• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Charles Leclerc clinches second in WDC at Abu Dhabi amid Verstappen win

BySean Clark

Nov 20, 2022
Sebastian Vettel waves to crowd

Photo courtesy of Formula 1

It has been a frustrating season for Charles Leclerc with multiple engine failures and poor strategy calls from Ferrari, denying him his opportunity to battle with Max Verstappen for the World Drivers Championship.

Alas, 2022 ended on a high note for Leclerc as he held off Sergio Perez for second place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Verstappen, meanwhile, cruised ahead of the field and comfortably won his third-consecutive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (no controversy this time).

Perez started in second place ahead of Leclerc. Red Bull Racing opted to go for a two-stop strategy with Perez in hopes that he could catch the Ferrari driver at the end of the race.

In a twist of fate, Lewis Hamilton got a small piece of revenge for last year’s infamous loss at the Yas Marina Circuit. During last year’s race, Perez held up Hamilton after his pit stop, allowing Verstappen to stay within striking distance before the safety car.

This time around, Hamilton held up Perez with an epic battle on Lap 45 as the Mercedes and Red Bull were switching places. While Perez eventually passed Hamilton for good one lap later, it slowed Perez’s pursuit of Leclerc. The difference ended up being 1.4 seconds at the checkered flag.

Ultimately, Hamilton had to retire at the end of the race for a hydraulics issue, ending what was a frustrating season for the seven-time world champion. 2022 was the first time in his legendary career that he did not win a race at any point in the season.

It was the only mechanical failure of the season for Mercedes as they finished third in the World Constructors’ Championship behind Ferrari. The possible cause of the failure came on the opening lap where Hamilton went airborne on the curb in Turn 6 during a battle with Carlos Sainz. He had to give the place back to Sainz after gaining an advantage while going off the track.

Sainz finished fourth and George Russell came home for a fifth-place finish one week after winning his first F1 race at Brazil.

Lando Norris, who scored the fastest lap of the race, and Esteban Ocon finished sixth and seventh. With Ocon’s Alpine teammate, Fernando Alonso, retiring midway through the race, the French driver beat Alonso in the WDC. It is only the fourth time Alonso lost to his teammate in points throughout his long career.

Lance Stroll finished eighth for Aston Martin,

It was a somber day for F1 fans everywhere as four-time champion Sebastian Vettel ran his 299th and final race. He started ninth and was holding serve until Aston Martin implemented a one-stop strategy where he was the last top-10 driver to pit. He came out in 19th place and immediately started passing the backmarkers.

He clawed his way to 10th, but was passed by Stroll on Lap 49. Due to Hamilton’s DNF, Vettel got back into a points position. He failed to pass Daniel Ricciardo on the final lap, meaning that Aston Martin came up one point short of sixth place in the WCC behind Alfa Romeo.

An emotional Vettel spoke to the roaring crowd at Abu Dhabi after the race.

In F2, American driver Logan Sargeant finished fourth in the WDC standings after the finale at Abu Dhabi to earn his Super License, meaning that he will officially take over for Nicholas Latifi, who crashed with Mick Schumacher in their last races with their teams, at Williams Racing.

The 2023 Formula 1 season will begin on Mar. 5, 2023 at Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Race results: