F1 History Rewritten: Verstappen's Dominant Season Ends in Abu Dhabi Triumph
Red Bull's Max Verstappen was understandably doing 'donuts' at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the Dutchman was celebrating a third consecutive Formula One Championship win (already secured in Qatar), and whatever any racing fan thinks about the 26 year old on a personal level, his skills behind the wheel cannot be doubted.
The 2023 campaign saw Verstappen become the most dominant driver in Formula One history, as Abu Dhabi was his 19th win in 22 races, and although his overall victory seemed like a foregone conclusion weeks ago given the points advantage that he had built up, this was again a very largely easy victory for him to take. The only real challenge he actually faced was from Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc on the opening lap, but after that he established his lead, and was again basically comfortable. The victory gives him a whopping 86.4% win rate in this calendar year.
For fans who like a flutter on their racing, I very much doubt an 86.4% win rate would have featured on even the best F1 betting sites, but there will no doubt be racing fans out there who got close given Verstappen's performances in recent years.
Fans will undoubtedly look back at a racing year that had issues, controversies and the ongoing question of how competitive F1 actually is will no doubt persist. As 2023, and Abu Dhabi goes though, Verstappen is again the worthy winner and team mate, Sergio Perez, wrapped up second place on the track after Leclerc allowed him to pass in an attempt to secure second in the Constructors' championship for Ferrari against Mercedes - they had not appropriately factored in a five second penalty, and he ultimately finished fourth.
That left George Russell in third, with Lewis Hamilton taking two points for ninth - securing second spot in the Constructors by three whole points.
It was a race dominated by tactics again and not actual racing. Leclerc hoped Perez would build a lead that would negate his penalty by taking him ahead of Russell, but he did not. Leclerc could have chosen to try and delay Russell on that front, but he matched pace.
With mixed emotions, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff commented.
"At the end, he could have pulled the handbrake on in the last sector and I think that shows the character of a driver."
Acknowledgement for Leclerc but scant consolation as the plan failed.
Verstappen was understandably delighted with his success again, saying.
"An incredible season. I was a little emotional on the in-lap - it is the last time I am sitting in the car which has given me a lot. I am proud to win the last race. It was an incredible year. It will be hard to do something similar again. We are working hard again to have a very competitive car. The other teams will be trying to beat us but we are ready for the challenge."
The previous calendar win percentage record was held by Alberto Ascari (75%) way back in 1952, and given the drivers F1 have boasted since then and had grace their many tracks, the fact Verstappen now takes that record, with more than a 10% uplift in his success, just simply proves how dominant he has been this year.
Many will praise Verstappen for being a cut above, many will bemoan a lack of real challenge from other race teams, and there will be some who blame F1 for their continual rule tweaking.
2023 has long been a dead rubber, could 2024 be a little more exciting?
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