F1: Verstappen claims Abu Dhabi GP win while Ricciardo sets fastest lap time
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The F1 season is in the books with Max Verstappen winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading from start to finish in a largely uneventful race.
On the Yas Marina circuit, there was a surprising amount of overtaking but the front of the grid stayed the same with Verstappen leading Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in second and third for the final race this season.
It was almost perfect for Verstappen after claiming his first pole position of the year and leading from beginning to end.
But his shot at his first Grand Slam or Grand Chelem was denied on the final lap by former Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who recorded the fastest lap by 0.032 of a second on his very last run around the circuit on his way to a seventh-placed finish.
A Grand Slam is when a driver takes pole, the win, leads every lap of the race and claims the fastest lap – with Ricciardo pinching the fastest lap honour from Verstappen at the death.
Verstappen could have become part of a select group of 24 drivers, with only 62 Grand Slams occurring in 70 years of F1. Only Lewis Hamilton – six times – and Sebastian Vettel – four times – are among the current drivers to have claimed the honour.
Ricciardo’s sneaky fastest lap even blindsided Red Bull.
“Max, that was absolutely clinical, start to finish, fastest lap as well, you’ve been fantastic all year but especially today,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said over team radio at the end of the race.
David Croft said on Sky Sports commentary: “Someone might like to tell Christian Horner that when he last looked at his screen, Max had the fastest lap, when he looks at his screen again, Daniel Ricciardo has the fastest lap.”
It was Ricciardo’s second fastest lap of the season and finished a tough weekend for him.
He started the race in 11th on hard tyres but after Racing Point’s Sergio Perez’s car failed early, pit stops meant the Aussie moved to fifth.
When he pitted at the 39th lap, easily the longest first stint in the race, Ricciardo put medium tyres on, setting up his final lap with McLaren’s Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz finishing ahead of him.
But the Aussie star said the gamble paid off.
“The race with hards worked, went really long and that really set it up,” Ricciardo said post-race. “That was an exceptionally strong stint I felt and then we put the medium on and we were kind of in no man’s land, I felt McLaren were definitely too far in front.
“At the very end, we pushed for the fastest lap so nice little send off.”
The result also saw McLaren clinch third place in the constructors’ championship, the first time since 2012 the team has finished in the top three.
Ricciardo finished the drivers’ championship in fifth with 119 points, just six points behind Perez and 14 points ahead of Sainz, the man whose seat he will take next year.
Outside of that, fans were quick to pan the race as being boring.
But after a crazy season with multi-car pile ups, Romain Grosjean’s fireball crash and 17 races in 23 weeks under the threat of COVID-19, a pedestrian finish feels somewhat fitting.