Verstappen wins season-ending Abu Dhabi GP in dominant style

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Photo credit Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates wining as Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland ,left, looks on after the Formula One at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Dec.13, 2020. (Hamad Mohammed, Pool via AP)

YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi (AP) —

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in dominant style on Sunday for his second victory of the season and 10th of his career.

He finished 16 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas and 18.4 clear of world champion Lewis Hamilton as Red Bull enjoyed a rare and significant success over both Mercedes cars.

“It was really enjoyable out there today. We did everything all right,” Verstappen said. “I saw they (Mercedes) were dropping off behind so I could take it a bit easier. It was a very strong race for the team. I will enjoy the podium and then will enjoy going home.”

He has earned plaudits during a season when he was the only driver to ever trouble Mercedes, even with a slower car.

“Absolutely clinical,” team principal Christian Horner told Verstappen on the team radio.

Hamilton praised Verstappen and expects him to challenge more strongly in 2021.

“We've obviously got a fight on our hands next year, no doubt,” said Hamilton, who was driving after recovering from the coronavirus. "It was a really hard race for me physically. All year physically I have been fine, but today I definitely wasn’t. I am just glad it is over."

Alexander Albon completed a good race for Red Bull by finishing fourth ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris, but it might not be enough for Albon to keep his place next year.

McLaren's garage cheered wildly after clinching third place in the constructors' championship ahead of Racing Point.

The 23-year-old Verstappen had clinched a brilliant pole position on Saturday, and made a good start while Bottas comfortably held off Hamilton. The world champion looked off form and started to drift back after a few laps, and was nearly caught by Albon on the last two laps.

The race was briefly held up when the safety car came out after Sergio Perez's Racing Point pulled to the side of the track with engine failure on Lap 10. When it restarted a few laps later, Verstappen got away from Bottas cleanly and posted the fastest lap for the second time in 15 laps.

Halfway through the 55-lap race at the Yas Marina circuit, Verstappen looked comfortable as he led Bottas by about six seconds and Hamilton by nine and then increased the gap under the floodlights.

“Red Bull were too quick today, surprisingly quick,” Bottas said. “Being beaten by Red Bull in the last race of the season, it motivates us even more to work harder over the winter.”

Hamilton won 11 races from the 16 he entered and finished with 347 points, compared to 223 for second-place Bottas and 214 for third-place Verstappen.

Hamilton missed last Sunday’s Sakhir GP in Bahrain after catching COVID-19, denying the seven-time F1 champion the opportunity to equal Sebastian Vettel’s single-season record of 13 wins, set with Red Bull in 2013.

Several drivers were competing for the last time for their teams and possibly in F1.

Perez drove brilliantly to win the Sakhir GP in Bahrain last Sunday but has no seat next year, and his race ended in frustration with his father wringing his hands as he watched from the team garage. Despite the disappointing finish, he secured fourth in the drivers' championship.

“It is sad to be leaving the team this way, some of them were crying at the end,” the Mexican driver said. "Whatever comes next I will be ready for it.”

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who is also out of F1 now, was 18th.

Vettel’s last race for Ferrari saw him finish 14th. The four-time F1 champion is replacing Perez at Racing Point when it becomes Aston Martin next year.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr., who will replace Vettel at Ferrari next year, finished sixth, while Daniel Ricciardo — who will replace him at McLaren in 2021 — crossed seventh and clocked the fastest lap in his last for Renault.

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