(Reuters) - Max Verstappen brought the curtain down on the 2020 Formula One season with a lights-to-flag cruise to victory on Sunday in the year-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Dutchman led every lap of what turned out to be a processional race in his Red Bull to cross the line 15.9 seconds ahead of Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on an uncharacteristic off day for the otherwise dominant champions.
“It was really enjoyable out there today,” said Verstappen, who ends the season third behind Bottas in the overall standings, after taking his 10th career win and second this year.
“We did basically everything alright.”
Mercedes, who have wrapped up a record seventh straight title double, had no answer to the pace set by Verstappen’s Honda-powered car.
Unbeaten in Abu Dhabi for six years in a row, with Red Bull’s 2013 win in the Gulf Emirate the last time another team tasted victory at Yas Marina, Mercedes were running their cars with their engines turned down due to reliability concerns.
That denied them the satisfaction of capping a dominant season on a high, with the Brackley-based team signing off with 13 wins from 17 races.
“We thought race pace would be really identical,” said Bottas, who was back on the podium for the first time since the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the start of November.
“But they could really control the race and get the gap when needed.”
Verstappen’s victory denied Hamilton a 12th win of the season, which would have made 2020 his most successful year yet, with the Briton never having won more than 11 races in a single campaign.
But the 35-year-old, still struggling from the after effects of COVID-19, was relieved to simply get through the race.
“That was a really hard race for me physically,” said Hamilton who wrapped up a record-equalling seventh title last month.
“I’m just glad it’s over.”
Alexander Albon, who faces an uncertain future with Red Bull considering whether to retain him, put in a solid drive to take fourth place.
Lando Norris took fifth ahead of Ferrari-bound McLaren team mate Carlos Sainz in sixth, allowing the Woking-based squad to overhaul rivals Racing Point and secure third in the overall constructors’ standings.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh on his Renault farewell, the Australian signing off with the fastest lap of the race. Sebastian Vettel brought the curtain down on his Ferrari career by finishing a lap down on Verstappen and behind Charles Leclerc in 14th.
Sergio Perez, who became F1’s newest winner in Sakhir last weekend, was the only casualty of the race.
Still without a drive next year, his Racing Point suffered a loss of power just 10 laps into his swansong for the Silverstone-based team, which brought out the virtual safety car.
The 30-year-old still claimed fourth in the overall standings.
Kevin Magnussen, in what could be his final F1 outing, was 18th for U.S.-owned Haas.
Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Hugh Lawson
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