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Mercedes fails to lead for first time in 40 races, and more stats from Abu Dhabi

Mercedes fails to lead for first time in 40 races, and more stats from Abu Dhabi

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Mercedes fails to lead for first time in 40 races, and more stats from Abu Dhabi

Mercedes fails to lead for first time in 40 races, and more stats from Abu Dhabi

It may have been dubbed a dull season finale but the way in which Max Verstappen and Red Bull defeated Mercedes set tongues wagging about a potential title fight next season.

Given the world champions had to down-power their engines, that may be getting a little ahead of things, but the fact Red Bull broke a six-season run of Mercedes pole and victory dominance around Yas Marina is impressive, whichever way you look at it.

The final run in the rollercoaster ride for third place, meanwhile, saw McLaren return to the top three for the first time since 2012, a stat that will surely have made inbound Daniel Riccardo’s smile wider than ever.

But those headline stats are just the start. Here are a few more interesting, surprising and, for some, rather worrying numbers behind the last race of the season.

Mercedes devoid of lead running

Abi Dhabi marked the first time in 40 races that Mercedes has failed to get its nose in front at any point in a race. The last time the near-unstoppable team did not lead a lap with one of its cars was in Mexico in 2018.

In that race, which interestingly was one of Max Verstappen’s nine other victories, Lewis Hamilton qualified third, as he did in Abu Dhabi, and he finished fourth, while Valterri Bottas started and finished fifth.

But while Mercedes was not a million miles behind in this one [15.976 seconds to be precise], back then in Mexico, Hamilton finished one minute and 18.738s behind Verstappen, while Bottas had been lapped by the end of the race.

Lucky 13th for podium trio

The podium had a familiar look again with Verstappen, Bottas and Hamilton all there to spray the fizz [rose water rather than champagne in Abu Dhabi] at the end of the race, the 13th time the three drivers have done so together in their careers.

Eight of those appearances have come this year, with the Styrian, Hungarian, 70th Anniversary, Spanish, Belgian, Russian, Portuguese Grands Prix being the others.

There is now only one combination that has appeared more often, that of Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, a union that has been seen just one more time than Abu Dhabi’s triumphant trio.

Ferrari failure

It was an awful end to an awful season for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc and the departing Sebastian Vettel finishing out of the points in 13th and 14th, both a lap behind the leaders.

After a recent recovery in form, the Italian team had hoped for an end-of-season resurgence but instead finished it sixth on 131 points, its lowest position since 10th in 1980.

The team’s points haul this year was just 25 per cent of its average over the last three years [504, 571 and 522] but more horrifying for the Tifosi is that a Ferrari failed to lead a single lap for only the third time ever, and the first since 1992.

Vettel departs on a low

As mentioned, it was a year to forget for Vettel who went into his sixth and final season with Ferrari knowing it would be his last as before a wheel had turned in anger the team announced he would be replaced by Carlos Sainz for 2021.

You have to wonder as to the demoralising effect that had on Vettel whose 33-point haul and his 13th place in the drivers' standings were his lowest in a full campaign in his F1 career.

Vettel's breakthrough was in 2007, but he only competed in eight grands prix - one for BMW Sauber and seven for Toro Rosso before a full year with the latter in 2008 when he scored 35 points and finished eighth from 18 races.

Williams woe

If it has been a tough season for Ferrari, it has been even worse for Williams, which finished a year when its founding family sold up to new owners without scoring a point for the first time in its history.

Despite having the might of George Russell behind the wheel and a Mercedes engine bolted in the back, the faltering FW43 must go down as one of the worst cars in the team’s history.

It was a disappointing end to the family story, which began in 1977 and has netted nine constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ crowns. All being well, however, with a new injection of capital, things can only get better from here.

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