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5 things we learned from 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

For the last race of the season, Max Verstappen won...again

Could the first-lap battle be a taste of 2024? PHOTO FROM FERRARI

Well, the final round of the 2023 Formula 1 season has concluded, and predictably, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his 19th race this year and 54th overall.

This time around, what mattered was the battle for P2 in the constructors’ championship between Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari, and both teams finished with some highs and lows.

Another blunder from Sergio Perez disqualified him from a podium finish. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

1. Checo and Lando’s collision cost a Red Bull 1-2 finish. On Lap 47, Sergio Perez (Red Bull) attempted to overtake Lando Norris (McLaren) into Turn 6. However, both machines made contact, causing the young Brit to veer to the runoff area.

After both drivers pointed at each other as to who was to blame, the stewards gave Checo a five-second time penalty.

Lewis Hamilton's last-lap efforts were ruined by a slide. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

2. The Silver Arrows ended on top…but at what cost? Mercedes-AMG finished the 2023 season right below the dominant Red Bull Racing in second place. However, the race wasn’t as eventful as the team had hoped for its drivers. George Russell went through the 58 laps drama-free, finishing in P3 after Checo’s penalty, while Lewis Hamilton struggled near the end and finished in P9.

With a totally winless season, it’s only a matter of time (and four months of testing) to find out whether or not next year’s car will return to the top step of the podium again.

Ferrari had a good shot at getting second in the constructors' championship. PHOTO FROM FERRARI

3. Another heartbreaking weekend for the Prancing Horse. At the start of the race, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) provided an excellent battle for P1 with Max, but the F1 gods (and the SF23’s pace) cut the action short when the Dutch blasted off for the second lap and beyond.

After learning about Checo’s collision and penalty—which he didn’t serve during the race—the Monégasque let the Mexican by on the last lap, hoping to gain enough distance in the DRS zone. Unfortunately, Russell was able to pull through and seal his position in the top three.

Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) was the one who suffered the most, starting the weekend with another uneven surface-related accident in FP2. Paired with being eliminated in Q1 and losing the pit gamble in the race, he was classified P18.

This is Fernando Alonso's best season finish since returning to the sport. PHOTO FROM ASTON MARTIN F1

4. Alonso wound up within the top four of the championship. Aston Martin had been struggling in the latter half of the season, but honorary rookie Fernando Alonso didn’t slouch in his final run with the AMR23. On the 37th lap, the Spaniard wanted to take advantage of Hamilton in the long straights, threatening the Brit to pass him, but saw it as a cheeky brake test before Turn 5.

On the 46th lap, Alonso lunged toward Sainz into that same corner, passing his compatriot and closing the door for him to attack. He finished the race in P8, racking enough points to secure fourth in the drivers’ championship.

Yuki Tsunoda, the Driver of the Day, earned his second P8 finish of the season. PHOTO FROM ALPHATAURI

5. Tsunoda concluded the season with a top performance. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) kept his cool and maintained consistency in the middle of the points range. During the last lap, he had a moment with Lewis fighting for P8, but the seven-time world champion lost control in Turn 9, returning the position to the Japanese.

As a bonus, Tsunoda was awarded “Driver of the Day.” That’s not a bad treat for AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost’s last day.

Be honest, who expected anyone other than Max to win? PHOTO FROM MAX VERSTAPPEN

The countdown to the 2024 season has begun. Within these next four months, we’ll look forward to new liveries, possible driver and crew switches, and—most important—preseason testing.

Will Red Bull and Max Verstappen continue to dominate the new hybrid era? Will Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton step up to regain their crown? Or will Ferrari and Charles Leclerc surprise the grid with a trick up their sleeve?

The answer will arrive at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2.

Justin Young

Justin loves cars of all forms. Molded by motoring TV shows and Internet car culture, he sees the world from a different perspective that not many get to see every day.