The 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – it’s the final race of the year, and emotions were running high. This season has rewritten the history books. It’s been a year that will never be forgotten. There were emotional goodbyes, tight battles in the midfield, and heartbreak and joy at the same time. Nobody wants the racing to end, but it’s been a tough season for everyone, and they deserve this break. The season started so late in the year, yet Formula 1 managed to cram 17 races, that took place from July to December. No summer break, no rests, just nonstop work. Every member of every team, the drivers, the FIA officials, all have been working tirelessly throughout the year. We’ve seen new tracks and old tracks, some familiar faces, some new faces. All of us experienced new levels of shock, new levels of excitement.
We’ve seen several new faces on the podiums, and newfound success for some teams. We’ve also seen newfound difficulties for some teams, things we never could’ve even thought about. And of course, how can we forget our 2 new race winners. There’s Pierre Gasly, who emerged victorious in a spectacular Italian Grand Prix. And of course, there’s Sergio Perez, who went from last to first in the penultimate race of the year, at Sakhir. Records were broken as more and more races were won by the champions of 2020. At the Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton became a record-equalling 7-time Drivers’ World Champion. And at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, Mercedes won their 7th consecutive Constructors’ World Championship. For one last time in 2020, we’re back with a race review, and it’s for the season finale, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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How Red Bull Stole Pole Position And The Win From Mercedes At The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
You’ve got to admit, Mercedes were looking off the pace in Abu Dhabi. Everybody was expecting them to do what they did in the previous years; waltz away with the win at Abu Dhabi. However, this year was different. This year, Mercedes decided to play it safe. They’ve already secured their 7th consecutive double-title; they won the constructors’ title, and Lewis Hamilton won the drivers’ title. This meant that it was unnecessary to put too much at risk and to push to win the race. However, this wasn’t the main reason that Mercedes reduced engine power.
Mercedes had to reduce the engine power in ALL of the Mercedes engines to save the MGU-K unit from failing. This means that the engines in the Mercedes, Williams and Racing Point cars would all have reduced power since this issue hit all of them. George Russell had an MGU-K failure in Friday Practice in Abu Dhabi, and Sergio Perez faced the same issue on Saturday in Qualifying. Toto Wolff, the Team Principal of Mercedes, admitted that Mercedes didn’t know the cause of these issues and that they had to reduce the performance just to be safe. This made it crystal clear that this is why the Mercs didn’t dominate in Abu Dhabi. They just didn’t have the engine power and performance that they normally did.
Max Verstappen, however, was enjoying this time in his RB16. He grabbed the first (and last) non-Mercedes pole position of 2020, by a slim 0.025s. This shows that Mercedes were still incredibly quick. Bottas lined up in P2, while Lewis Hamilton, who had just recovered from COVID-19, qualified in P3. Quali was really close, so everyone thought that the Mercs would be able to overtake Verstappen and either Bottas or Hamilton would win the race. But that reduced power just didn’t let them take the win. Bottas struggled off the start, and he held up Lewis Hamilton, which then created an initial gap to Verstappen. By Lap 2, Verstappen was already 1.5s ahead of Bottas, meaning Bottas was out of DRS range, and he couldn’t overtake Verstappen
For quite a long time, everyone was focussed on the battles in the midfield, and we’ll get to that later. The focus shifted to the leaders when the Safety Car came out. Racing Point replaced Perez’s engine with a new one for the Race, meaning he started on the back of the grid. However, that engine only lasted 10 laps, because an oil pressure kill meant that he had to retire from the race.
The Virtual SC was in place, however, the full-course Safety Car was called out soon after. This is when most of the field pitted. Both the Mercs and the Red Bulls went onto the hard tires for the rest of the race, and the engine disadvantage meant that the Mercedes drivers just couldn’t catch Verstappen. David Croft, better known as Crofty, said in the commentary that Mercedes had to play 2nd-best in the final race of 2020.
How McLaren Nicked P3 In The Constructors’ Title
While there was no real battle for the top spot in both the Formula 1 championships, the midfield fight was more intense than ever. 2020 saw a 3-way fight for 3rd place in the Constructors’ championship. Finishing in the Top 3 in the constructors’ championship is something that a midfield team couldn’t even think of. For the past 7 seasons, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, and occasionally Williams, have occupied the top 3 spots. It was in 2012 when the McLaren name made its last appearance in the Top 3 before 2020. The downfall of Ferrari in 2020 opened up that spot for 3rd in the constructors’ championship. Mercedes and Red Bull waltzed away with 1st and 2nd, meaning that the coveted 3rd place was open.
This midfield fight was an intense 3-way battle between 3 very strong teams. McLaren, Racing Point and Renault have been pushing very hard all season to be the 3rd best team. All 3 teams have had a topsy-turvy season. Almost every race weekend, the standings changed, and either one of the teams was sitting in 3rd. If you look at it, after the Sakhir Grand Prix, everyone was confident that Racing Point had it in their hands. However, McLaren had other plans.
While Racing Point and Renault struggled, McLaren was WAY ahead of them. The Renaults were completely off the pace in qualifying; they lined up on the grid in P11 and P12. Racing Point struggled even more, with aforementioned engine issues forcing Sergio Perez to start the race in P20, which is the last place. Lance Stroll struggled in Q3, and he only qualified in P8. That isn’t such a bad result for Stroll, but it was a problem for Racing Point. This is because the McLarens THRASHED their competitors by qualifying in P4 and P6, with Lando Norris leading the way for McLaren.
After the Sakhir GP, Renault was trailing McLaren and Racing Point by 12 and 22 points respectively. They were pretty much out of contention for P3 in the constructor’s title. However, the Renault drivers still pushed hard and drove a great race. On Lap 1, Leclerc had a horrible start and slipped down from 9th place to 13th. Esteban Ocon got a great start, and made his way from P11 to P9, after passing Leclerc and Gasly. Ricciardo also passed Leclerc to take 11th place. On Lap 2, Pierre Gasly overtook Ocon for P9, since Gasly was on the soft tires, and Ocon was on the mediums. The medium tires are slower than the softs, which is why it was fairly easy for Gasly to get past.
Coming back to the McLarens, they aced the start and maintained position. However, there were many struggles to come, especially for Lando Norris. Alex Albon was in P5, right behind Norris, and he was pushing Norris to the limit. Albon went on the radio and told his engineer that the McLaren ahead was “overworking his tires”, which was an accurate statement. On Lap 6, Alex Albon went for an overtake down the inside of Norris and proved this statement. Norris tried to fight back using DRS down the next straight, however, Albon had much more grip and confidence in the braking zones for the next series of corners. That was a decisive overtake, and it showed Albon’s strength in wheel-to-wheel combat, as Martin Brundle mentioned in the commentary.
For Racing Point, Lance Stroll had passed Kvyat by now to take 7th place. The Canadian had his sights on Carlos Sainz, and he was looking to get some good points for Racing Point and to carry them to P3 in the championship. The Renaults had swapped places, with Ricciardo ahead of Ocon now, but they were still only going to bring home 1 solitary point. Then, everything changed.
The Virtual Safety Car, and then the full course Safety Car was called out because Sergio Perez had retired from his last race with Racing Point. It was a painful moment for the entire F1 world; after starting in last on the grid, he had made his way up through the Haases, the Williams cars, and the Alfa Romeos. He would’ve AT LEAST made it into the points since he had the pace to do so. However, Checo’s engine had other plans, and it forced him into retiring from the GP. It was very strange because Racing Point had just installed this new engine the day before the race. That’s why Perez started from the back of the grid; he had to take a grid penalty for having his engine changed. The last thing anyone expected was for an engine issue to force Perez out of the race.
If you look closely at the image, Perez’s steering wheel says pOIL KILL. This means that an oil pressure kill caused the engine problem. This was great news for the rest of the field, and as I mentioned earlier, everyone in the top 10 pitted. However, let’s not forget Daniel Ricciardo, who was the only one in the top 10 to stay out. This was because he started the race on the hard tires, and it launched Ricciardo up into P5. Norris was in P6, ahead of the 2 Ferraris, who hadn’t pitted and had gone from 12th and 13th to 7th and 8th. Carlos Sainz, who was in P9, passed Leclerc for 8th. So far, Racing Point was going to lose the 3-way team battle, because Lance Stroll was only in P9. By Lap 30, Gasly got past Stroll for P10, meaning Racing Point lost another point.
Coming to Lap 40, all eyes were on Daniel Ricciardo. He had done a FANTASTIC job of staying in P5 and managing his hard tires, and he now came into the pits. For the last 15 laps of the race, the Renault could push hard on his medium tires, and gain some positions. I must say, this was a wild strategy. Staying out that long on the hards could’ve been a MAJOR issue for Ricciardo, and he could’ve lost positions. However, he held out, and he came out of the pits P7, which was 3 positions higher than he was before Perez retired.
Esteban Ocon finished in P9 after an incredibly exciting last-lap battle with Lance Stroll. Stroll got demoted to P10, meaning he only got 1 point for Racing Point. Ocon was previously in P10 since the Ferraris pitted and Ocon overtook Kvyat. Overall, it was a great race for Renault, and they grabbed a haul of 8 points from this race. That turned to 9 points when Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race and stole that Grand Slam from Max Verstappen. Not many points, but Renault, and especially Ricciardo, showed a lot of strength.
But nobody, and I mean NOBODY, showed as much strength as McLaren. Both the McLaren drivers aced it in Qualifying, and it was incredibly important for them to start so high up the grid. From then on, they just pushed hard and did better than their competitors. It wasn’t an easy job; managing the tires was very hard since both of the McLarens started on the soft tires and had to manage them while making sure that they were faster than their competitors. They proved that they’re worthy of P3 in the constructors’ title. Despite how up-and-down the season has been for McLaren, they’re truly the Kings of the Midfield.
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It’s been an amazing season of Formula 1, and it will never be forgotten. This race review will always be a special one, for it’s the last race review of 2020. I’ve enjoyed reviewing all these races, from the first one back in Austria, to this one. Let me know in the comments below, which race review of 2020 was your favourite? If you haven’t read all of the race reviews, the links to them all are here below. Stay safe, and stay on the lookout for new posts.
F1ntastic 2020 Austrian Grand Prix Review
2020 Austrian Grand Prix Facts and Stats
F1ntastic 2020 Styrian Grand Prix Race Review -Mercedes Victorious as The Prancing Horses Clash
Hamilton is 1 Step Closer to 2 of Schumacher’s Records: 2020 Styrian Grand Prix Facts and Stats
F1ntastic 2020 British Grand Prix Race Review
F1ntastic 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Race Review
LECLERC S🅱️INALLA! F1ntastic 2020 Spanish Grand Prix Race Review
F1ntastic 2020 Belgian Grand Prix Race Review
GASLY WINS! – F1ntastic 2020 Italian Grand Prix Race Review
Mugello’s MAD F1 Debut – F1ntastic 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Race Review
F1ntastic 2020 Russian Grand Prix Race Review
F1ntastic 2020 Eifel Grand Prix Race Review – A Race We’ll Never Forget
Mercedes Are 7-Time Champs! – Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix Race Review
HAMILTON WINS TITLE #7! F1ntastic 2020 Turkish Grand Prix Race Review
GROSJEAN CRASHED 😱 – F1ntastic 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Race Review
PEREZ WON THE GP?! – F1ntastic 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Race Review