perez romping clear as Russell ran behind Bottas before nipping up to P5 when his teammate ran deep at Turn 4 on lap 70, which left Russell with the chance to muscle his way by over the bumps into the chicane.

Russell the quickly dispatched Stroll and Ocon on successive laps shortly afterwards, which left him with a 3.4 seconds gap to close to Perez.

The Briton set a series of fastest laps, but then a left-rear slow puncture forced Mercedes to stop him for a fourth time – for softs – and dropped him out of contention.

Perez had kept up his pace and pulled away from Ocon over the rest of the race and came home to take a sensational first F1 win by 10.5 seconds.

Sainz finished fourth as Bottas’s faded badly on his hard tyres, slipping down the just before Russell had to pit for his puncture.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth ahead of Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat, then came the Mercedes cars.

Russell had rejoined from his final stop in P14, but was able to use his softs to scythe back up the order and claim his first F1 points finish.

Lando Norris completed the top 10 ahead of Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel.

Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi finished their first Formula 1 races in P16 and P17 at the rear of the field.

So an exciting and dramatic race. Congratulations to Sergio Perez in winning his first Formula 1 race. It was an epic fightback from Checo to come through the field following a spin on lap 1. To take victory for Racing Point is a magnificent result. Do feel sorry for George Russell, who led the early part of this race. But the double stacking pitstop went wrong and a late puncture ruined the chance to score a victory or podium. At least Russell was able to score a championship point with a top ten finish. This is racing.

Sahkir Grand Prix, race results:

1 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:31:15.114
2 Esteban Ocon Renault 10.518
3 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 11.869
4 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 12.580
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 13.330
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 13.842
7 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 14.534
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 15.389
9 George Russell Mercedes 18.556
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 19.541
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 20.527
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 22.611
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 24.111
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 26.153
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 32.370
16 Jack Aitken Williams-Mercedes 33.674
17 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas-Ferrari 36.858
– Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes –
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda –
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari –

Bottas takes Sakhir Grand Prix pole position, edging out Russell

Valtteri Bottas beat his new Mercedes teammate George Russell – who is subbing the sick Lewis Hamilton – to pole position in the Sakhir Grand Prix.

With last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix polesitter and race winner Lewis Hamilton absent after his positive COVID-19 test last week, the main focus of qualifying was whether Russell could beat Bottas to pole or suffer the first qualifying defeat to a teammate in his short Formula 1 career so far.

After the Mercedes duo had been the only drivers to get through Q2 on the medium tyres, which they will use at the start of Sunday’s race, the Black Arrows unusually opted to give them three runs in Q3.

Their first flying efforts were completed on used tyres, which meant they initially sat behind Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the leaderboard.

But Mercedes went again during the middle phase of the final segment of the session, with Bottas leading the way and blitzing to a 53.377 seconds, with Russell 0.142 seconds adrift.

On their final runs in the final minute, Bottas could not improve his time but held on to pole as Williams regular Russell could only close to 0.026 seconds in what was the first time he had competed in a Q3 session.

Verstappen, who went into qualifying with some hope having topped FP3 and had attempted to get through Q2 on the mediums before later going faster on the softs, finished third, with Leclerc hanging on to fourth despite getting out of his car after his run at the start of Q3 had finished.

The Ferrari driver only had one set of new softs available and therefore did not go back on to the track, but his 53.613 seconds was enough to leave ahead of Sergio Perez.

Daniil Kvyat took sixth for AlphaTauri, with Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Esteban Ocon was shuffled down the order as the chequered flag was waved. The Renault driver was knocked him out in P11 at the end of Q2, with Alex Albon out in P12 – missing Q3 for the third time this season.

Sebastian Vettel had attempted to get through on the mediums during the early Q2 running, as did his teammate Charles Leclerc, but the four-time world champion could not improve enough after switching to the softs for the final runs.

That left Vettel P13, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, while Lando Norris was the lowest driver eliminated in Q2 as he finished P15.

The McLaren driver had run at the head of the pack for the final run, but abandoned his first attempt at last flying lap before going again in the dying seconds – a lap he also completed well off the pace, later saying on the team radio “sorry guys, we went too early”.

In Q1, Kevin Magnussen was knocked out in P16, with Albon just scrapping through ahead in P15 as Red Bull kept him in the pits for the final minutes of the opening segment.

The Williams pair of Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken came next, with Latifi ahead – but only after his new teammate had led the way in the first three runs in Q1 before the Canadian was able to steal ahead by nearly a tenth.

Formula 1’s most experienced driver, Kimi Raikkonen, ended up sandwiched between the two newest drivers – as the Alfa Romeo racer could only manage P19, with Romain Grosjean stand-in Pietro Fittipaldi bringing up the rear of the field in P20 for Haas.

So solid qualifying effort from George Russell to get P2. While Valtteri Bottas stepped up to the challenge by taking pole position. It’s going to be fascinating who will win the Sakhir Grand Prix as the outer Bahrain circuit has never been ran before and the lap time is under 60 seconds, meaning a fast and frantic race. May the best driver win.

Sakhir Grand Prix, qualifying positions:

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53.377s
2 George Russell Mercedes 53.403s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 53.433s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 53.613s
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 53.790s
6 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 53.906s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53.957s
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 54.010s
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 54.154s
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 54.200s
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 53.995s
12 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 54.026s
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 54.175s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 54.377s
15 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 54.693s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 54.705s
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 54.796s
18 Jack Aitken Williams-Mercedes 54.892s
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 54.963s
20 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas-Ferrari 55.426s