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HomeClassic Car InvestThings we learned from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Things we learned from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen claimed his 19th victory of the season in dominant fashion, but behind him a close battle raged for every place at the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó delivers his race analysis.

Records – Max Verstappen brought his dominant record-breaking 2023 F1 season by setting new records. The Dutchman scored his 54th F1 victory which meant that he surpassed four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and finds himself in P3 on the all-time list of F1 wins only behind Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103).

Verstappen scored his 19th win in 2023 which is a new all-time record for the most single-season wins. The second-highest number of wins in a single season also belongs to Verstappen after he clinched 15 victories last year. The previous all-time record, which is now the third-highest number of wins in a single year belongs to Sebastian Vettel, who won 13 races in 2013.

Verstappen became the first driver in history to surpass 1,000 laps led in a single season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he clinched his 11th hat-trick weekend (win, pole position and fastest race lap).

Fastest pit stop – Ferrari was not only fast on the track at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the Scuderia was extremely fast in the pit lane. The Scuderia performed the fastest pit stop at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, servicing Carlos Sainz’s SF23 in 2.16s.

Having displayed some eye-catching performances in the pit lane in the second half of the 2023 F1 season and setting a new all-time record with a 1.80-second pit stop, McLaren were quick in Yas Marina. The Woking-based outfit performed the second-quickest tyre change, servicing both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri’s car in just 2.22s.

Red Bull and AlphaTauri were the only two other teams to get below the 2.5s mark with the Milton Keynes- and Faenza-based outfit completing a 2.27s and 2.32s tyre change.

Winless – Having won a total of five F1 races, Charles Leclerc ended the season in Abu Dhabi without a single win in 2023. His big rival from 2019 Lewis Hamilton failed to score a single victory for only the second time in his long F1 career after finishing down in P9 in Abu Dhabi. Despite having taken a total of five wins in Abu Dhabi, the Yas Marina Circuit has not been a scene of success for the seven-time world champion after he was forced to retire from the action due to technical issues last year.

Fastest lap – Max Verstappen not only won his 19th grand prix in Abu Dhabi, but he completed the fastest race lap with a time of 1m26.993s. The Dutchman set that time on Pirelli’s hard compound and was almost half a second quicker than his team-mate Sergio Perez, who posted the second-fastest lap of the race on the same white-walled compound. Despite failing to score any points in the season-closing race, Alexander Albon set the third-quickest time at the Yas Marina Circuit with a time of 1m27.845s.

His ninth-quickest race lap of 2023 also saw Verstappen secure the DHL Fastest Lap Award, with Lewis Hamilton (4) and Perez finishing behind.

No time set – Exceeding the track limits on his hot laps, Logan Sargeant failed to set a time during qualifying. However, he was permitted to race at the stewards’ discretion after having shown the required speed in the earlier part of the weekend.

Disappointment – It was yet again a disappointing race for the Haas outfit after a promising qualifying result from Nico Hulkenberg, who put his car P8 on the grid with an eye-catching effort in the closing qualifying segment. However, Haas’s woes with tyre wear continued in the 57-lap race and the Emmerich-born German racer slid back to P15 on Sunday.

Tsunoda – AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda took his best ever starting position in the Abu Dhabi qualifying session, securing the sixth quickest lap. The Japanese driver completed the race distance with an ambitious one-stop strategy that saw him lead the race at one point just before his mandatory tyre change. It meant that Tsunoda became only the second Japanese driver to lead an F1 race after Takuma Sato at the Nurburgring in 2004.

Point-scorers – Four teams scored with both cars in Abu Dhabi with Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin all finishing in the top ten with both their cars. Ferrari scored eighteen points courtesy of Charles Leclerc while Yuki Tsunoda took eighth following an ambitious one-stop strategy.

For Alpine, the season-closing Abu Dhabi turned into a disappointment, as it marked the first time since the Italian Grand Prix that they failed to score a single point in a race.

Rookie drivers – The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend started off in weird fashion as nine teams fielded alternate drivers who had not raced in more than two Grands Prix, as required by the Formula One regulations.

These drivers were 2023 Formula 2 Champion Théo Pourchaire for Alfa Romeo in place of Zhou Guanyu; Jack Doohan for Alpine in place of Esteban Ocon; Felipe Drugovich for Aston Martin in place of Fernando Alonso; Robert Shwartzman for Ferrari in place of Charles Leclerc; Oliver Bearman for Haas in place of Nico Hülkenberg; Patricio O’Ward for McLaren in place of Lando Norris; Frederik Vesti for Mercedes in place of Lewis Hamilton; Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar for Red Bull Racing in place of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez, respectively; and Zak O’Sullivan for Williams in place of Alexander Albon.

Penalty – Sergio Perez’s miserable season continued in Abu Dhabi. The Mexican only qualified himself P9 on the grid after losing his best lap time in qualifying. In the race, he displayed encouraging speed in his dominant RB19, but received a five-second penalty for causing a collision in a battle with Lando Norris.

The Guadalajara-born driver fought his way up to P3, overtaking George Russell in the final laps of the race, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc even let Perez by with two laps to go in the hope that the Mexican could build up enough of a gap to stay in front of Russell despite the five-second penalty which would have been beneficial for Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.

Qualifying – Despite having struggles for one-lap pace earlier in the weekend, all three qualification sessions were topped by Max Verstappen, who would take the pole position ahead of Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri. Such was the lack of confidence inside the Red Bull camp that motorsport advisor Helmut Mark bet against Verstappen, believing that the three-time world champion would not put his RB19 on the front row of the grid.

Ferrari’s Monégasque driver also caused a stir on his very last lap of qualifying, which saw him take P2 on the grid as he had been struggling for pace on the soft tyres ahead of qualifying.

No retirement – The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the first season-ending race ever to end without a single retirement. In truth, Carlos Sainz was called into the pits on the last lap for what appeared to be a power unit related issue, but he was still classified 18th.




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