Max Verstappen led the Abu Dhabi GP from start to finish as the Red Bull driver signed of his second world championship in style with a dominant performance at Yas Marina.
While Verstappen looked untouchable throughout the race up front, there was late drama in the battle for second in the championship, as Charles Leclerc pulled off a shock result against Sergio Perez to finish runner up overall in 2022.
Leclerc went long on his strategy and managed to catch out Red Bull, as Perez struggled to close down the Ferrari in the closing stages of the race and the Monegasque managed his tyres to cross the line in second, with the Mexican having to settle for a podium and third in the championship.
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz finished in 4th, ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell who finished in 5th despite a 5 second penalty for an unsafe pit release after Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire with just a few laps to go.
The result means that Ferrari finish second in the constructors’ championship, with Mercedes in third, while Red Bull were denied their first ever drivers’ championship 1-2 finish.
Sainz and Hamilton clash
While the Red Bull pair both got off the line comfortably and pulled out a gap at the front early, there was plenty of action behind as the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers jockeyed for position.
Hamilton got a better start than his teammate Russel who was slow off the line, and the seven-time champion was closing in on Sainz as the drivers fought for early position at Yas Marina.
Hamilton had gotten past into 4th, but in a mirror image of the early clash with Verstappen in 2021 on Lap 1, Sainz went up the inside of the Mercedes into the Turn 9 chicane, with Hamilton having to go off track and bouncing over the kerbs before rejoining ahead of the Ferrari.
The incident was reviewed by the stewards, and Sainz was found to have won the position fair and square, with Hamilton forced to give the place back.
The British driver managed to get the place back by the next lap, but it appeared that the off-track excursion had done some damage to the floor of the Mercedes and he started to struggle for pace, being passed first by Sainz and then Russell within a few laps.
Vettel ends on a high
Sebastian Vettel has been showered with praise throughout his final weekend in F1 before retiring in Abu Dhabi, but a dream end to his glittering career was not to be as Aston Martin shot for a one-stop strategy that failed to reap rewards.
Vettel, starting from 9th, managed to hold his own in the early stages of the race, and was keeping pace with the Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.
However, as the first drivers began to come in for the initial pitstop, Vettel continued to run long on his medium tyres, holding on in the top three at one stage before the tyre wear really began to tell.
The German was losing three seconds a lap to the drivers behind, and the team ultimately had to concede and bring him in, dropping the Aston Martin to the back of the pack.
He was never able to recover that pace, and while he was unable to get back up towards the Hollywood end of a podium, he finished 10th and secured a final points finish in F1 as he raced Daniel Ricciardo right to the line.
Drivers sign off
While it was Vettel who received the bulk of the attention in his last F1 race, he wasn’t the only driver to leave the grid after the race in Abu Dhabi, with Ricciardo leaving McLaren for a reported role with Red Bull, and Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi exiting their seats.
Ricciardo had the best outing of the departing trio at Yas Marina, recovering from a three-place grid penalty for his crash with Kevin Magnussen at the Brazilian GP to finish with points in 9th.
Meanwhile Schumacher and Latifi had a less-than ideal race, with the pair clashing at the back of the grid and both spinning out on Lap 39, earning the Haas driver a 5 second time penalty.
Fernando Alonso also suffered a disastrous finish to his return to Alpine, with yet another cooling system issue causing a mechanical DNF, the drivers’ fourth in the last seven races, bringing a close to his time with the team before he replaces Vettel at Aston Martin for 2023.