F1: Max Verstappen wins and Lewis Hamilton retires as Abu Dhabi Grand Prix serves as fitting end to season

 (AP)
(AP)

The 2022 Formula One season drew to a close in fitting fashion as Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Charles Leclerc took second in the championship.

Off the start, the story of this F1 season unfolded in a microcosm as Verstappen held off a momentary charge from Sergio Perez to keep first place before darting into the distance.

Ferrari struggled as Lewis Hamilton pounced on Carlos Sainz and Leclerc’s look at Perez ended up pushing him into the Brit’s path, although Sainz came back with force and retook fourth place as Hamilton went off track.

The key battles both involved Ferrari; for second in the Drivers’ Championship, between Leclerc and Perez, and the Constructors’ Championship, between the Scuderia and Mercedes.

The latter fight quickly went the way of the Italians thanks to Hamilton’s lack of pace early on, dropping to sixth behind George Russell. Last week’s race winner’s fortunes were not much better, a slow pit stop sending him into an unsafe release that almost collected Lando Norris and did collect a five-second penalty.

The contest between a one and two-stop strategy emerged with Red Bull pitting Perez early twice, the second coming as Leclerc began to close in on the Mexican.

With Verstappen a long way up the road and Perez charging through the pack, Leclerc erred on the side of a one-stopper, leaving him vulnerable to a late overtake with the gap at just under 10 seconds for the final 11 laps.

Perez pulled within 1.3 seconds of Leclerc but was forced to settle for third place in the race and final standings.

Lewis Hamilton had no such luxury as a late hydraulics failure forced him to retire from fourth as Sainz closed in for an overtake.

Fitting ends were taking place left, right and centre as reliability also did for Fernando Alonso’s last race at Alpine just as he began to look good for a decent points finish.

Sebastian Vettel’s final F1 GP saw Aston Martin opt for a one-stop strategy which had him complaining of being a “sitting duck” before eventually pitting, dropping to 19th and charging through to fight wheel-to-wheel with Daniel Ricciardo on the last lap - coming home 10th to take a single point as he crossed the chequered flag for the last time.