Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20, 2022.
© Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen scores Abu Dhabi hat-trick at final Grand Prix of the season

The Oracle Red Bull Racing star won from pole at the Yas Marina Circuit for the 3rd year running, while team-mate Sergio Perez fell just short in his surge for 2nd in the world championship.
Written by Matthew Clayton
8 min readPublished on
Just when you could have been excused for wondering if Max Verstappen had any more Formula One records to set in 2022, along came the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – one the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver has made his own in recent years. Sunday's season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit was no different.
For the first time in his career, the double world champion won a single Grand Prix for three successive years, leading from pole to the finish to record an 8.7-second victory and, with it, a 15th triumph this season.
After last year's late-race drama at the Yas Marina Circuit – it's hard to imagine a race more dramatic, let's be honest – Sunday's season finale was more true to type in Abu Dhabi, where the pole-sitter has now won the past eight times in a row in races that have been largely processional.
Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20, 2022.
Once Verstappen got the jump, another win in Abu Dhabi looked inevitable
Behind Verstappen, all eyes in Abu Dhabi were on the Dutchman's team-mate Sergio Pérez and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who came into the race deadlocked on 290 points in the quest to become runner-up for 2022.
Red Bull Racing had never had its drivers finish first and second in the drivers' standings before and another slice of history loomed when Pérez qualified second ahead of Leclerc, Red Bull's first 1-2 in qualifying since the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix.
In their winner-takes-all personal fight, Pérez led Leclerc for the first 33 laps of the 58-lap race, before making a second pit stop for hard tyres for the final 25 laps. This dropped him back into the pack, but with fresher rubber to hunt the Monegasque driver down at the death, as Leclerc rolled the dice with a one-stop strategy.
It was a gamble that just went Ferrari's way, Leclerc crossing the line 1.3s ahead of Pérez and pipping him for second place for the season by just three points, 308 to 305.
Here's how the final race of the season shook out under night skies in Abu Dhabi.

Max does what Max does in the desert

After his struggle to sixth a week ago at the São Paulo Grand Prix, Verstappen resumed what has become normal service in Abu Dhabi with a commanding display.
In qualifying, Verstappen set two laps fast enough for pole position and after he aced the start and gapped Pérez by 2.5s after nine laps, it was his race to control. His pitted on Lap 20, discarding his medium tyres for hards, and tiptoed the tightrope between outright performance and patience from there with ease.
Verstappen's victory was the 35th of his career and one that left him in a satisfied – and contemplative – mood.
Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20, 2022.
From qualifying to the race's end, the world champion was in a class of one
"It was a good race," Verstappen said. "It was all about tyre management – I think we looked after the mediums quite well, and then on the hard tyres it was literally managing from lap one (of the second stint of the race) until the end. Incredible to win again here and 15 wins for the season has been unbelievable.
"It's been really enjoyable to work with the whole team and to be able to achieve something like this this year. It's going to be hard to replicate something like this, but it's also very good motivation to try to do well next year."
Red Bull Racing has now won in Abu Dhabi six times in the event's 14-year history, while Verstappen's reliability – he finished the final 19 races of the season, the best run of finishes of any driver on the grid – only makes his speed more potent.

Checo nearly makes it work

When it became clear Ferrari had decided not to stop Leclerc for a second time, Sergio Pérez soon realised the scale of the challenge he had in front of him – 18 seconds in 20 laps at a track where passing is typically at a premium to create a new benchmark for Red Bull Racing. And he so very nearly pulled it off.
With Leclerc's tyres fading in the final laps, Pérez's race engineer Hugh Bird suggested his driver "go full send" with his pace and the Mexican obliged. He tore chunks out of Leclerc's advantage in the final two laps and came out of the final corner of the final lap within touching distance, but it was a case of so close, so far.
Sergio Pérez of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20, 2022.
Pérez stormed home, but ran out of laps to pass Leclerc
"It's how it is, sometimes everything can be really close," Pérez said. "At the end of the day I've got to be happy, because I gave it my all.
"As a team, I'm sure we will come back stronger for next year. We had great moments, great battling. I struggled a little bit more with these tyres for this year, in terms of managing the tyres in the race, so hopefully that will be something we can improve for next year."
Third in the drivers' standings represents a new career-high for Pérez, who finished fourth for Oracle Red Bull Racing last season, while third in Abu Dhabi was his best result at the circuit in 12 starts.
Oracle Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner had words of praise for his team's stellar season: "It's been an amazing year for the team, its been immense. What we've achieved this year is beyond anything we could have imagined. To get that constructors' title back after eight years is testament to all the hard work, dedication and belief that's gone in."

Gasly says farewell to AlphaTauri

It wasn't the goodbye to Scuderia AlphaTauri that Pierre Gasly wanted after spending five seasons with the team in its current guise and when it was known as Toro Rosso. The Alpine-bound Frenchman finished 14th in his final race with the team after a soft-tyre gamble didn't pay dividends.
Gasly qualified in 17th after bemoaning his car sliding around in the slow-speed corners that characterise the Yas Marina Circuit and couldn't drag himself back into the points as he finished 2022 in 14th place in the drivers' championship.
Abu Dhabi was his 96th start with the team, clearly the most memorable of those coming when he won the 2020 Italian Grand Prix for the team's second-ever F1 victory.
Pierre Gasly of Scuderia AlphaTauri at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20, 2022.
Gasly pushed the limits in his final race for AlphaTauri
Team-mate Yuki Tsunoda came to the final race of the year with dreams of repeating his under-the-radar career-best fourth at the same Grand Prix 12 months ago, but finished a frustrating 11th and just five seconds outside the points after 58 laps.
In his second season, the Japanese driver finished 17th overall in the world championship, while Alpha Tauri ended up in ninth place in the constructors' standings.
Gasly described his final weekend with the team as "very emotional," while for Tsunoda, ending his partnership with the only F1 team-mate he's ever had elicited a mix of feelings.
"I'll be sad to see Pierre go, he's been a really good team-mate both on and off the track," Tsunoda said. "We became real friends away from the track and we also had a great professional relationship. I learned a lot from him."

Changes as the curtain falls

The traditional season-ender in Abu Dhabi is always a time to reminisce, with several drivers appearing for their 2022 teams for the final time and others set to step away from the sport – some for good.
Top of that list is four-time world champion for Red Bull Racing, Sebastian Vettel. The German finished 10th in his 299th and final race for Aston Martin before retirement and was voted as Driver of the Day by the sport's fans.
Vettel steps into the sunset with the third-most wins in F1 history (53) and will always be the driver who got Red Bull Racing's F1 success story started.
Christian Horner and Sebastian Vettel at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20, 2022.
Vettel was presented with a rear wing endplate from his old team
Another driver with Red Bull Racing ties who is stepping away – from full-time driving, at least – is Daniel Ricciardo, who wrapped up his underwhelming two-year run with McLaren with a fighting ninth-place finish.
With just four of the 10 drivers retaining their 2022 positions next season, Abu Dhabi also marked the final race at their current teams for Fernando Alonso (Alpine), Nicholas Latifi (Williams) and Mick Schumacher (Haas), as well as Gasly. Sadly for Alonso and Latifi, they were two of the race's three non-finishers; Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was the other.

What's next?

The on-track action hasn't completely stopped for 2022 – there's the traditional post-race Young Drivers' Test set for Abu Dhabi from November 22-23 – but everyone in F1 will be ready to recharge and reset for what's scheduled to be the biggest season in the sport's history in 2023.
A 24-race calendar kicks off with the opening round in Bahrain on March 5, with six Sprint Races scheduled at Grands Prix yet to be determined. France drops off the calendar from this year, while China and Qatar make their returns. The biggest new inclusion is Las Vegas, with F1 set to roar for the first time around the famed Sin City Strip in the penultimate round of 2023 on November 18.
Before all of that? Pre-season testing kicks off with three days of running in Bahrain from February 23-25.

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