(BBC) – 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 what 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.
Hamilton’s result means he has finished a season without a win for the first time in his career – ending a record only he held.
Verstappen’s win was his 15th of 2022, extending the new record he has set this year for wins in a single season.
“It was a good race,” said Verstappen. “It was all about tyre management. I think we looked after the mediums quite well and then on the hard tyres managing until the end.
“A 15th win of the season is unbelievable. It’s been really enjoyable to work with the whole team and to be able to achieve something like this. I know it is going to be hard to replicate but it is also very good motivation to try and do well again next year.”
Vettel’s 299th and final race fittingly ended in the points, although it could and should have been so much better for the German after qualifying five places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll but finishing two places behind the Canadian in the race.
The 53-time race winner’s one-stop strategy worked against him, but the point was at least some reward at the end of a weekend strewn with tributes for the retiring 35-year-old.
“You know how it is. I wish I could have got a couple more points. I enjoyed the race. Bit of a different warm-up to get to the race but when the lights went off, it was just the race,” Vettel said
“It’s a big day, a big thank you to everyone. Lots of smiley faces which is nice. I’m sure I will miss it more than I feel right now.”
Verstappen dominates as Leclerc earns runner-up consolation
Verstappen dominated the race and his victory was never in doubt but the fight between Leclerc and Perez made for a tense finish to the race.
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 on the Ferrari at a second or so a lap and more for a while, but Leclerc measured his tyres with skill to cross the line 1.3 seconds ahead.
Many will feel he deserves second in the championship, as he has driven an outstanding season, winning three races to Perez’s two, and 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 following few events as Ferrari suffered a series of strategic errors and engine failures.