Verstappen finishes near perfect season with a win in F1 Abu Dhabi GP: “Pretty straightforward”

Spread the love

The championship winner took his nineteenth race win of the year, breaking yet another record as he becomes the first driver to ever lead a thousand laps in a single season.

Starting from pole, Charles Leclerc’s attempts to pass his former karting rival on the opening lap were not enough, with the Dutch driver able to build a consistent 1.5s gap in the opening laps of the race.

After the race, Verstappen had praise for the public and the fans at the track, thanking the crowds for the great turnout at all locations: “Yeah, it’s been incredible. Sold out in basically every race we went to.

“Great fans support and also I hope you guys enjoyed the race today and you saw all your favourite drivers do well. And of course, thank you very much for cheering us on.”

Asked about the difference between the race he won today and the other eighteen times he stood on the top step of the podium, the three times World Champion was feeling the end-of-season attitude:

“Not too much different actually,” he replied with a laugh.

Focusing on the actual Abu Dhabi GP, he summed up his very positive afternoon, highlighting his main issue which was the lack of track time due to him sitting out FP1 in favour of Red Bull development driver and Formula E champion Jake Dennis, which led to no chances of testing his long run pace ahead of the race.

“To be honest, it’s fine. I think it was a great race, the beginning was probably very hard, because I didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t do a long run, so I had to ease myself into it a bit.”

After that, his race became more and more easy due to the steady pace advantage he had on the harder tyres, which led to him to pull away from Charles Leclerc:

“Towards the end I could push a bit more and extend the gap a bit, and then on the hard tyres everything felt quite good to be honest.

“Again, I could just extend the gap whenever I needed it, but it was pretty straightforward at that point.”

Photo Credit: Red Bull Racing

He returned on the topic of tyre management and the feeling of the mediums in the post-race press conference, where he hinted at the small tyre issue he encountered in the first stint.

”It was of course a good race. I mean the first stint, I didn’t really know what to expect because I didn’t do a long run. So I probably took it a bit too easy in the beginning, but I guess that was better than trying to push ahead and destroy the tyres, I took a few laps.

“But then I also think the medium was just not as good as expected. So then we had to pit, because I saw everyone around me also pitting and on the hard tyres, everything felt a bit more normal, a bit more easy to manage with the temperatures and basically I could extend my lead lap after lap.

“And yeah, it was pretty straightforward. I think for not having done a long run, the car felt quite decent out there,” he recalled once again.

A highlight of his race was the first lap battle with Ferrari’s Leclerc, even if it was short-lived. The Dutch champion was definitely pleased to have a rival for a bit:

“The first lap, you cannot take it easy. It was good, we raced well. I didn’t expect Charles to go on the left into Turn 6 but it was a good move. But I think at the same time, of course, Charles also had to think about the Championship, you know, for the team. So yeah, it was good. I enjoyed that.”

The three-time World Champion also admitted that, when he talked on the radio about his teammate Sergio Perez’s stop and telling the team to pit him first if needs be, he had been more concerned about making sure to reach his own goal of more than a thousand race laps led in 2023 rather than out of sheer interest in Perez’s race:

“No, it was to try and lead for 1,000 laps in the season, I knew that that was on the cards. So I said to GP… He was also of course aware of that, so just to make sure that they wouldn’t pit me too early.

“The tyres still felt OK. They were not fantastic but they felt OK at that point so we just kept on extending a little bit.”