NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Max Verstappen Wins Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton Claims 7th World Title

Despite only racing 17 times this season, the wildest and what to many felt like the longest season in F1 has finally come to a close in Abu Dhabi.

A season that was supposed to start in March in Albert Park, was delayed after the COVID-19 Pandemic swept across the world. Finally getting underway in Austria in June, what started out as a 22-race schedule was changed and edited adding a handful of new races in new and old places.

However, the season still concluded at the Yas Marina Circuit in the UAE. For only the second time this season, Max Verstappen bested the Mercedes cars and claim his 10th career F1 victory and first since the 70th Anniversary GP in the summer.

Verstappen put on a dominant show after winning the pole yesterday in qualifying, joining him on the podium were the Mercedes teammates of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Alexander Albon crossed the line in fourth in a strong showing for a man who desperately needed one right about now.

McLaren teammates Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr logged the 5th and 6th positions, locking up third the constructor’s standings for the team. Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll rounded out the points finishers.

A rather uneventful race saw only one retirement, being last week’s winner Sergio Perez from a mechanical failure. Both Ferrari cars finished outside the points, to finally end their disaster of a season.

Lewis Hamilton was officially be awarded his 7th driver’s championship, after clinching the title following the Turkish Grand Prix.

The Race

Max Verstappen led the way from pole position, gapping both the Mercedes drivers quite easily. Bottas got off to a shaky start, but in a non-typical fashion, Hamilton failed to capitalize. The race’s only safety car came on Lap 10 after the Racing Point of Sergio Perez would lose an engine, sadly retiring from what could be his final F1 race for at least a year.

Most of the teams came down the pits under the yellow, this time all the teams executed their pit stops perfectly. Verstappen easily claimed the lead once the race resumed to green, and that’s where he would stay as the Mercedes drivers just couldn’t match the Dutchman’s pace.

During the pit stops, Carlos Sainz would be marked for investigation after the stewards claimed he went “unreasonably slow” during his release. Should the penalty stick, it could wreck McLaren’s chance at third in the driver’s standings. The FIA announced the penalty would be looked at post-race.

(Editor’s note: Sainz was cleared of any infraction by the FIA)

Charles Leclerc was penalized for track limit violations, after receiving multiple warnings throughout the day.

In the end, Verstappen ran a perfect race, collecting his tenth career win and first at the Yas Marina Circuit. In a season where the Mercedes has seemed almost unstoppable, this win gives hope to fans who want to see a move evenly matched field. Red Bull straight up dominated Mercedes, fairly beating them on speed.

Championship

With 11 wins on the year, Lewis Hamilton easily locked up his record-tying 7th career driver’s title. A record-setting season for Hamilton, he not only claimed the title but also the records for wins, points scored, poles and podium finishes.

While Hamilton’s contract still hasn’t been signed for next year, his COVID-19 recovery is the only thing hampering him and Mercedes from staying together for a few more seasons. While Hamilton was recovering, George Russell took his place and added his name to a list of possible replacements should Hamilton retire.

Sergio Perez has his best showing with a fourth-place points finish, while Daniel Riccardo had a very impressive 5th with Renault.

Mercedes locked up the constructor’s title for the 7th straight year, gapping second place Red Bull by almost 250 points.

For the first time in their history, Williams would fail to score a single point all year. Russell would score points as a Mercedes driver, but neither he nor Nicholas Latifi could finish higher than P11 all year. Ferrari’s sixth-place effort would be their worst showing ever as a constructor, with their supplied team Haas and Alfa-Romeo combining for 11 points.

Mercedes and Racing Point were the only teams to have three drivers score points for them this season. (Hamilton, Bottas and Russel for Mercedes and Stroll, Perez and Hulkenburg for Racing Point.)

2021 Confirmed Changes

Two teams will rebrand for next season. The Renault works team will take on the name Alpine, the name of Renault’s performance car division. Racing Point will take on the Aston Martin name, following team owner Lance Stroll investing a hefty amount of money into the famous English sports car brand. Both teams will remain with Renault and Mercedes engines, as the rebrands are just in name alone.

Joining F1 will be Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher as the HAAS F1 Team, and returning to F1 after a long hiatus will be Fernando Alonso who joins Alpine. Sebastian Vettel moves over to Aston Martin, with Carlos Sainz taking his spot at Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo joins McLaren with the fate of the Red Bull and AlphaTauri seats still up in the air.

Next Season

If all goes according to plan, the 2021 F1 season will begin in Australia on March 21. The season will also see a new grand prix with Saudi Arabia joining the calendar, the race will be run in November on a street circuit in the city of Jeddah. An unannounced race will take place on April 25th replacing the Vietnam Grand Prix, the Sky Sports reporters mentioned the Portugal, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey could be possible locations for the race.

Until next season begins, thank you for tuning in to Frontstretch’s F1 coverage. There is plenty more on the way.

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