Verstappen ends superb F1 year with win at Abu Dhabi GP

ABU DHABI (AP) : Max Verstappen won a record-extending 15th race of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday to conclude one of the most dominant seasons in Formula One history.

A year on from Verstappen’s tense and controversial win over Lewis Hamilton to seal his first title, there was little drama at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Verstappen stayed ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez at the start and was never seriously challenged after that on his way to victory. “Incredible to win again here, 15th win of the season is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s been really enjoyable to work with the whole team and to be able to achieve something like this year.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc held off Perez’s challenge on old tires to finish second and clinch second place in the championship standings, thwarting Red Bull’s bid to have its drivers place first and second.

Leclerc finished three points ahead of Perez in the standings. That meant Verstappen’s refusal to yield sixth place to his teammate at the last race in Brazil was not decisive at the end of the season.

“I knew the only possibility to beat Checo (Perez) today was with a different strategy and playing with the tire management, which we did really well today,” Leclerc said. “I really hope next year we can do a step forward to fight for the championship.”

Leclerc and Ferrari seemed able to challenge Verstappen for the title at the start of the season, but Red Bull improved its car performance advantage through the season. Errors on track from Leclerc and in Ferrari’s race strategy held them back too.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel placed 10th for Aston Martin as he retires from F1 after 16 years. A hydraulic problem ended Lewis Hamilton’s race for Mercedes as the seven-time champion finished an F1 season without a win for the first time in his career.