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Five talking points from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Five talking points from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

F1 News

Five talking points from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Five talking points from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

It may not have been a classic, but Max Verstappen rounded out 2020 in the best way possible for Red Bull by taking victory in Abu Dhabi.

The Dutch driver secured a lights-to-flag victory, leaving Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton trailing in his wake, whilst McLaren took advantage of Racing Point's difficulties to finish third in the most exciting midfield battle in recent years.

With plenty to come out of what, on the face of it, seemed the most forgettable race of an incredible season, let's take a look at the five main talking points after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen domination a warning for 2021?

Red Bull would be forgiven for leaving the Emirate with the belief it could take the battle to Mercedes in 2021.

The steady arc of progression had been pushing Verstappen, in particular, closer to the champions in terms of pace, although it was not until the final race he could mix it with Hamilton and Bottas on pure pace.

In fairness, after taking pole position by the narrowest of margins, Verstappen did not mix with the Mercedes duo at all in the race as he dominated with sublime control to take victory by 16 seconds.

Verstappen missed out on a place on the record books as he was the final lap away from becoming the youngest driver in F1 to claim the grand slam of pole, race win, leading every lap and fastest lap, only for former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to snatch the latter at the death.

But after such an impressive performance, and given the relative stability in the rules going into next season, Red Bull must fancy its chances of a season-long fight with Mercedes.

It's never over until it's over

As ever in F1, it's never over until the chequered flag drops. No matter whether you thought you had figured out the status quo in the battle for third in the constructors', there was always a twist around each corner.

Going into the weekend it looked an uphill struggle for McLaren after the double podium for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll a week previously, only for lady luck to again shine on the Woking-based team.

Power unit penalties initially pitched Perez to a start from 19th on the grid. Although he began to cut his way through the field, from 14th he suffered a loss of power on lap nine that brought his Racing Point career to a sad and premature end.

That left Stroll as the team's sole gunner but there was nothing he could do as Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz scored a solid fifth and sixth that enabled McLaren to claim its highest constructors' championship finish since 2012.

While Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer had his head in his hands, McLaren counterpart Zak Brown was jubilant. The additional £4million in prize money rounded off a fantastic day for the team after it had earlier announced new investment from the U.S.

Albon saves his best until last, but is too late?

No one could argue with the fact Alex Albon has had a difficult time at Red Bull this season. His future is yet to be announced and despite two podiums, there is every chance he will not be racing next year.

Despite only finishing fourth, Albon saved his best race until now. He was controlled after a solid qualifying, made a move past Norris decisively and kept pace with the leaders just enough to stop Mercedes from playing any tricks with strategy.

Would Red Bull prefer a one-two finish? Of course. But in reality, this sort of rear-gunner performance is all it has wanted from either himself or Pierre Gasly over the last two seasons.

Too often has he been languishing over a pit-stop behind and unable to influence its rival's strategy calls, but his pace at the end proved he could mix with the front runners and he made a welcome contribution to a fine result for the team.

A configuration change, please!

Let's be honest, the Abu Dhabi GP has never been a classic. Yes, the odd title battle has gone down to the wire there, but the racing itself has usually been dour.

In a year of excitement, drama and ultimately fantastic racing, and when you consider the success of the Outer Circuit experiment in Bahrain a week earlier, the Yas Marina track's deficiencies were laid bare.

In fairness, the circuit should provide the opportunity for fantastic racing. The classic Hermann Tilke design of hairpin, straight, heavy braking, straight, heavy braking usually promote overtaking.

But for whatever reason, that has rarely materialised in Abu Dhabi, so is it time to experiment with one of the multiple other configurations of the circuit? It must be worth a try. If it works, then great! If not, we haven't missed out on anything.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night

I'm not crying, you are. Sebastian Vettel left Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo left Renault, Sainz left McLaren. At least the three drivers will all be on the grid for next season.

Perez's future hangs in the balance as we wait for Red Bull to decide on its line-up, the same for Daniil Kvyat at AlphaTauri. Both drivers had a season worthy of staying in the sport but it is hard to see any scenario in which Yuki Tsunoda isn't in the AlphaTauri next year.

But for Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, their time has come to say goodbye to F1. Of course, Grosjean wasn't in attendance but team-mate Magnussen exited in style with a donut display post-race.

Whilst drivers say goodbye to their various teams, there is one more departure to note. Chase Carey, who has put so much effort into changing the direction of the sport since he took over at the helm back in 2017.

A new era begins in 2021 with Stefano Domenicali in charge. What does the future hold?

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