After a weeks of unwavering busyness, I am finally able to write the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP race review. I was not as emotional watching the 2022 season finale as I was in 2021. Last year the finale was a rollercoaster and a half, with an unpredictable and controversial ending. This year, it was far from that. It didn’t feel the same. The only time it really hit me that the season was over was when Sebastian Vettel jumped out of that car. It hit me that this was the last time his name would be on that leaderboard. That was the emotional moment for me. It was very different to last year, and I suppose that makes this finale special in its own way.
During the winter break, I will (thankfully) have the opportunity to release a series of posts and specials relating to this season. There will be a special post for the goodbyes, but that will exclude Sebastian Vettel. There will be a completely separate post in tribute to the driver who made me fall in love with Formula 1. I’m also going to look at things like funny moments, dramatic moments, and more! For now though, let’s move onto the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP Race Review.
The Top Teams’ Last Dance of 2022
For the last time in 2022, we saw the top teams battle; and by that, I mainly mean Mercedes and Ferrari. Red Bull didn’t really get involved much. At the beginning of the race was an intriguing battle between Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton. Both were fighting for P4, with Hamilton starting the race ahead. Sainz tried to go for a move into the chicane of Turns 6 and 7. However, Hamilton ran out of space in the middle of the chicane, and cut Turn 7 to stay ahead of Sainz. On Lap 4, Hamilton was instructed to give up his position to Sainz, since he went off the track and kept the position. But Hamilton wasn’t done just yet.
On the very next lap, using DRS, Hamilton tried to overtake Sainz into T6. The Ferrari maintained the position, but Hamilton got a better exit out of the chicane, allowing him to take P4 into Turn 9. The battle continued, as on Lap 8, Sainz went for the move into the chicane. Sainz did exactly what Hamilton did; he optimized his exit out of the chicane in order to make the move into Turn 9. On Lap 9, George Russell, the race winner in Brazil, overtook Hamilton for P5. Things weren’t looking good for Hamilton. His hopes for a win in 2022 would’ve been dashed after that. At this point, the top drivers had slotted into their positions, and not much action was going on at the top.
However, the race was reignited towards the end. Unlike the rest of the Top 6 drivers, Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc were on 1-stop strategies. Verstappen was miles ahead of everyone, and was dominating the race. But Hamilton and Leclerc had to fight for their positions. And with around 15 laps to go in the race, Perez was on a charge, chasing Leclerc, when he encountered Hamilton. They battled, with Perez on fresher tires. Perez got through into T6 on Lap 45. However, Hamilton did the same he did to Sainz, and got back ahead into Turn 9. On the next lap, however, Perez got Hamilton into Turn 9. Shortly after, Hamilton faced a mechanical issue and had to retire from the race. It was a sad ending to the season, a season which has been far from ideal for Hamilton and Mercedes.
Perez was now free to chase after Leclerc. He was on the hunt. The ending to the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP was set to be an intense one, with Leclerc and Perez battling for P2 in the championship.
Leclerc Triumphant In The Battle For The Runner Up
Charles Leclerc triumphed over Sergio Perez in an exciting and crucial battle for who would finish in 2nd place in the World Drivers’ Championship. Max Verstappen, of course, clinched the title at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix. Clinching 2nd place in the championship was important for both drivers. I feel that for Charles Leclerc, it would be a matter of dignity. He won 2 out of the first 3 races of the season. He had the most pole positions. If he finished 3rd in the championship, it would be embarrassing, and it could’ve led to backlash from the Tifosi.
For Perez, on the other hand, it was a matter of trying to be closer to his teammate’s level. Perez has had his moments this season, like winning the 2022 Monaco and Singapore Grands Prix. However, there have been some negative moments as well. At the 2022 Spanish GP, Red Bull snatched the win out of his hands. At the 2022 Brazilian GP, Max Verstappen refused to give way to a faster Sergio Perez, despite the team orders and the numerous times Sergio Perez has given way to Verstappen.
Without Sergio Perez and his selfless driving, especially in 2021, Max Verstappen wouldn’t be a World Champion. I know that there are rumors that Perez purposely spun during qualifying at the 2022 Monaco GP just to secure pole. But it is still a fact that Perez has made sacrifices to his own results for Max Verstappen. If Perez went on to take 2nd place in the championship, it would show that he was the closest driver to Verstappen, and it would be a sign of dominance for Red Bull. However, Charles Leclerc beat Perez to it. He finished in 2nd, with Sergio Perez in 3rd.
At the beginning of the season many would’ve expected a title race between Leclerc and Verstappen. However, we ended up with a fight for 2nd place between Leclerc and Perez. However, Leclerc has had to deal with strategy problems and poor performances from his team, reliability issues, and of course, mistakes that he’s made throughout the season. Those left him fighting for 2nd place. Coming into the Abu Dhabi GP, both drivers had the same points tally, meaning whoever would finish higher would clinch 2nd place. It was a mellowed down, less intense version of the situation with the championship fight last year.
As soon as the race started, you could see Leclerc wanted to get past Perez. Leclerc started in P3, with Perez one place ahead. Unfortunately for fans, there was no battling between them, since the drivers were on different strategies. As I mentioned earlier in the post, Leclerc was on a 1-stop, but Perez was on a 2-stop chasing after Leclerc. Towards the end of the race, Perez was actually catching Leclerc on the worn tires. We could see as the laps went by, Perez was getting closer and closer.
But Leclerc maintained enough pace and kept a gap of about 1.4 seconds by the time the race ended, which was just about enough to keep Perez out of DRS range and away from 2nd place in the championship. For once, Red Bull’s strategy team were beaten by Ferrari. If Verstappen was in that car, would he have beaten Leclerc to 2nd in the championship? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
HERE COMES SEBASTIAN VETTEL
How could I end this post without talking about Sebastian Vettel and his retirement. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP was special because it was the last time Sebastian Vettel would grace a Formula 1 racetrack with his talents. He spent his last race battling; Aston Martin were fighting with Alfa Romeo for 6th place in the constructors’ championship. To beat Alfa Romeo, Vettel needed to overtake Daniel Ricciardo for P9.
The battle went down to the wire; Vettel finished the race just 6 tenths of a second behind Ricciardo. Aston ended the season with the same number of points as Alfa Romeo, but lost 6th because of Alfa Romeo’s better past performances. If a team loses 1 place in the championship they lose millions of dollars of prize money.
Vettel did the best he could with the poor strategy that Aston Martin gave him. He started the race in P9, and was battling Ocon for P8 in the early laps of the race. Coming to Lap 19, drivers had started pitting, and Vettel was in 4th place. Aston Martin had a great chance to use a good strategy to gain a couple of places on their rivals. However, they completely messed up Vettel’s strategy. They left him out until Lap 25; he had such worn tires that he had fallen back to P9 and behind his rivals who had already pitted at least 10 laps earlier. When he did pit, he came back out in P19. That left him fighting back for the 30+ laps that remained in the race. It’s during this comeback that Crofty pulled out the “Here comes Sebastian Vettel” for one last time.
He fought back up to P10, which became P11 once he conceded a place to his teammate. The team told Vettel to let Lance through since he was on faster tires and a better strategy. When Hamilton retired from the race, Vettel was back in P10. Aston Martin’s hopes were still alive. However, Vettel just couldn’t get Ricciardo before the end of the race. It’s unsurprising, seeing how Ricciardo was in the McLaren, a car that was clearly superior and was one of the best in the midfield.
After the race, Vettel went on to the pit straight to do some donuts for the crowd after his last dance in Formula 1. That’s when the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP got emotional. He gave a post-race interview straight after the donuts, as he waved goodbye to the racetrack. Just like he’s left tire marks on the track, Sebastian Vettel has left a mark on the world. Four of them, in fact.