F1 – Abu Dhabi GP – Race
Salam, MiniFans! It happened once again: The last race of the season came and went and 2019 is over. Just looking at the standings, we could think that it was once again a Mercedes and Hamilton sweep, but nothing could be further from the truth this year. So, did Abu Dhabi comply with the rest of the season? Let’s find out.
An almost incident free start, save for Gasly, who ended with no front wing due to an incident with both Racing Point cars, saw Leclerc managing to overtake Verstappen midway into the first lap. Sainz did the same with Ricciardo, all while Hamilton started making his way forward and opened a decent chunk of space with the first red car behind him. Bottas, having started 20th, climbed his way up, overtaking the slower cars easily even with no DRS, which had been disabled due to a technical issue.
Once the race settled, the excitement nestled in the battle for sixth in the championship between Albon and Sainz, as Gasly was nowhere to be found after pitting in the first lap. Ferrari tried a double stop that was far from perfect, as Vettel’s tyres were stubborn, but his track position was saved thanks to a great out lap. Hard tyres started making an appearance, suggesting a one-stop strategy for most drivers. One third of the way in, DRS was enabled to the relief of McLaren, as both were stuck behind Grosjean, but not Bottas’, who had already made his way up to fourth without this help.
Verstappen started reporting problems with his engine mode after everyone had stopped for new tyres but had no problem getting close to Leclerc, finally finding a decent setting yet still calling out for help to his team. A great spectacle ensued in the following corners, as Verstappen managed to overtake the Monegasque while he himself was passing a lapped Williams. Leclerc tried to take second back, with an attempt at regaining his position, but came out empty handed. He didn’t stand down and asked for a change of plan to a two-stopper and softs for the end of the race, a wish that came true for both him and his teammate, who got mediums instead. A stop by Sainz for mediums confused everyone, as he needed to get at least one point in order to secure sixth in the championship, but it prompted a stop by Ricciardo as well, who did choose softs.
Both the midfield and the top teams kept the race entertaining in the last handful of laps. Leclerc’s soft tyres seemed not to be working well and Bottas was closing the distance in a similar manner to what Sainz was doing with Hulkenberg while looking at Ricciardo in his rear-view mirrors. Meanwhile, Vettel and Albon were fighting it out for 5th and Norris was somehow managing to keep Pérez in check behind him. The last lap kept all these battles up, with both Pérez and Sainz squeezing through in manoeuvres not shown on live TV, securing the 6th place in the championship for the Spaniard. Hamilton won his 84th race in his career, keeping the Mercedes record intact in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen and Leclerc joined him on the podium, making it a different team per podium step.
This is it, MiniFans. Once again, we find ourselves needing to wait until a new season kicks off to enjoy racing again. 2019 brought us insane racing, a new race winner, some incredible rookies and one bittersweet goodbye to Nico Hulkenberg, who got Driver of the Day as a thank you from the fans. Let’s start the countdown to Australia, where a new season with 22 racing weekends will kick off.