Max ended the 2019 season on a high by claiming his ninth podium finish of the campaign with second place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and third place overall in the Drivers’ Standings. Alex added to a rich points haul by claiming his eighth top-six finish of the season. The race at the Yas Marina Circuit was won by 2019 champion elect Lewis Hamilton.
At the race start, polesittter Hamilton made a good getaway to lead into the first corner. Behind him Max made a solid start but quickly came under pressure from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who had got away better. Max resisted but then at the end of the long second straight, the Monegasque outgunned the Dutchman and Max was demoted to P3.
Behind him Sebastian Vettel settled into fourth ahead of Alex who made a good start and defended first-lap pressure from the McLarens of sixth-placed Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz who had passed Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo off the line to steal P7. The field then settled into the first stint with Max and Alex staying tight to the Ferrari’s ahead.
The Italian squad then opted to pit both drivers at the end of lap 12. And though Leclerc’s stop for hard tyres went smoothly, there was a problem with Vettel’s front left wheel and the German lost precious seconds while the problem was rectified. Leclerc resumed in P4 behind Hamilton, Max and Alex, but Vettel slipped to seventh.
The Team reacted immediately and pitted Alex at the end of the next lap and after taking hard tyres in a regulation 2.8s stop, the Thai driver re-joined just two seconds behind Vettel.
Hamilton and second-place Max continued to circulate their starting mediums and others further back pitted. Hard-charging Valtteri Bottas, who had started from P20 due to engine penalties, was up to fourth place behind Leclerc, with Vettel fifth and Alex sixth.
Max eventually made his sole stop of the evening on lap 25, taking on hard tyres. He emerged in third place, though just four seconds behind Leclerc and on newer tyres. Mercedes reacted by bringing Hamilton in at the end of the next lap and the Briton re-joined in the lead.
Max then began to report issues with power delivery in his car but the problems didn’t prevent him quickly closing down Leclerc and on lap 32 he slipped past the Ferrari down the inside into turn eight as Leclerc dealt with a backmarking Williams. The Monegasque driver fought back by trying to retake P2 around the outside into turn 11 but Max held a strong line and after banging wheels the Red Bull emerged in P2.
Further back, Bottas was closing hard on the leaders. Following his stop on lap 29 he was 8.8s behind fifth-placed Alex, but by lap 38 he had reduced the deficit to just 1.5s. Alex did his best to resist but the pace of the Mercedes on newer tyres was too much and on the following lap he was forced to give way.
With the Finn on a charge, Ferrari opted to pit both its drivers on lap 38 and when they emerged, Max found himself 29 seconds ahead of third-placed Leclerc, while Alex, in fifth, now 18.6s clear of Vettel.
Armed with new medium tyres, Vettel began to carve his way through the gap to Alex and as the Red Bull crossed the line to begin the penultimate lap the German pounced. Alex did his best to resist but with greater grip and pace on his side Vettel powered past and Alex was forced to settle for sixth place.
At the front, Hamilton was in cruise control, and after 55 laps he crossed the line to take his 11th victory ahead of Max, for whom P2 ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was enough to seal third place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Fourth place went to Mercedes’ Bottas, with Vettel fifth ahead of Alex.
There was plenty of drama in the lower half of the top 10 on the final lap as Sergio Pérez passed Lando Norris for seventh place, while behind ninth-placed Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz stole P10 from Daniel Ricciardo.