Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc beat the Dutchman’s team-mate Sergio Perez to secure second in the championship.
Leclerc, who was Verstappen’s title rival earlier this year before Ferrari’s season imploded in a flood of errors and reliability failures, held off Perez on divergent strategies to take second place.
Sebastian Vettel’s final race ended in disappointment, the four-time champion bemoaning when he felt was a poor strategy from Aston Martin.
Vettel took the final point for 10th place after Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes retired from fourth place with three laps to go.
The fight between Leclerc and Perez made for a tense finish to a race that Verstappen dominated.
Ferrari chose a one-stop strategy for Leclerc, the same as Red Bull with Verstappen, while Perez stopped twice.
That left the Mexican to come back from a 23-second deficit in the final 24 laps if he was to beat Leclerc in a fight that would be decided on whoever finished ahead as they went into the race tied on points.
Perez closed at a second a lap and more for a while, but Leclerc measured his tyres with skill to secure second place in both race and championship – a result many will feel he deserves given he has had an inferior car to Perez for the vast majority of the year.
“We got it,” Leclerc said over the radio, obviously delighted. “Good job, guys.”
It was small consolation for Leclerc in a season in which he was 46 points ahead of Verstappen after just three races only to see his hopes evaporate in the next few events as Ferrari suffered a series of strategic errors and engine failures.
But Ferrari for once got their strategy right in Abu Dhabi.
They resisted the temptation to pit straight after Perez suffered a delay at his first stop and then traffic when he re-emerged – which would have given Leclerc a chance to stop the next time around and take the place.
Instead, they ran Leclerc long to his first stop, opening up the option of a one-stop race, and then taking it.
It was nail-biting for a while for Leclerc, but he stayed calm and held on.
Hamilton had a dramatic start to the race, bouncing over the kerbs on the first lap as Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari passed him at the chicane, which he then cut and held the place.
He was told to give it back and then it seemed the Mercedes had suffered damage in the incident and he started to drop back and lost a place to team-mate George Russell.
Russell himself then had dramas, suffering a pit-stop delay and then an unsafe release for which he was given a five-second penalty.
Hamilton was on course to finish fourth until he lost gears in the closing stages, promoting Sainz and Russell to fourth and fifth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.