Abu Dhabi GP: Max Verstappen signs off F1 2022 in style, Charles Leclerc denies Red Bull one-two
Max Verstappen dominates from pole to take record-extending 15th win of 2022; But Charles Leclerc holds off Sergio Perez in finale to finish second in race and championship; Mercedes struggle with Lewis Hamilton suffering mechanical failure and George Russell penalised for unsafe release
By Matt Morlidge at Yas Marina
Last Updated: 21/11/22 6:14am
Max Verstappen claimed a dominant Abu Dhabi GP victory to sign off his glittering 2022 title-winning season in style, though Charles Leclerc denied Red Bull a perfect finale by holding off Sergio Perez for second place in the race, and the championship.
A record-extending 15th win of a 22-race season never looked in danger for Verstappen after he held off his team-mate into the first corner from pole, although the battle behind was absorbing and went down to the final laps.
Leclerc and Perez came into the final race locked on points and the Ferrari was the big underdog behind the Red Bulls, although a two-stopping Perez could not catch Leclerc, who like Verstappen was one-stopping, in time.
Red Bull, left ruing a 1.3s gap at the chequered flag, therefore did not take the first one-two in the championship in their history.
"We had the perfect race," said Leclerc. I knew the only way for us to beat Checo was with a different strategy.
"I really hope next year we can make a step forward and fight for the championship."
Carlos Sainz was fourth in the other Ferrari, with Mercedes struggling in the last race of a difficult campaign.
Lewis Hamilton was running just ahead of a charging Sainz on the penultimate lap before suffering a hydraulic issue; Mercedes' first mechanical failure of the year. That sealed what was inevitable, Hamilton failing to win a race in a season for the first time in his 22-year career.
George Russell did finish the race, in fifth, although only after having to serve a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in the pits.
In his final race of a glittering and title-laden F1 career, Sebastian Vettel scored a point in the Aston Martin - although wanted more after a one-stop strategy saw him fall back behind his team-mate Lance Stroll, and Alpine's Esteban Ocon.
He finished the race just behind Daniel Ricciardo, who is also leaving the sport - potentially permanently - as he exits McLaren for a soon-to-be-confirmed move back to Red Bull as a development driver.
Fellow multiple champion Fernando Alonso suffered another DNF, his fourth from the last seven races of his Alpine career before he replaces Vettel in the Aston Martin for 2023.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Final result
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
5) George Russell, Mercedes
6) Lando Norris, McLaren
7) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
8) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
10) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
How Leclerc denied Red Bull their perfect finale
Verstappen's victory may not have been a surprise at Yas Marina, but Perez losing out to Leclerc certainly was.
Perez came into the last race with more momentum, speed and a better starting position to Leclerc, who hadn't won a race since July's Austrian GP and hadn't finished higher than third for four races.
But Leclerc, who is so often left behind by the Red Bulls over race pace with Ferrari's sub-optimal tyre management, reversed form and kept with the Red Bulls in the first stint, and particularly, the second.
His pace behind Verstappen and Perez forced Red Bull into a second stop for the Mexican with 25 laps remaining.
Perez was around a second-a-lap faster than Leclerc on fresh tyres, though was potentially crucially held up by Hamilton - with the Mercedes driver overtaking him in a roles reversal from last year's controversial Abu Dhabi decider - though the Monegasque, and Verstappen, managed to expertly retain pace on wearing rubber.
Leclerc kept Perez out of DRS range on the final lap and crossed the chequered flag a second ahead to seal his best-ever-championship finish.
"When you look at the season it's still surpassed anything we could have ever imagined or what we've ever managed to achieve," Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1.
Mercedes end disappointing season on a low
Mercedes said they had focused on the race after a disappointing qualifying, although struggled on and off the track at Yas Marina.
From Hamilton's side, he had an eventful start to the race and a crushing finish.
The seven-time world champion had a battle with Sainz on the first lap, only retaining position at the opening chicane after running over the rumble strips, which may have damaged his car's floor. After giving back the position he passed Sainz, although then lost pace as he was passed by the Ferrari, and Russell.
He found pace again on the hard tyre although wasn't happy with a one-lap strategy and then, just as he looked set to get passed by Sainz on Lap 57 of 58, he suffered a race-ending hydraulics issue.
Russell also had his struggles on Sunday. The Sao Paulo GP winner lost a place to the ever-impressive Lando Norris on the opening lap and, after recovering, appeared to surprise his team in the pits and had a subsequently slow pit-stop, and a slow release that cost him five seconds at his next stop.
He was charging at the end of the race and may well have got ahead of Hamilton before his team-mate's DNF.
Vettel says goodbye to F1
In his 300th, and he insists final, F1 start, Vettel put on a dazzling display.
The four-time world champion gained a position up to eighth on the first lap, although battling with the Alpine's early appeared to be his detriment ultimately as Aston Martin opted for an opposing one-stop strategy that cost him later in the race.
But Vettel still displayed his wheel-to-wheel skills of old to fight through the field, and very nearly, overtake Ricciardo at the end of the race.
He leaves F1 as one of the sport's greatest-ever drivers, and people.
"The last two years have been very, maybe disappointing from a sporting point of view, but very, very useful and important to me in my life," said the former Red Bull and Ferrari star.
"A lot of things happened, a lot of things that I realised. I think it's a huge privilege being in the position that we are in, and with that comes some responsibility, so I hope to pass on a little bit to the other drivers to carry on some of the good work."
He added: "It's great to see that we have the power to inspire you with what we do and what we say. I think there's far bigger and far more important things than racing in circles, but obviously, it's what we love, and through that, if we can transfer some of the really important values, that's big and I think for that the last two years have been great for me.
"It's been an absolute joy throughout my career, so thank you."