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Max Verstappen finishes record season with win in Abu Dhabi: 'Incredible season'

Published on 26 November 2023 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen finished his record-breaking year in style with a dominant victory in the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Starting from pole, Max kept Charles Leclerc behind. While the Ferrari driver was able to keep up with Verstappen in the first phase of the race, it did not take long for the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver to disappear into the horizon. Max took his nineteenth victory of the season, and seventh in a row, after an easy two-stop race. And as icing on the cake, Max also took the point for the fastest lap. Charles Leclerc finished seventeen seconds behind Verstappen in P2, while George Russell completed the podium.

After the smoke of the beautiful donuts has disappeared, Max says in front of a frenzied crowd: “It has been an incredible season, it is a special feeling. I am so proud to win here the last race. A big thank you to everyone at Red Bull for what we have achieved together. It will be hard to do something similar again, but we have definitely enjoyed this year.”

During the race Max reached another milestone, leading a thousand laps in a season, nobody has ever done that before. Max says about the race: “I think everything went well. We even had a bit more, but we did not need that. We managed everything well. We wanted to reach a thousand laps in the lead, and I stayed out a bit longer to stay in the lead. In the last couple of laps, I looked around the cockpit a bit, knowing that this would be the last time in this car. I was a bit emotional in the out-lap. I am 26 years old, and every season you try to do a bit better, but you cannot do much better than this.”

After the race, Max received a nice message over the radio from his dad, who is of course very proud. Max says: “I have done a lot of things with my dad from a young age, and he has given up a lot of things to get me into Formula 1 and do better than he was able to do. To be here with 54 victories and an incredible season like this, that makes you look back on everything.”

Max and Red Bull Racing will not rest on their laurels during the winter: “We always want to do better”, says the three-time world champion. “Sometimes doing better is not always winning more races or winning the championship, we will see. We are working hard for next year to have a competitive car again. For sure the other teams are trying to beat us next year. We are ready for the battle, but in the meantime, we are going to enjoy this year as well.”

Finally, Max is full of praise for all the fans all over the world who came to see the racing spectacle: “It was incredible, sold out in every place we went to. Great fan support and again also here. I hope you all enjoyed the race here, thank you for your support.”

At sunset the outside temperature is 27 degrees Celsius when the final Grand Prix of the season gets underway on the Yas Marina Circuit. Seventeen drivers start the 58-lap race on medium tires, while Lance Stroll, Calos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas opt for hard compound tyres.

Max has a good start from pole, and while Leclerc starting from P2 gets alongside him in turn one, can Max brake later and stay in the lead. The first lap holds a nice battle between Verstappen and Leclerc. The Monegasque attacks twice at the end of the straights, but the Dutchman defends successfully and stays in the lead. Oscar Piastri follows in P3, and the whole field gets through the first lap without incidents.

Lando Norris overtakes his McLaren teammate Piastri in lap four and moves up into P3. In lap eleven Piastri also has the let George Russell through after a fierce battle. Leclerc strays close to Verstappen and is within one and a half second behind the Red Bull driver. Lando Norris is two seconds behind Leclerc.

Russell and Norris both stop in lap fifteen. The McLaren mechanics take longer than the Mercedes mechanics and so Russell overtakes Norris. Verstappen stops for the first time in lap seventeen. He changes from medium compound tyres to a set of hard ones. He comes back out on track in seventh position. After overtaking Carlos Sainz, and others in front of him making their pitstops, it only takes two laps for Verstappen to get into P3. Yuki Tsunoda, who has not made his pitstop, is leading the race, the first time in the Formula 1 career of the Japanese driver.

Verstappen overtakes Lance Stroll for P2 in lap 21 and one lap later Tsunoda makes his first pitstop, at which Verstappen retakes the lead. Verstappen is then four seconds ahead of Leclerc. In the following laps, Verstappen continues to increase the gap to the Ferrari driver.

In lap 43 Max makes his second pit stop, he gets a new set of hard tyres on his RB19. The Dutchman comes back out on track five seconds ahead of Leclerc and stays in the lead. Teammate Sergio Perez is having a catch-up race, after starting from P9 on the grid. The Mexican touches Norris when trying to overtake him from P4, he receives a five second time penalty.

Max dominantly wins his nineteenth Grand Prix of the season and concludes the last race in the RB19 in style with a couple of beautiful donuts. It has been a record year in many respects, the most wins (19), the most podiums (21), the most points (575), the most laps in the lead (1003) in a season. Also, for Red Bull it was a record-breaking season with 21 victories out of 22 races. Charles Leclerc finishes second, seventeen seconds behind Verstappen, and George Russell takes P3. While Perez overtakes Russell and Leclerc in the final phase of the race, because of the time penalty he finishes in P4. McLaren drivers Norris and Piastri finish in fifth and sixth position, with Fernando Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda, Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll completing the top five.

Results Grand Prix Abu-dhabi:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT581:27:02.62426
2Charles LeclercLECFerrari58+17.993s18
3George RussellRUSMercedes58+20.328s15
4Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT58+21.453s12
5Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes58+24.284s10
6Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes58+31.487s8
7Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes58+39.512s6
8Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT58+43.088s4
9Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes58+44.424s2
10Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes58+55.632s1
11Daniel RicciardoRICAlphaTauri Honda RBPT58+56.229s0
12Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault58+66.373s0
13Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault58+70.360s0
14Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes58+73.184s0
15Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari58+83.696s0
16Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes58+87.791s0
17Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari58+89.422s0
18Carlos SainzSAIFerrari57DNF0
19Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari57+1 lap0
20Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari57+1 lap0