Max Verstappen second in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: 'It was a positive season'

Published on 01 December 2019 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen finished second in the last Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi. The Dutchman, who started from P2, lost a position in the first lap to Charles Leclerc, but was able to retake that position in a nice way later in the race. After this the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver drove a lonely race, to finish the season on the podium. World champion Lewis Hamilton dominated on the Yas Marina Circuit and won the race. Charles Leclerc completed the podium for Ferrari.

“We were on a different strategy than Ferrari”, says Max after the race. “They pitted quite early, and we went long. Leclerc overtook me in the first lap, but our pace was quite decent. Mercedes and Hamilton were a bit too quick, but we cannot complain. Overall it was a fine race and looking back it has been a positive season. It is great to finish the championship in P3.”

Verstappen suffered from some technical issues during the second half of the race, but those did not throw a spanner in the works: “There were some small issues, but in the end of the day they did not make a difference in terms of position.” Despite these issues Max was able to overtake Charles Leclerc for P2: “My tires were better, so I was able to easily pass. It was a nice move. The backmarker made it a bit more thrilling, because there is less space”, says Max.

After a long season it is time for a well-deserved vacation: “We are all working hard, but it is also good to take some time off to be with family and friends. To fully recharge for next year, and come back stronger in 2020.”

It is just after five o’clock in Abu Dhabi when the lights go out for the last time this season. Max Verstappen starts well and keeps his second position when turning into the first corner. But on the straight Charles Leclerc overtakes the Dutchman for P2, after which Sebastian Vettel also tries to overtake. Max keeps his RB15 wide, fending off the attack from the German Ferrari driver.

At the end of the first lap Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris form the top six. Pierre Gasly returns to the pit for a new front wing, after he collides with both Racing Points in the first corner.

Leading the race Hamilton increases his lead on Leclerc with every lap. Starting the tenth lap he is five seconds ahead. Max is more than two seconds behind the Monegasque and has half a second margin on Vettel. Valtteri Bottas is already in P10 after he started from last position.

In lap thirteen both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel come in for a fresh set of hard tyres. The latter loses a lot of time, as the team faces some issues to fix all the tyres. One lap later Alexander Albon pits, changing to the same compound and comes back on track in seventh position, right behind Vettel.

While normally DRS is available to the drivers from the third lap of the race, this only happens in lap eighteen because of technical issues.

Max drives for a long time on his yellow medium tyres and reports to the team in lap twenty-three that he starts to struggle with his tyres. The Dutchman still has to make his pitstop, just as both Mercedes. In that same lap there is an issue between Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Kubica, who make contact while entering turn twelve. While there is some debris flying from both cars, the two can continue the race without too much trouble.

In lap twenty-six Verstappen comes into the pits. After a flawless pitstop, in which a new set of hard tyres is fitted, the Dutchman enters the track in third position. At that time, he is more than seven seconds behind Charles Leclerc (P2). Race leader Hamilton follows his example one lap later and keeps the lead of the race.

In the period after this Max reports multiple times that he faces ‘lag’ issues, which means that the power release of the Honda power unit is delayed. Nevertheless, he is able to close the gap to Leclerc. In lap thirty-three the Red Bull drivers overtakes the Ferrari in a nice way. Leclerc tries to counterattack, but Max defends and stays in second position.

Ferrari decides to bring in their drivers again lap thirty-nine. Leclerc changes to soft tyres, Vettel leaves the pitlane on the yellow marked medium tyres. At the same moment are Alexander Albon and Valtteri Bottas engaged in a fight for fourth position, in which the Finn on fresher tyres prevails.

During the rest of the race it is not possible for Verstappen to close in on Lewis Hamilton, who wins the race dominantly. After more than sixteen seconds Max passes the finish line in second position. The Dutchman finishes the season in third place in the championship, with three victories and nine podium finishes. Charles Leclerc just keeps in front of Valtteri Bottas and completes the podium for Ferrari.

Results Grand Prix Abu-dhabi:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes551:34:05.7150
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda55+16.772s0
3Charles LeclercLECFerrari55+43.435s0
4Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes55+44.379s0
5Sebastian VettelVETFerrari55+64.357s0
6Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda55+69.205s0
7Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes54+1 lap0
8Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault54+1 lap0
9Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda54+1 lap0
10Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault54+1 lap0
11Daniel RicciardoRICRenault54+1 lap0
12Nico HulkenbergHULRenault54+1 lap0
13Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari54+1 lap0
14Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari54+1 lap0
15Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari54+1 lap0
16Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari54+1 lap0
17George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes54+1 lap0
18Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda53+2 laps0
19Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes53+2 laps0
0Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes45DNF0