(Reuters) – Max Verstappen cruised to victory for Red Bull in Formula One’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday as champions Mercedes endured an uncharacteristic off day.
The Dutchman, starting from pole, led every lap of what turned out to be a processional race to cross the line 15.9 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
World champion Lewis Hamilton, who struggled with the balance of his car throughout the race, was third on his return from a COVID-19-enforced absence.
Mercedes, who wrapped up a record seventh straight title double, had no answer to the pace set by Verstappen’s Honda-powered Red Bull.
As a result, the Brackley-based team, who were running their cars with their engines turned down due to reliability concerns, were denied the satisfaction of capping a dominant season on a high, instead finishing with 13 wins from 17 races.
Verstappen’s victory under the floodlights at the Yas Marina track was the 10th of his career and second this season. It denied Hamilton a 12th win of the year, which would have made 2020 his most successful campaign.
It was also Red Bull’s first win in Abu Dhabi since Sebastian Vettel took victory for the Milton Keynes-based team in 2013 and ended Mercedes’ streak of seven straight wins in the Gulf Emirate.
It also moved the 23-year-old closer to Bottas in the overall standings, but he ultimately had to settle for third behind the Finn.
Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Hugh Lawson