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Verstappen ends the season in style


Admit it, in the aftermath of FP3 you thought, or rather you hoped, that Max was in for another Singapore.

Well, as we now know he has pole, and will start today's race ahead of Charles, Oscar, George, Lando and Yuki.

Qualifying continued in much the same vein as the previous sessions with no clear idea of the pecking order and a strange disparity between teammates. Hence, while Charles stars second his teammate starts 16th, with George seven spot ahead of his Mercedes teammate.

There is a similar situation at Red Bull, AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and Haas, which all, of course, adds to the fun.

Though both titles are long decided there remains the little matter of second in the team standings - and remember this is the one that decided the prize money - whilst Fernando will be keen to hold off Carlos, Lando and Charles for fourth in the drivers'.

We can also expect a good scrap for seventh in the team standings with Williams seeking to hold off an ever improving AlphaTauri, and in terms of that particular battle what a brilliant job Yuki did yesterday.

As he seeks to retain fourth, Fernando will recall that day here in 2010 when he failed to get past Vitaly Petrov and thereby lost out on a third title. No doubt the Spaniard will be seeking to emulate the Russian today and hold the pack at bay.

Of course, Max doesn't need to win but as we have seen with his pitlane antics - and that qualifying lap - he remains as remorseless as the Michael Schumachers of this sport and will be keen to score his 19th win of the season.

However, he will face intense pressure from Charles, Oscar, George and Lando who each have their own particular point to prove.

Expect the start to be every bit as aggressive as last week, with elbows firmly out.

Indeed with this being the last race of the season we can expect a little more argy-bargy than usual, especially in those skirmishes involving vital championship positions.

Lewis and Carlos both have to battle their way through the field so it will be fun to watch their progress.

The one remaining seat yet to be filled for next season is that at Williams alongside Alex, and in all honesty Logan has had his chance. We were always of the opinion that he was only signed up due to his nationality anyway, however the fact is that he is out of his depth. If Williams is to move further up the grid it needs another Alex, another charger capable of scoring points... that and an owner keen to restore the team to its former glory as opposed to looking to sell up for a nice price.

If Oscar can be on it right from the start there is no need to be making excuses for Logan after 21 races.

The decision taken by almost all the teams to save two sets of hards, demonstrates that the C3 is the favoured compound. On paper, a one-stop is quickest, with the medium for the first stint before switching to the aforementioned hard.

A two-stopper, with the sequence medium/hard/hard, is not that far off in terms of overall race time and could become a valid option especially if there is a neutralisation in the second part of the race.

It's hard to see the C5 coming into play, unless someone wants to gamble in the final stages on exploiting the soft's grip advantage over a used hard, with a lighter car."

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out, Max leads the way, followed by Ricciardo, Piastri, Russell and Hulkenberg.

Air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 34 degrees. However, these will drop as the sun sets.

All are starting on mediums bar Stroll Sainz and Bottas who are on hards. Fresh rubber all round except for Stroll and the Williams pair.

They head off on the formation lap.

The grid forms.

They're away. Verstappen and Leclerc are side-by-side on the run to Turn 1, and while the Monegasque has the inside line the Dutchman has superior speed and holds him off. Piastri remains third while teammate Norris edges ahead of Russell.

Further back Hamilton runs wide as Alonso passes Tsunoda

On the back straight Leclerc is all over Verstappen and almost passes him into Turn 6 courtesy of the tow, but the Dutchman holds him off.

Behind Alonso and Tsunoda there is a gaggle of cars fighting for position, as Hamilton fends off the Alpines, Perez, Stroll and Hulkenberg.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Leclerc, Piastri, Norris, Russell, Tsunoda, Alonso, Gasly, Hamilton and Perez. Sainz is 14th, while Albon has dropped to 18th.

As Verstappen pulls away from Leclerc, Piastri is under pressure from his McLaren teammate.

On Lap 3, Perez makes shot work of Hamilton for ninth. The Briton handing the place back after running wide in Turn 1 at the start.

Norris passes Piastri for third in a move that appeared to have been orchestrated.

Magnussen pits at the end of Lap 5 as Sainz passes Hulkenberg for 13th.

Ricciardo is the first driver to have a time deleted for exceeding the track limits.

As Piastri loses ground to his teammate he falls into the clutches of Russell. The Mercedes driver attacks but the Australian uses every inch of track to hold him off.

Ricciardo is warned that he may have a tear-off in his brake duct. He subsequently pits.

Piastri now leads a DRS train of 5 cars including Perez and Hamilton.

Sainz and both Williams drivers have times deleted.

Gasly is under attack from Perez and Hamilton as Russell attempts to go around the outside of Piastri in Turn 9.

On fresh rubber, Ricciardo posts a new fastest lap (29.815) as he seeks to close the gap to Sargeant.

Norris and Leclerc both have times deleted for exceeding the limits in Turn 1.

"This is good," Piastri is told, "defending well, tyre management good."

At which point the Australian locks-up and is subsequently passed by Russell.

"Right front is slowly getting a bit hurt," warns Verstappen as Tsunoda closes in on Piastri.

Perez finally gets by Gasly on the run to Turn 9 as Hamilton sizes up the Alpine driver.

Alonso pits at the end of Lap 12, the Spaniard switching to hards and rejoining in 18th.

Piastri and Hulkenberg both pit at the end of Lap 13, the Australian rejoining in 15th, 0.5s ahead of Alonso.

Next time around, Norris and Russell both pit, however it's a slow stop for the McLaren driver who rejoins in 14th just ahead of his teammate who is under intense pressure from Alonso.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Yas Marina here.


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1. Posted by Cobra Driver, 29/11/2023 13:46

"And so the final chapter of the 2023 edition of "Brundle's Blunders" is written. And what an epic finish! Brundle's grid walk, or more to the point, wild-eyed stampede, led to the discovery of Martin's w*t dream. A group of captive, second- and third-rate "entertainers" all herded together in one place, loosely secured by a couple of 12 year-old pretend security guards. And still, he had trouble entering until he displayed his red-faced outrage. All was forgiven, however, when he scored the "interview of the year", a wannabe entertainer by the name of Wish.i.was, or something. Classic Brundle. Please excuse the long diatribe. I meant to say, for the sake of the professionals in this circus, let's dispense with the bizarre and let the adults take over."

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2. Posted by kenji, 27/11/2023 1:10

"That was an entertaining race with much overtaking and some serious racing...from time to time."

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