On the weekend from Friday, December 11th, to Sunday, December 13th, 2020, the Formula 1 circus stays in the Middle East to compete in the seventeenth and final race of the World Championship on the Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009. The track layout, designed by German architect Hermann Tilke, measures 5554 meters and consists of 21 corners, 11 left and 10 right, as well as a long straight of 1200 meters. Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver on this track, with five victories. The British driver won in 2011 with McLaren and in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2019 with Mercedes. The latter team holds the constructor's record with six victories. In addition to Hamilton's four wins, there's one each with Nico Rosberg in 2015 and Valtteri Bottas in 2017. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen complete the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix honor roll. The four-time World Champion achieved all his victories with Red Bull Racing in 2009, 2010, and 2013, while the Finnish driver won in 2012 with Lotus. Since 2014, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been the fixed venue for the season's final race. Initially scheduled for Sunday, November 29th, 2020, as the season's concluding event, the FIA had to modify the calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, canceling and rescheduling some races. In August, the Federation rescheduled the race to December, assigning the date of November 29th, 2020, to the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was also initially postponed. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has never been raced so late in a season. Before the start of the race weekend, precisely on Thursday, December 10th, 2020, Ferrari's CEO, Louis Camilleri, announced his resignation for personal reasons. The interim CEO role in Maranello was assumed by John Elkann. The Maltese executive stated:
"Ferrari has been part of my life, and serving as its CEO has been a great privilege. My admiration for the extraordinary men and women of Maranello, for the passion and dedication they put into everything they do, is limitless. I am proud of the numerous results achieved by the company since 2018, and I know that Ferrari's best years are yet to come".
For this race, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, brings the tire compounds labeled C3, C4, and C5, the softest in the available range. During the Friday's second free practice session, as seen in the Portuguese and Bahrain Grands Prix, teams tested the tires with compounds to be used in the next season. Each driver had one set of C4 compound for a minimum of eight timed laps. Pirelli Motorsport Director, Mario Isola, explained the reasons behind these choices.
"The teams are very familiar with the Yas Marina track, and this should allow them to extract the maximum performance in the final challenge. Last year, Hamilton broke the previous track record that had lasted for ten years: it will be interesting to see if we will witness a new record this weekend. Special attention will be given to the tests: in FP2, all teams will try the 2021 specifications with the C4 compound, as already done two weeks ago in Bahrain, while the post-season tests will take place on Tuesday, the 15th. The tire test for 2021 should provide teams with very useful data, while the post-season test could help drivers familiarize themselves with the cars ahead of the 2021 season, which we hope will proceed regularly".
The Grand Prix marks the last race in Formula 1 for Renault and Racing Point with their current names; from the next season, the teams will be renamed Alpine and Aston Martin, respectively. Alpine will use Renault engines, while Aston Martin will use Mercedes engines. The Régie, whose debut was in the 1977 British Grand Prix, has achieved 35 victories, 51 pole positions, and 32 fastest laps, with two constructor championships in 2005 and 2006. This Grand Prix also represents the 400th participation for the French constructor. On the other hand, since 2019, the British team has obtained one victory, one pole position, and 4 podiums. McLaren is running its last race with Renault engines, following the agreement signed in 2018. From 2021, the British team will use Mercedes engines, as it did from 1995 to 2014. With the supply of French engines, McLaren achieved three podiums and three fastest laps. Sebastian Vettel is contesting his final race driving for Ferrari. With the Maranello team, the German driver achieved 14 victories, 12 pole positions, and 12 fastest laps in 118 Grands Prix. Starting from the next year, Vettel will race for Aston Martin, which will replace Racing Point as a constructor.
The German will be replaced by the Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr. from McLaren next season. The four-time world champion recalls the beginning of this significant phase of his career.
"I had met Montezemolo years before, but it wasn't the right time for both of us. In 2014, we got in touch again, I went to Marchionne's house in Switzerland, we talked, and we made the marriage promise. I negotiated the actual agreement with Mattiacci, the then team principal. The idea was to start a new era in Ferrari, and I liked being part of it".
Special mention is given to Sergio Marchionne, who was a crucial figure until his death in the summer of 2018.
"It's tragic that he passed away so suddenly; for Ferrari, it was a great loss. He had a tough character; it wasn't easy to get along with him, but the successes speak for him. He was an excellent manager, and he had organized the company very well".
The German driver then reflects on his relationship with the current team principal of Scuderia, Mattia Binotto.
"I met him for the first time when I was racing with Toro Rosso. He was responsible for the Ferrari customer engines we used. I witnessed his growth closely, from the engine department to technical director and then to team principal. We respect each other a lot, but there has never been that kind of love underlying relationships of a certain type between us. He is a pragmatic man; time will tell where Ferrari led by him will be in the future".
The future Aston Martin driver explains how the failure to win a world championship with Ferrari will remain a significant regret.
"I had a special bond with the whole team, also because Michael Schumacher won here. It is clear that there is a certain pressure from the media and fans, but all drivers put this on themselves. Certainly, I will not use it as an excuse for these results. As I have already said, we failed here. It's an honest observation, I believe. We wanted to be the strongest, beat Mercedes, and become champions. It didn't happen, and there were reasons".
Vettel, however, recalls some special races with great pleasure.
"Well, certainly the first victory, in Malaysia in 2015, I will never forget. Also, those in Monte Carlo in 2017 and Montreal in 2018 were special".
Finally, the German driver is confident that the end of this experience will not ruin the relationships with the team members in any way.
"It's not a real breakup; we're not husband and wife. I will stay in touch with the guys on the team; I have everyone's phone numbers. We certainly don't hate each other! Something went wrong, and probably parting ways was the best decision, but neither of us holds a grudge, and we look ahead to 2021".
His teammate, Charles Leclerc, talking about the last Grand Prix of this season, expresses his concerns about the many difficulties, in line with what happened throughout the year.
"We have reached the last race of a rather difficult season. The Abu Dhabi track offers an interesting first sector, while the middle and last parts are a bit less fun. This track has never been too friendly to Ferrari, even though last year I managed to step on the podium. On this occasion, getting a good result will be a particularly challenging challenge because I will have to serve a three-position grid penalty for the first lap incident in the Sakhir Grand Prix. On my part, however, I am very keen to finish the season with a convincing performance, so I will try to prepare for the event in the best possible way, studying with the engineers all the strategies at our disposal".
The Monegasque driver of Scuderia Ferrari also assesses the entire season:
"Looking back, it hasn't been an easy 2020. But I believe that on some occasions, we exceeded our expectations. Of course, we expected a better season; we had to face a tough reality. But we accepted this situation and rolled up our sleeves, even making it to the podium. This is a positive sign. 2020 made me grow; during difficult moments, you generally learn more, and I don't say this just for hearsay. Now it's up to us to translate the desire for redemption into actions: there won't be any miracles, but I expect some steps forward in 2021 to then put into practice everything we've learned in 2022".
Finally, Charles Leclerc dedicates a thought to Sebastian Vettel in his last race with Scuderia Ferrari:
"It's also Seb's last Grand Prix with the team, so it's a bit the end of an era. It would be nice if both of us could have a good race to celebrate this special moment. He has been a very important driver in Ferrari's history; he deserves a conclusion worthy of his career with the team".
In the next season, Carlos Sainz Jr. will be Charles Leclerc's new teammate. The Spanish driver is confident that the relationship will be good:
"I have already talked a lot with Charles; I believe we will get along well next year".
Finally, Sainz Jr. strongly criticizes the FIA's decision not to allow drivers changing teams to participate in the test scheduled a few days after the race:
"There is no logic in all of this; I am very sorry for this, but there is nothing I can do to change the situation".
For Daniel Ricciardo, this is also the last appearance in the Renault team since he will be racing for McLaren from 2021, replacing Carlos Sainz Jr. Ricciardo achieved two podiums, respectively in the early editions of the Eifel Grand Prix and the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, and a fastest lap in the Belgian Grand Prix. In place of Daniel Ricciardo, Renault announces the return of Spanish driver Fernando Alonso for 2021, who was already with Renault from 2003 to 2006 and from 2008 to 2009, winning two world championships. The Australian driver reflects on his experience with the French team, emphasizing significant growth in various aspects:
"The team is different from the beginning of 2019. There are differences, some of them positive. Certainly, I'm not here to boast about any merits I may have, but I've seen a team with more confidence in its abilities. The facts speak clearly; we built a much better car in the last year. And this has a positive influence not only on the results but also on the atmosphere inside the boxes, which is hardly visible from the outside. I don't know how much it depends on me, but from day one, I tried to contribute to improving every possible aspect. Sometimes I think back to the race in Melbourne last year. I felt a bit frustrated and thought we had a lot of work to do. Now I look back and see how much we have improved. It seems like an eternity ago, but I think it's important to remember it: it's proof of how well we've done. My best race? Well, I think it's Nürburgring, where I brought Renault back to the podium; it was beautiful".
Sergio Pérez is racing in his last race for Racing Point. The Mexican has competed in 35 Grands Prix with the British team, securing his first career victory at last week's Sakhir Grand Prix. Starting from the next Championship, he will be replaced by Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes world champion driver, Lewis Hamilton, after missing the Sakhir Grand Prix due to his positive test for SARS-CoV-2, is regular at this race, thanks to the negative test result. George Russell, who replaced Hamilton in the previous race and, in turn, was replaced by Formula 2 driver Jack Aitken at Williams, returns as the titular driver for the British team.
"Mercedes is pleased to confirm that Lewis Hamilton will drive for the team in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend. Lewis tested negative for the swab on Wednesday before completing his isolation period in Bahrain. This allowed him to travel to Abu Dhabi on Thursday afternoon, and he tested negative upon arrival. The British driver then completed the protocols imposed by the FIA for his entry into the paddock tomorrow and will be able to participate in the race weekend. George Russell will return to Williams Racing for the final event of the 2020 season".
Mercedes races with a special livery for the W11 featuring the names of all the members of the Brackley and Brixworth factories to honor their immense commitment and determination in winning the two championships. Speaking of Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas is coming off a challenging moment, where he delivered performances below expectations. The Finnish driver talks about how he faced this situation to seek immediate redemption:
"The best thing to do is detach. I've learned it from the past; it's the decision you sometimes have to make: it works for me, then everyone has their way of getting back up after a fall. So, after Sunday, I haven't looked at any titles, read any newspaper articles, or on the web. And now I feel once again charged for the weekend; I can prove my worth. I can only say that after Imola, I've had really bad luck. I know I haven't given my best lately, but I don't give up: I can and must do better. Sometimes it's just a matter of luck; at other times, the driver plays a role, then you also have to evaluate that the championship is over: you don't drive the same way as when you're still in the fight. A small positive thing is that in these situations, you can learn".
Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, who was not present at the Turkish Grand Prix and the Bahrain Grand Prix, is absent again on this occasion and is once again replaced by sporting director Laurent Mekies. Ferrari's Monegasque driver, Charles Leclerc, will be penalized with a three-position grid drop for causing an incident during the first lap of the previous race, the inaugural edition of the Sakhir Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Pérez, on the other hand, will be penalized with a fifteen-position grid drop for the replacement of various components of the power unit. Charles Leclerc admits his mistake but without regretting his overall approach at the start:
"In many races, I gained several positions at the start, favoring me in gaining valuable points this year. However, it didn't work at Sakhir. I need to be cooler and manage situations better. For example, even overtaking Verstappen wouldn't have given me any advantage because the Red Bull is faster than us. I didn't give the Stewards a choice; they had to penalize me, and they did well by giving me a three-position grid drop".
Max Verstappen is aware that due to this incident, he missed a great opportunity, but he doesn't want to dwell too much on the episode, looking ahead, to this race and the next season:
"It's easy to say in hindsight that I lost a victory with the incident at the start. It was a very unfortunate situation, but it can happen in the racing world. I don't think it's necessary to talk about it again with Charles. Indeed, I don't care at all. I don't want to argue about such things; I just think about racing here at Yas Marina and closing the season as best as possible. No one already knows what will happen: obviously, Mercedes will be the team to beat because, in principle, we will use the same car as this year. The fundamental point is to understand our car better: that's why we kept working on it for so long".
Some voices have talked about a possible interest from Red Bull in George Russell. The consultant of the Anglo-Austrian team, Helmut Marko, decisively denies this hypothesis, acknowledging the value and talent of the British driver:
"Russell is not at all on our radar. He certainly did an excellent job last Sunday, but we're talking about a Mercedes driver, managed by Toto Wolff, among other things. And in any case, we know he has a ten-year contract with Wolff. So our interest is out of the question. We also have young, highly talented drivers that we want to develop".
Marko then confirms his esteem for Yuki Tsunoda, a member of the Junior Team and a favorite to become a full-time driver for Scuderia AlphaTauri in 2021:
"He is not only extremely fast and talented, but also very entertaining and easygoing".
The head of the Red Bull Junior Team reiterates that the decision on Max Verstappen's next teammate has not yet been made and will not depend on the outcome of a single race:
"His victory will have no influence on our decision. We have known the pros and cons of each candidate for a long time. I emphasize that after the last race in Abu Dhabi, we will sit down and make the best possible decision".
On Friday, December 11, 2020, the first two free practice sessions are scheduled. The first session is set for 1:00 p.m., with clear skies and high temperatures. Max Verstappen records the best time in the first Friday free practice session. The Red Bull Racing Dutch driver, using Soft tires, precedes Valtteri Bottas by just 0.034 seconds. All the other drivers are much further behind, with Esteban Ocon setting the third-best time, despite being over 1.0s slower than Verstappen. However, the Dutch driver's time is higher than the time in the same session in 2019, but this year, the asphalt temperature is very high, at 39 °C. In fourth place is the other Red Bull Racing driver, Alexander Albon, who, in the first few minutes, tried a version of the car with a modified floor to simulate the loss of aerodynamic load that the cars will experience with the introduction of the new technical regulations in 2021. Lewis Hamilton, returning after a race off, is in fifth place but sets the time with Hard compound tires, focusing the first session on the race. Additionally, the session for the British champion is hampered by a problem with the front brakes. Daniel Ricciardo is forced to abandon his Renault along the track due to a failure, so the Australian driver cannot complete any timed laps. The Ferraris, far from the top positions, use the session to carry out aerodynamic tests. At 5:00 p.m., the second free practice session is scheduled. The sky remains clear, but temperatures drop as sunset approaches. During the second free practice session, the two Mercedes cars finish in the top two positions, with Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton by 0.203s. The two Anglo-German cars are the only ones to complete a lap below 1'37"0. In reality, the British driver had set a better time than his teammate, but it was canceled as Hamilton went beyond the track limits at the last corner. The session is used by all teams to test the tires that will be used in 2021: Mercedes also performs a long run with the compounds that will be used during the next season to collect data for analyzing their behavior in the race. Max Verstappen finishes in third place, ahead of Alex Albon.
The Dutch driver records his time with Medium compound tires since, when he attempts a lap with Soft tires, he encounters traffic on the track. The session is also interrupted with a red flag when Kimi Räikkönen's Alfa Romeo Racing suffers a turbo failure. A minor electrical issue also limits George Russell's work with Williams. At the end of the second Friday free practice session, Kevin Magnussen is summoned by the stewards for completing an additional lap after he should have returned to the pits to perform the allowed start tests when the checkered flag was displayed. The Danish driver for Haas receives a reprimand as he did not reach a particularly high speed on the lap he completed after being warned by the pit wall. As mentioned, Lewis Hamilton returns to the track after skipping the last Sakhir Grand Prix due to Covid-19, and at the end of the first day of practice, he expresses his happiness:
"I'm happy to be back. Covid symptoms? I don't want to go into too much detail; it was an experience. Now I'm happy to be back in the car. I'm grateful to be back with the team. I did a couple of sessions to get back into the rhythm. I don't even know how much time I spent behind the wheel, but we did what we had to do, and we're ready for tomorrow".
The World Champion describes the difficulties he encountered when returning to the car after a forced break:
"It felt like I had spent a lot of time away from the car and the track; I had to get back into the habit, which wasn't exactly the same as when I left. The balance wasn't the same, and I had to work to get it back into a situation that made me comfortable. The guys had to work hard for three weeks. There were issues with the setup for me. I also had to work on the brake balance. The guys, in any case, did a great job; we lost about 40 minutes and two sets of tires that we couldn't use. But as I said, the session went well. It could have gone better, though. We didn't reach the goal we wanted, but we hope to achieve it tomorrow".
Finally, the British driver congratulates George Russell, who replaced him during his absence:
"I think George did an amazing job, I think everyone knows that. As for me, in 27 years of racing, I had never missed a race; I think I should write a book about it. But anyway, I'm very happy to be back; it feels like the first day of school. It definitely took me a while to get used to the car again".
Valtteri Bottas points to tire temperature as the most challenging aspect to control for a good performance:
"It was difficult to get the softs up to temperature; in my opening lap, I started the lap and had no grip. I think the tires were below the temperature window, and then in the next lap, they overheated massively. There's still work to be done on this point. The medium tires seemed better. The main problem is putting the balance together during the lap; in some corners, I struggle with the front, and in some corners with the rear. But we're not far off finding the balance, as the time shows".
The Finnish driver also sends his thoughts to his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who returned after contracting Covid-19:
"It's nice to see that he's back and doing well. He didn't take it lightly, so it was nice to see him come back".
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirms that he will continue his role in the Anglo-German team in the near future, denying rumors of his departure:
"Yes, I will stay in Formula 1. As a team principal. In the end, I have come to understand that there is no division between work and private life for me. It's all part of life, I enjoy leading this company, and I share my passion for motorsport with my wife".
The Austrian manager also welcomes the introduction of the salary cap in the coming seasons:
"The salary cap will definitely come, and like in other sports, it will help companies make profits. This can keep the Circus alive; you can't ask investors to enter Formula 1 and subsidize teams every season".
Max Verstappen shows moderate optimism, although the Dutch driver expects to witness a performance superiority from Mercedes, as has often been the case throughout the season:
"It didn't go badly today, although at the same time, we didn't showcase particular speed. There is still work to do to get closer to the Mercedes, which seems very strong here. I couldn't put in a good lap on the soft tires. Track limits at the last corner? We know we can't exaggerate at that point, especially in qualifying, where we'll try to be more careful. Other drivers will also talk about it at tonight's briefing. You try to find the limit and then understand how much you can go wide without exceeding it. The soft tires didn't behave badly during the race simulation. Mercedes? They have been out of reach all year; it's nothing new".
Alexander Albon also has good feelings. The Thai driver will focus on finding the right window to make the soft tires work at their best:
"Today was a pretty normal working day, one of those where you focus on the usual things, like tires. I must say I'm quite happy with how it went; overall, it was a positive Friday. I think we need to look at the performances with the soft tires; we need to understand how to bring them to the right window and keep them there. The mediums worked better, I must say. I'm not sure where the Mercedes are based on today's results, but we'll focus on ourselves. We'll look at everything in more detail tonight before tomorrow's qualifying and see where we stand".
Carlos Sainz Jr. has encountered the same issue that emerged from Alex Albon's car, albeit more pronounced. However, the Spanish McLaren driver maintains optimism for a good weekend:
"As for the tires, I don't know what's happening this year. I don't know if it's because of the cold or for any other reason, but they behave differently than we expect. The hard tire is much closer to the soft one. The feeling is not the same as last year even though we have the same compounds. However, I think we can have a very good last weekend on this track. Also because the car has improved compared to the last Grand Prix. It's not going as well as the first Bahrain race, but we're very close".
Lando Norris shows contrasting feelings. The weekend started better than the last Grand Prix, but the connection with his car is below expectations:
"The FP2s were good because we did some aerodynamic work for next year; every session we do is a learning experience for next year. In the end, we struggled with the car more than we wanted. Today wasn't perfect. From the first laps we did, we felt better and were more competitive, but there are some things we can improve. We'll see overnight how we can grow. Better? Compared to last Friday, for sure, we struggled a lot last weekend. Regarding performance, the balance and the handling of the car weren't the smoothest of weekends for me. Then I also had the penalty for the engine and the problems we had on Sunday".
Despite missing almost an entire session due to a technical issue, Daniel Ricciardo is satisfied with the work and the feeling during the first day of free practice:
"If we have to lose a working session in Abu Dhabi, it's better that it's the first one. It's not very representative for Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race when we'll be racing later. So, focusing on the afternoon session, I think we did quite well. We did many laps; the car behaved well for the most part. Making a couple of changes, I think we'll be in a good position tomorrow. Qualifying will be very important here; being the last one for this team, I can't wait to face it and get a good result".
Sebastian Vettel also laments difficulties in finding the right tire usage window, but he does not lose optimism for the race:
"This weekend started in a mixed way; we still have some 'homework' to do. Problems getting the soft tires to work in the right window? Yes, that's exactly it; we had them too, but I'm sure it will be better tomorrow. We are more or less where we were last weekend, around the cut for the top 10. Then we'll see tomorrow".
He then dedicates a thought to his teammate, Charles Leclerc, who wears a helmet dedicated to him:
"I saw that today Charles was driving with a helmet dedicated to me. He showed it to me before free practice. It's beautiful, and it was a nice thought from him. I wanted to thank him. We hope to give the fans something to cheer about this weekend".
Charles Leclerc did not approach this weekend with optimism, but the on-track feelings were less negative than expected:
"I wouldn't say it was a negative Friday. On the contrary, it went better than we expected on this type of track. We thought we would suffer more with the heat and on the long straights of the first and second sectors, instead, we are there competing with the usual cars, although the Racing Point seems favored to me. Yes, it certainly didn't go as well as last weekend, but we didn't expect to repeat that feat. Let's get to work from tonight and make some steps forward for tomorrow".
Finally, the Monegasque driver confirms the impression of his teammate regarding the difficulty of using the soft tire:
"It is very complicated not only to reach the right window with the soft ones but also to keep them in this range; it will be difficult to start with this compound on Sunday. It's hard to say where we'll be: if we do a good job tonight, I would say in the top 6, but we have to do a perfect job without mistakes from both me and the team. Do we need a lap like the one in Sakhir's qualifying? Yes, I'll try, but this track is much longer".
George Russell talks again about his experience in Mercedes, expressing some regret for not being able to make the most of this valuable opportunity:
"It was a strange feeling, to be honest, before Bahrain, I really wanted to have two weeks in the car. I expected to learn everything I needed in Bahrain, and then I could come here without more 'excuses.' But since Bahrain went so well in terms of performance, part of me was saying: You know what, it was a good weekend. Of course, I really wanted to win, and I would have had a great opportunity this weekend".
Returning to Williams, the British driver remains determined to finish the season in the best way, perhaps taking advantage of a potential favorable situation to secure a points finish:
"These guys at Williams gave me this opportunity; they've worked so hard for me in the last two years, and it's my duty to close the season at a high level. And that's what I'm here to do. We'll try everything to get points, there are some teams fighting for third place in the constructors. Maybe we could see some big attacks from Carlos. He's going to Ferrari, so he probably won't care if he wrecks the car. Danny Ric is leaving, so he probably won't care if he wrecks the car. Sergio is leaving, so he won't care if he wrecks the car. It might be a good plan".
On Saturday, December 12, 2020, at 2:00 p.m., the third free practice session begins with ideal weather conditions and higher temperatures compared to qualifying and the race. Max Verstappen sets the fastest time in the third free practice session, which is less significant due to the significant difference in track temperature compared to the evening qualifying session. The Dutch driver is 0.5 seconds ahead of his teammate, Alexander Albon, and the two Renault drivers. The Red Bull drivers test the support pylon for the rear wing. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas rank sixth and ninth, respectively. The lap times are quite close, with a 1.0-second gap between the first and the tenth positions. Qualifying is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. The sky is clear, and temperatures are 23.5 °C for the air and 30.3 °C for the track. Kevin Magnussen is the first to set a valid time in qualifying, leading Pietro Fittipaldi. There is a close call between Max Verstappen and Nicholas Latifi in the pit lane, with Verstappen avoiding a collision but complaining of damage to his tires. Alexander Albon later takes the lead in the standings, ahead of Max Verstappen. Valtteri Bottas sets the fastest time at 1'35"699, followed by Sergio Pérez, who will face a heavy penalty after qualifying, and Lewis Hamilton, whose time is invalidated for exceeding track limits. Later on, Hamilton sets the ninth fastest time. Max Verstappen, initially in tenth place, improves his time and moves up to second. In the final moments, Charles Leclerc also improves, securing the second position before the arrival of the two Mercedes drivers, who take the top two spots. The drivers not advancing to Q2 include Kimi Räikkönen, both Haas drivers, and both Williams drivers. The Mercedes drivers are the first to set valid times in Q2, with Hamilton clocking 1'35"466 and Bottas finishing in 1'35"527. Carlos Sainz Jr. initially secures the third position but is later surpassed by McLaren teammate Lando Norris. Norris is the only driver opting for Soft tires, while the others use Medium compound tires.
Like Hamilton in Q1, Albon has a time deleted for exceeding track limits. The same fate befalls Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, both without valid lap times. Daniil Kvyat later improves his time to fifth place, while Pierre Gasly is seventh, ahead of Esteban Ocon. Charles Leclerc also improves, finishing fourth. However, both Red Bull Racing drivers surpass Leclerc, taking third and fourth positions with Verstappen and Albon, respectively. The drivers not qualifying for the final session are the two Renault drivers, Sebastian Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Sergio Pérez. In Q3, Daniil Kvyat sets the initial benchmark, but Lando Norris and Lance Stroll later surpass his time. Carlos Sainz Jr. briefly leads, but both Mercedes drivers, with Bottas at 1'35"415 and Hamilton, take the top positions. Max Verstappen then secures the second position, just over a tenth behind Bottas. Red Bull Racing's Alex Albon is fourth, close to Bottas's time. In the second attempt, Hamilton sets a record in the first sector, outperforming Bottas. Although Bottas improves his time, he cannot match the World Champion's lap. Hamilton breaks another record in the second sector and completes the lap in 1'35"332. Before Bottas completes his lap, Norris secures the third fastest time. Bottas takes the lead, but Verstappen later beats his time with 1'35"246. It's the Dutch driver's third career pole position, the first of the season. For the first time this season, a pole position is not secured by a Mercedes-powered car. It is the eightieth pole position for a car powered by Honda. After qualifying, Williams Racing and Red Bull Racing officials are summoned by the stewards due to an incident involving Nicholas Latifi and Max Verstappen in the pit lane. After hearing the officials, the stewards decide not to take any action, deeming the maneuver not dangerous. Max Verstappen is pleased with securing the pole position but emphasizes the difficulty in achieving this result:
"Before qualifying, I knew it was the last session of the season, and we managed to get the pole position. So I'm very happy. It was quite tricky at the beginning; I couldn't find the rhythm, especially in the last sector, where there are many corners where you can make a mistake. But I managed to put it all together on the last lap. This has been a long season for everyone with many consecutive races. When you're behind, you try to get closer, and sometimes it becomes a bit frustrating. As for the race pace, we didn't do many laps in practice; we still need to understand how we'll perform. We'll certainly try everything to keep them behind; Mercedes is very strong. But I think Red Bull is also strong on straight-line speed. I think it was a very positive qualifying; we are happy and will try to win tomorrow".
Verstappen then adds:
"It was a very nice lap. I really didn't expect to fight for the pole today, but it's a nice satisfaction. At least we have a pole this year amidst Mercedes' dominance, and we can be very happy about that. Everyone is a bit tired at the end of such a tough season, but I think for the mechanics and all the team members, it's been a great boost. At the beginning, my hand got stuck under the steering wheel, so I had a tough lap. Later with the medium tire, it wasn't easy, but in the second attempt, we made some changes, and it went better".
Finally, Verstappen focuses on the race, where he will try to repeat his success:
"In Q3, we did a fairly good lap, and everything fell into place; tomorrow won't be easy because behind me, there are two cars that can choose different strategies and try to put pressure on me, but I'll give it all I have and enjoy it. We have a chance of victory, but whatever happens, today was a great day".
Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko is particularly optimistic about the chances of victory:
"We can win this race. Mercedes is strong, but it's time to win again. The pole is a sign that our hard work is paying off, a particularly important signal for 2021".
The team principal of the Anglo-Austrian team, Christian Horner, reveals that the work done in this season's finale will be crucial for the next season:
"The Red Bull for next year will be different from this one only by 40%, but we can say we start from a good base. We have identified the weaknesses by focusing on them. However, this will not change the fact that Mercedes will also be extremely strong".
Valtteri Bottas regrets not being able to make the most of the tires in his qualifying lap:
"We saw already in FP3 that Red Bulls and Max were very fast. I couldn't get the softs to work as they should; that was my problem. Until the qualifying, I was better with the medium tires. We made some improvements, but we couldn't exploit the tires 100%. The lap didn't satisfy me entirely; the balance wasn't perfect, although, of course, we're talking about minimal margins: tomorrow, everything starts again. If I struggled particularly in a specific sector in the final lap? I wouldn't say it's a matter of a sector but of tires. At the end of qualifying, I started to struggle with the front; perhaps due to the dropping track temperature, this hindered further improvements. After all, we could have been much faster than the previous sessions, but it didn't happen. I think instead that Red Bull managed to optimize everything for the final part of qualifying".
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton explains the difficulties faced so far in this weekend, preventing him from competing at his best for the pole position.
"I am firstly very grateful to be back with the team this weekend. It has been a very challenging weekend, without a doubt: getting back into the rhythm was complicated, even though I missed only a few days. It's like I lost momentum, and I really struggled. I couldn't find the balance, but I gave it everything. Congratulations to Max; it's a great way for him to put a final stamp on the season with a great performance, but tomorrow I'll try to give him a tough time. Clearly, starting in pole position is better, no denying that. This is a track where overtaking is difficult, but in terms of strategy, we can play our cards right from the start and in the early laps. We can turn the situation around and win. Strategy? I don't think two stops can work; the pit lane and the pit exit are too long, so we always try to minimize the time lost".
The World Champion, finally, rules out that the damage caused by his off-track excursion in Q1 particularly influenced his result:
"I had some damage as a result; it was the first time I went wide this weekend, so there was only minor damage. I don't think I would have gotten pole without that damage. Of course, it doesn't help, but the guys did a good job in the garage to fix it, and they'll fully repair it tonight".
Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, expresses satisfaction with the performance and result, even without securing pole position:
"It was an exciting qualifying, with less than a tenth of a second between the top three. We had a rather difficult final practice session: we were quite far from our performance targets, but we recovered very well, and overall, it's positive to finish in second and third positions tonight".
In particular, the Austrian manager highlights the difficulties faced by the two drivers of the Anglo-German team:
"I was pleased to see a high-level performance from Valtteri, who has recently faced challenging weeks, and at the same time, we are all very happy to see Lewis back in the car and back on track to do what he does best: after ten days of absence, his level of performance was impressive. Looking ahead to tomorrow's race, we have two cars up there, and this will give us the opportunity to play with the strategy and put pressure on Verstappen. We will give everything to try to finish the season on a high".
Wolff finally reveals an issue with the power unit, which led to a reduction in power:
"We had several problems with the power unit. The damage to the MGU-K occurred below the mileage that should normally be guaranteed, and we haven't yet understood why. Consequently, the most logical choice was to reduce the power of our engine as a precaution, so the overall performance suffered, both for us and our customers".
Alexander Albon describes his qualifying as one of the best of his season, in line with the rest of the weekend. The Thai driver is satisfied but feels he couldn't exploit the full potential in the crucial lap of Q3:
"It was one of the qualifying sessions where I've been more competitive; I felt comfortable in the car. I only regret the second run in Q3, where I pushed too hard on the tires and then didn't get a good response from them in the final part of the lap. The car was fast, as were the Mercedes, but we were close. Now I have to finish positively a weekend where we have been competitive and in form from the beginning".
George Russell congratulates Max Verstappen for his lap and the pole position he achieved:
"It was a challenging qualifying, but tomorrow we have nothing to lose. We will try to have fun. Usually, we do well on Saturdays and struggle on Sundays; we hope to reverse that this weekend. Congratulations to Max Verstappen for the pole position; he deserves it. He did a really mega lap".
Then the British driver also comments on his qualifying, with a bit of disappointment:
"It was a really tough day. We struggled a lot with the tires, even Nicholas was struggling, and it was a bit strange because the car was good in FP3. The race is still tomorrow, and the goal is always to try to get as far ahead as we can. Usually, we have strong Saturdays and struggle on Sundays, so hopefully, a difficult Saturday means we'll have a good Sunday".
Charles Leclerc is also disappointed, especially with the performance in Q3, influenced by issues in managing the rear tires:
"Honestly, it's very strange; I don't know why we had this drop. I want to look at the data carefully. I believe the track conditions in Q1 were better, but I didn't expect to go so badly in Q3. I had problems managing the rear tires, and we need to look carefully at what happened".
But the Monegasque driver focuses on the race:
"It will be a nice advantage to start with the medium tires in the race, of course, but at the moment, I don't want to think about what happened in this qualifying and focus only on having a good race. We're not in the best position, but I'll give it everything as always, even though it will be difficult from the 12th position. I hope to have a good car capable of lasting the entire race. Managing the tires will be difficult. I believe in the challenge; it will be tough, but we'll do everything to make it happen".
Sebastian Vettel's qualifying was not particularly positive, despite the Ferrari driver being satisfied with his lap:
"I was quite happy with my qualifying, but when I tried to go faster, I didn't improve much, it was an okay lap. Maybe I could have improved by half a tenth or a tenth, but it didn't seem like a bad lap".
The race also looks particularly challenging for the German driver:
"What emotions do I feel for tomorrow? Well, it promises to be a very painful race once again, but it's the last one, and I'm looking forward to it. It will certainly be special, especially for the people in the garage, my mechanics, and the engineers. I feel very close to them".
Ferrari's Sporting Director and Track and Performance Department Manager, Laurent Mekies, analyzes the qualifying, finding some positive aspects to work on even on a difficult day:
"It was a qualifying quite in line with the trend of the season but needs to be analyzed carefully because there are still positive indications. Our main goal was to try to get into Q3 with the Mediums, especially with Charles, who had to minimize the impact of the penalty received in the previous race".
And he adds:
"Thanks to a beautiful lap, Charles managed to get through, but then he couldn't find the same feeling with the Softs that he had in Q1, where he had been among the best. A pity because we have seen many times this year how there is a lot of balance in the midfield, and a little is enough to be ahead or behind: eight days ago in Sakhir, we were the leaders of this group of cars, today we find ourselves in the middle. Unfortunately, Sebastian couldn't do better than thirteenth place. Yas Marina Circuit has always been challenging for our car, especially the third sector, the slowest one: today, however, we were among the fastest, which gives us interesting indications for the future. Tomorrow awaits us a race as always difficult and tight, with many cars that will be fighting among themselves, as the performance differences are in the order of a few tenths".
Lando Norris is thrilled with the qualifying result and the work done throughout the weekend. The British driver shows great confidence ahead of the race:
"We did a fantastic job, well, certainly the first time all year. On the eve of these qualifiers, I thought I hadn't been confident enough in recent weekends and hadn't managed to find perfect laps. So, for this last race, I decided to focus only on myself and not think too much about the other side of the team or Carlos' car. Everything paid off; I am focused on my job. What can I expect for tomorrow? A win. I don't know where all this confidence is coming from. We don't have the car to win, but we can achieve a good result. I don't want to think about what the goal should be for tomorrow; we just have to do the best job possible. Surely, Perez will recover positions, and we will try to stay ahead".
Carlos Sainz Jr. is also satisfied and finds many positive aspects, but the Spanish driver is aware that there is still a lot of work to be done:
"There is still a lot to do on the car; this sixth place shouldn't give us too many emotions. However, it was a good day and overall a good weekend for the whole team, plus we got ahead of the Racing Point, which is positive. It's also good to have surpassed Q2 with the mediums; we have undoubtedly put ourselves in a good position for tomorrow. Of course, there is still much work to be done on the car. It's strange that there are such small gaps. In the end, with Lando, we were two-tenths away from pole".
On Sunday, December 13, 2020, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is scheduled, covering a distance of 55 laps for a total of 305.355 km. At 5:10 p.m., the weather conditions are ideal. At the start, Max Verstappen maintains the lead, followed by the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, Carlos Sainz Jr., Daniil Kvyat, and Lance Stroll follow. By lap 5, Albon overtakes Norris, and further back, Sergio Pérez, who started last, quickly climbs to fourteenth place. On lap 7, Stroll manages to pass Kvyat, moving up to seventh place. Pérez's race ends on lap 9 due to a power unit issue, leading to a virtual safety car period. Among the top eleven, the only one not making a pit stop is Daniel Ricciardo, allowing him to climb to fifth place. The top three remain unchanged after the virtual safety car period: Verstappen ahead of the two Mercedes. The two Ferraris also choose not to pit, with Sebastian Vettel in seventh, just ahead of Charles Leclerc. Sainz Jr. overtakes Leclerc on lap 17, positioning himself behind Norris. In the following laps, Leclerc loses several positions until he pits on lap 23. Verstappen, still in the lead, has a 4.9-second gap over Bottas and a 6.9-second gap over Hamilton. Stroll gets closer to Vettel but loses time due to a braking error. On lap 29, Gasly overtakes Stroll, and two laps later, he also passes Vettel. The German waits until lap 35 to pit, rejoining in fifteenth place. Ricciardo pits on lap 39, rejoining in seventh place behind the two McLarens. Verstappen, the Grand Prix leader, increases the gap to Bottas to 7.6 seconds and to Hamilton to 11.2 seconds. Hamilton tries to reduce the gap to Bottas but sees Albon closing in during the final laps. However, the Thai driver does not pose a threat to the World Champion.
Max Verstappen secures his tenth career victory, marking his second win of the season, maintaining the lead throughout the Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo earns an additional point for setting the fastest lap. After the race, Carlos Sainz Jr. is summoned by the stewards, accused of driving too slowly into the pit lane before a pit stop. The stewards decide not to take any action as, after checking the car's telemetry, they find no evidence that the Spanish McLaren driver drove too slowly, adhering to the speed limit in the pit lane. Max Verstappen is ecstatic after winning, stating that everything went perfectly on this day:
"It was a really enjoyable race for me. Also yesterday, but today, we crowned the work with a great start. We managed the tires, the car, and the balance. It was really enjoyable for me on the track today. Basically, we did everything right. Once you start in front, you can control the pace more, and that makes your life easier. In the end, I had a good lead, so I could manage it better. I wanted to enjoy the victory, the podium, and then I want to go home, I can't wait. It's always nice to finish the season like this, and the team worked hard to try to improve the car. Winning the last race is a nice boost for everyone and is motivation for all of us as we enter the off-season to be more competitive from the beginning of the next season".
In particular, the Dutch driver praises the tire management capability of his car:
"I think it was a very controlled race, and it was all about tire management with the Safety Car; the last stint was very long, but the car seemed to manage them [the tires] well and was very nice, controlled, and fun to drive".
Formula 1 Managing Director Ross Brawn emphasizes that the progress made by Red Bull could lead to a closer battle for victory in the next season:
"It was great to see Red Bull and Max Verstappen win deservedly, on pure pace. The result may give us some optimism that there will be more great battles at the top next year, especially since the cars are not changing much. This weekend in Abu Dhabi has shown that F1 is all about thin margins; this time, Mercedes was a bit off, and Red Bull completed their weekend brilliantly. What is encouraging is that, if you think about the beginning of the year, Mercedes had a significant advantage. However, over the course of the season, Red Bull has made significant improvements. The RB16 wasn't working, but they managed to solve the problems".
Valtteri Bottas is pleased with his performance and returning to the podium but admits that Red Bull Racing was clearly superior today:
"I think Red Bull was too fast today. We thought our race pace was on par with theirs, but they could control the race. Max took a nice lead when needed. I did what I could, but I couldn't keep up. A solid race on my part, no mistakes. I felt good, couldn't do more with the package we had today. At least I finished ahead of my teammate. It's been a while since I was on the podium. Nice to enjoy this moment. Winter? I want to see my family, then I'll reset everything, try to train to do even better next year. The team has been fantastic this year, and I'm very proud to have secured the top two positions in the driver's championship. Everyone has done a fantastic job".
Lewis Hamilton admits to struggling physically due to the consequences of the Covid-19 infection and agrees with his teammate on Red Bull's superiority in this race:
"You can't win them all. Given the last two weeks I've had, I think I can be reasonably happy with the weekend. I'm not at 100%, didn't perform as well as I wanted. Congratulations to Max. I struggled a lot physically. I've been fine all year, but today just wasn't the case".
And he adds:
"I'm glad I made it. Thanks to the team for the continuous support. It's still good to get two podiums in the last race. Physically, Covid had an impact. But a week ago, I didn't think I could be here. I'm grateful to have found health and be here. I hope to fully recover in the next few weeks. The Red Bulls were out of reach this weekend. They did a fantastic job. I'm glad Albon was there with us. That's what F1 needs. I hope that in 2022, the cars can follow those in front better. I don't know if the race was exciting to watch, but when you get 3-4 seconds behind the one in front, it's tough because the car starts to slide".
Finally, the World Champion expresses optimism about renewing his contract with Mercedes:
"I'm sure we'll start talking about the future this week; we had an exchange of emails in the past few days in which we said we would talk about it later. I'll stay here for the next two days. Hopefully, we can conclude negotiations, also using the next two weeks before Christmas. It would be a nice gift for everyone".
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff congratulates Red Bull for the excellent work done and admits that their car did not perform at its best:
"We all have weaknesses. Ours showed this weekend, it's a fact. Red Bull won rightfully: in Milton Keynes, they built a great car, and the drivers did a great job. I also refer to Albon, who was faster than us in the end. They could have achieved an even better result in Abu Dhabi. I think Red Bull gave us a slap in this race. It wasn't a great weekend for us, but it's also the first time this car performed below expectations. In the race, we struggled with understeer, and in qualifying, we weren't perfect, unlike on Friday".
The Austrian manager then comments on the race, also looking for a solution to improve the spectacle:
"I've never received so many messages with emojis sleeping during a race in my life; it might be worth revisiting the track configuration to make it more fun, but it's not my job".
Alexander Albon concludes positively his best weekend of the year, although his main concern remains his future, which will depend on the team's decisions:
"I don't know if this fourth place is enough or not to stay, it's not for me to say, but it seems to me that I've given everything. I leave this decision to those who need to make it. At the moment, I just want to say thank you to the guys in the factory and the garage for the great support. We didn't give up, we kept looking for solutions that would make me feel more comfortable with the car because this car is difficult to drive. I'm proud of myself; this is a good end to the season, and I think it was the best weekend of the year".
Even the team principal of Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, acknowledges Albon's excellent performance throughout the weekend:
"Alex did an excellent job today; it was probably his best weekend, considering both the practice sessions and the qualifying. He had a good race and even put pressure on Hamilton towards the checkered flag. This result now gives us comprehensive information that will help us understand the direction to take in 2021".
The British manager agrees with what Toto Wolff said about the race spectacle:
"It was the most boring race you can win".
Sebastian Vettel concludes his experience with Ferrari with a very challenging race, focusing more on his emotions regarding the farewell to the team and what awaits him in the next season:
"Am I empty or relieved? Maybe both. Today it's better not to talk about the race. But the last six years have been very special for me. At the beginning, it was a dream; in the end, a bit sad, but that's how it went. I'm happy to take this next step, Aston Martin, even though I don't want to think about it right away. We have a lot of time to think about it. I'm sorry for the team; I feel a great affection for me: I will miss everyone. Now I'm happy to go home to my family. Let's celebrate Christmas together, then 2021 will come. I hope next year is better for everyone, without this **** Covid. Today I have mixed feelings: I am both happy and sad. Now I want to go to the pit one last time, then I'll go home, and from January, we can start working".
Charles Leclerc's race was also difficult, but the Ferrari driver is eager to see the progress on the next car:
"I can't wait for next year to see the steps forward we have taken because we have made some. Then we have to see how many steps we have taken compared to the others".
Finally, the Monegasque driver sends his regards to Sebastian Vettel after the last race as teammates:
"I would also like to thank Seb for everything he has done for the team. He will certainly help us in the future. Having him on the other side of the garage for two years was really nice, both as a person and as a driver. Now let's see next year; I hope for a more positive season".
The team principal of Scuderia Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, also comments with great disappointment on the race performance:
"There is little to say, unfortunately, about today's race: it is the disappointing conclusion of a disappointing season. We need to turn the page and think about the future without forgetting what we have learned in these very tough and difficult months. We need to climb back up, working tirelessly on next year's car to recover the performance deficit that separates us from the best".
The Swiss engineer also bids farewell to Sebastian Vettel, thanking him for everything he brought to the team:
"He is the third most successful Ferrari driver in our Formula 1 history: only Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda have done better than him. This statistic alone defines the imprint he has left in his six years with us. Sebastian arrived in Maranello with many hopes and was eagerly awaited: we leave with many joys in the archive but also with some regret for what could have been and was not. A shame, but it's part of life, that of a driver and a team. What is certain is that even if he will be a competitor on the track from next year, he will forever remain part of the Ferrari family".
The sporting director and head of the track and performance department of Scuderia Ferrari, Laurent Mekies, admits that it was evident from the winter tests in Barcelona that the season would be difficult and that there would be no way to remedy it due to the consequences of the pandemic:
"In Barcelona, we quickly realized that we had serious concerns about various aspects of the car's performance. We knew it would be very difficult. We didn't yet know how much time it would take to fully understand these problems and even less how much time it would take to fix them. Then we entered this crazy situation of Covid, and we couldn't touch or run the car for months. These were all indications of how difficult the season would be, as it turned out to be".
However, the French engineer emphasizes how the team has been able to react positively in a crisis:
"This is certainly a good example of what you learn in a crisis. It is in these kinds of situations that you learn the most. And I think the positive note is how the team has been able to stay united and tried to push to the maximum, despite the disappointing results".
Sergio Perez concludes his experience at Racing Point with a retirement, unable to help the team in the challenge with McLaren. The Mexican driver is still proud of his season results and looks hopefully to the future, awaiting Red Bull Racing's decision:
"It's a bit sad to leave the team this way. Some of my guys were crying, and I told them we just have to remember what happened in Sakhir and this season. We still managed to finish in fourth place. Personally, let's not forget that I lost two races due to Covid. And I still got fourth place in the driver's standings. This year we had some reliability issues, and maybe that's why we lost the podium. McLaren, on the other hand, got the most out of the car they had. Racing Point will always be my favorite team; its future is bright. As I've said several times, my future is tied to Red Bull's decisions. As long as everyone doesn't announce their driver lineup, there is hope. Now I can't wait to go home and enjoy time with the family".
Lando Norris expresses satisfaction with achieving third place in the constructor's standings with McLaren, along with his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., whom he thanks for the time spent together:
"I think one of the most important things to reach the third position among the constructors was being teammates and the way we want to fight, we have achieved much better results. I respect Carlos, and he respects me, and we want to do our best for the team. I will miss him. Going from fourth to third position among the constructors is good; it didn't seem promising for us today. We knew the pace of Perez and Racing Point, but we were still confident".
The British driver also dedicated a thought to his teammate via radio immediately after the end of the race:
"It's been a pleasure spending the last two years with you; thanks for these seasons, they've been a lot of fun. Thanks for teaching me a few things. I wish you the best of luck for your next step, 'cheers' Carlos".
The McLaren team principal, Andreas Seidl, thanks Lando Norris for his contribution and acknowledges his progress compared to the previous season, his debut one:
"You brought important points for the team and made a great step forward in your second season".
While Carlos Sainz Jr. bids farewell to McLaren, emphasizing with pride the results achieved in these two years with the team:
"It's over, we finished third among the constructors and sixth in the driver's championship for the second consecutive year with the team. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved and happy to have helped McLaren get closer to the positions it belongs to".
As mentioned, the Spanish driver was involved in an incident under investigation, accused of slowing down too much during the pit lane entry. In the end, no sanctions were imposed on Sainz Jr., and the race director Michael Masi explains the choice of the race stewards:
"There were some necessary data that we wanted to obtain and that require some time. It was easier to examine the issue after the race, once we had all the available information. We also wanted to have explanations from the drivers and the teams. Issues like these do not have a clear answer; it also involves judgments, and that's why stewards are needed. Driving unnecessarily slowly in the pit lane is the result of discussions with all the teams and stewards earlier this year".
Daniel Ricciardo concludes his experience at Renault with a good result and the fastest lap, bidding farewell to the team via radio at the end of the race:
"I know it won't mean much (for the result, editor's note), but closing with the fastest lap was a nice way to say goodbye, thank you very much, guys".
Lewis Hamilton thus concludes the season as the World Champion for the seventh time in his career, equaling Michael Schumacher at the top of this ranking. The British driver precedes his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who maintains the second position with a 9-point advantage over Max Verstappen, forming the same finishing order as in the 2019 season. At a considerable distance from the top three, Sergio Perez follows, achieving his best career placement in the World Championship standings, with Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jr., Alexander Albon, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, and Pierre Gasly completing the top 10. In the constructor's standings, Mercedes' victory and Red Bull Racing's second place were already well-established, while McLaren secured the third position, surpassing Racing Point in this final event. Renault and Scuderia Ferrari follow, with Ferrari achieving its worst position in the Constructors' World Championship since 1980 when it finished in ninth place. Scuderia AlphaTauri is next, ending the season with its record points. The bottom three in the standings are Alfa Romeo Racing, Haas, and Williams Racing, which finishes the year with zero points for the first time in its constructor's history (the only similar case was the debut season in 1977 when the Grove team fielded a March before building their own cars from the following season).
The Formula 1 circus will now take a break during the winter to prepare for the 2021 World Championship, which will begin with a three-day pre-season test session at the Bahrain International Circuit from Friday, March 12, to Sunday, March 14, 2021. Initially scheduled at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, the traditional venue for winter testing from March 2 to March 4, 2021, teams agreed to hold the tests in Sakhir, where the Bahrain Grand Prix will take place two weeks later on Sunday, March 28, 2021, marking the first race of the new season. This adjustment was made following the postponement of the start of the World Championship, with the Australian Grand Prix, the season's opening race, moved to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic.