Mercedes admit they face ‘Everest-sized’ challenge to rein in Red Bull next year

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton was in a gloomy mood after ending the season with a ninth-placed finish in Abu Dhabi - Getty Images/Edmund So

Mercedes admit they face a “Mount Everest-sized” challenge to rein in Red Bull next year after Max Verstappen’s comfortable win at the season finale in Abu Dhabi completed the most dominant year in Formula One history.

Verstappen ultimately cruised to his 19th win in 22 races beneath the lights at Yas Marina, meaning the Milton Keynes-based team won an extraordinary 21 out of 22 races in total. Only Singapore eluded them.

And while Mercedes did in the end manage to beat Ferrari to second spot in the constructors’ championship, thanks to George Russell’s third place and Lewis Hamilton’s ninth, it was a gloomy Hamilton who faced the media afterwards.

“Not great,” the seven-time world champion admitted when asked how he felt at the end of a second-consecutive winless year. “I just finished ninth. I’ve had two really bad races [in a row]. Red Bull won by 17 seconds and haven’t touched [developed] their car since August or July. So you can pretty much guess where they’re going to be next year…”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton was simply speaking from the heart at the end of what was a “bad weekend” from the 38-year-old’s perspective. But the Austrian added that he was still “the greatest driver in the world”, and still capable of fighting for that record eighth world title, if only the team could give him a car capable of doing so.

Mercedes decided in April to rip up their current car concept and start building something fundamentally different for next year. There are risks attached to that, but Wolff said it was a necessary gamble if the team were to stand any chance of catching Red Bull.

Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Max Verstappen celebrates after winning in Abu Dhabi - Shutterstock/Ali Haider

“Red Bull started the [current set of] regulations last season with a massive advantage and they have been able to maintain it,” he explained. “We have a lot of respect for their achievement, from the engineering side, and the driver side, and beating them under these regulations [which last until 2026] is against the odds. That is clear.

“But we have seen with McLaren, where an update unlocked a second of time, there is a key to unlocking dramatically more performance.

“We had to be honest that this car was never going to be good enough to fight for a world championship. We took the decision in April to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new next year. But Mount Everest is in front of us.

“We are changing the concept. We are completely moving away from how we lay out the chassis, the weight distribution, the airflow, literally every component has been changed because only by doing that do we have a chance [of beating Red Bull].

“You could get it wrong also. Everything is possible. There is always scepticism. But that is the mentality in the team that pushes us forward, to never give up.”

Wolff added that beating Ferrari to second place in the constructors’ championship, with the extra $10 million in prize money that that entailed, had left him with a “bittersweet” feeling.

Their fight provided the only real drama of what was a pretty uneventful season finale. Mercedes had begun the day just four points ahead of Ferrari in the standings, and the two teams swapped positions multiple times during the course of the race as their drivers moved up and down the field.

Eventually, with his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz out of the points, and knowing his own second place would not be enough, Charles Leclerc tried something clever. He allowed Red Bull’s third-placed Sergio Perez to pass him on the final lap, knowing the Mexican had to serve a five-second penalty post-race.

Leclerc had worked out that if he could finish within five seconds of Perez, and Russell, behind him, could not, then Ferrari and Mercedes would finish level on points, with Ferrari claiming second on countback as they actually won a race this season.

In the end, it was not enough. Leclerc let Perez past but then declined to hold Russell up, meaning they both finished within five seconds of the Mexican. “Charles only half-did the job,” Horner noted.

Wolff was thankful for Leclerc’s good sportsmanship. “He could have put the handbrake on,” the Austrian admitted. “It shows the character of the driver.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, left, celebrates with second placed Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc's second place was not enough for Ferrari to snatch second place in the constructors' standings from Mercedes - AP/Kamran Jebreili

Behind them, McLaren, for whom Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finished fifth and sixth respectively, took fourth in the constructors ahead of Aston Martin. Those two teams, as well as Mercedes and Ferrari, will hope they can close the gap to Red Bull over the winter. But as Wolff admitted, the odds are against them.

“We must leave no stone unturned,” he concluded. “As tough as it is, it is also a great opportunity to come back and aim for the stars.

Max Verstappen wins 19th race of 2023 in Abu Dhabi: as it happened

03:18 PM GMT

That brings an end to our live coverage for the 2023 season

Thanks for joining us but overall, good riddance to 2023, I say. Let’s hope 2024 is a vast improvement. We will return for pre-season testing in Bahrain on February 21, a little under three months and 87 days away. A little bit more from us in the coming days, though including driver ratings and Gary Anderson’s technical analysis column.

03:16 PM GMT

The final cool-down room of 2023

Russell says he’s been felling pretty rough in the last few races and you can hear his cough in this one.

02:58 PM GMT

There's not too long to go until the 2024 season

It will be the longest season on record at 24 races. Here’s the full schedule.

You can also read more on the season including the latest on sprints, driver line-ups and our tentative prediction.

02:54 PM GMT

2023 final constructor standings

Teams that can be happy: Red Bull, McLaren, Williams I think. AlphaTauri possibly given how they ended the season. Just three points after round 12 in Belgium but then 22 in the final 10 rounds including 20 in the last five rounds.

02:47 PM GMT

2023 final driver standings

Fernando Alonso clinches fourth ahead on countback ahead of Leclerc. Leclerc just one point ahead of Norris. Sainz with a couple of poor weekends to finish ends up seventh, though he has the consolation of being the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race.

02:43 PM GMT

Max Verstappen speaks after his 19th win of 2023

“Incredible season. It was a bit emotional on the in-lap, the last time I was sitting in a car which has given me a lot. I have to say a big thank you to everyone at Red Bull. It has been an incredible year. It will be hard to do something similar again, but we enjoyed this year.”

02:42 PM GMT

Charles Leclerc on his second second place in a row

A good end to a difficult season for him. He is disappointed that Ferrari did not take Mercedes for second place. More on the standings shortly.

“On one hand I am really happy because on a weekend like this there wasn’t one thing I could have done better. we did an incredible job doing everything right it’s just a shame that we finished third in the constructors... that is all that mattered to me. I would like to thank the team for doing incredible work. The team has done an incredible job pushing until the last race.”

02:40 PM GMT

George Russell on his second podium of 2023

“It means a huge amount. So many people back at the factory who have worked so hard to achieve this... I’ve let the side down a couple of times this season... I can chill out now! I came out of the pits on the second set of hards and then Checo just came from nowhere. It was really tense at the end but just really pleased to secure P2 for the team. Massive relief to have brought the car home P3, but really happy to end the season this way.”

02:37 PM GMT

Well, that's the 2023 season over

I don’t think many neutral fans will miss it. Good at every point for Verstappen and Red Bull fans, at various points for McLaren and Aston Martin and Williams fans but very mixed for most of the other teams.

Anyway, Mercedes clinch second in the standings. Williams keep their seventh place in a very good season.

02:34 PM GMT

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Classification

  1. VER

  2. LEC

  3. RUS

  4. PER

  5. NOR

  6. PIA

  7. ALO

  8. TSU

  9. HAM

  10. STR

  11. RIC

  12. OCO

  13. GAS

  14. ALB

  15. HUL

  16. SAR

  17. ZHO

  18. SAR

  19. BOT

  20. MAG

02:33 PM GMT


An easy win. Fairly interesting behind him. He leads him Leclerc, Russell, Perez, Norris and Piastri. Hamilton get ahead of Tsunoda on the last lap but lost the position again after getting a tank-slapper.

02:32 PM GMT


Perez is going to struggle to stretch the lead to five seconds here... it’s nearly four with half the lap left.

Verstappen crosses the finish line to take his 19th victory of the season. It was never in doubt.

Perez takes second place but will drop to fourth after his penalty, which means that Russell gets a podium and Mercedes keep second place in the standings.

02:31 PM GMT

Lap 57 of 58 - Leclerc offering Perez DRS to get him five-seconds ahead of Russell

Well, he is telling his team that he is willing to do that. Not sure if that works.

The gap is currently three seconds.... Leclerc is dropping back.

In fact Leclerc has let Perez through!

02:29 PM GMT

Lap 56 of 58 - It will be tight for Perez to get that five seconds

He was 0.8sec faster that last lap, but I don’t think he has the pace to get it to five seconds...

Alonso gets Tsunoda for seventh which further helps Williams. Good race for Tsunoda, though, and he has had a good if under-the-radar season.

02:28 PM GMT

Lap 55 of 58 - Tsunoda is in seventh which means six points

That is not enough for AlphaTauri to claim seventh off Williams, who are not in a points-scoring position.

Should Perez get that five seconds gap to beat Russell to third that would, I think, give Ferrari second place if it finished as it is. I think and even if Sainz drops out of the points, which he will. It would be on virtue of wins.

02:26 PM GMT

Lap 54 of 58 - Verstappen leads Leclerc by 12.1s

Easy peasy. Perez gets Russell for third but now needs to extend that lead to five seconds or more to take the podium. What does that do to the Mercedes/Ferrari battle? Nothing just yet.

Sainz still hasn’t stopped twice and is in 10th.

02:25 PM GMT

Lap 53 of 58 - Perez could still get fourth here

He is extending his lead over Lando Norris and it is now 4.5sec.

From the FIA on those pit-stop infringements: “The pit stop infringements are relating to pit crew potentially not wearing the required eye protection during a stop.”

Verstappen and Sargeant’s crew also under investigation for that, I believe, as well as Hamilton and Gasly.

02:22 PM GMT

Lap 52 of 58 - Perez not happy with the penalty

Hmmm. Here is the incident:

02:22 PM GMT

Lap 51 of 58 - Mercedes vs Ferrari battle

Ferrari on 19 points but Sainz is surely not taking 10th here. Mercedes on 17, which means Mercedes would keep second.

Anyway, Perez gets a five-second time penalty for causing a collision. That would drop him to fifth behind Lando Norris and ahead of Oscar Piastri. That helps Mercedes, as Perez had good pace.

02:20 PM GMT

Lap 50 of 58 - Top 10 and gaps

Sainz has not stopped yet so is only waiting for a Safety Car here. They obviously given up any hope of getting him on some fresher rubber and making up the time to the drivers ahead.

  1. VER

  2. LEC +8.5

  3. RUS +11.7

  4. PER +15.4

  5. NOR +17.9

  6. PIA +25.1

  7. TSU +27.0

  8. ALO +31.3

  9. HAM +34.9

  10. SAI 39.6

02:18 PM GMT

Lap 49 of 58 - More on Hamilton's infringement

It’s that some of the Mercedes mechanics did not have the requisite equipment being worn correctly. Gasly is also under investigation for that, but I am unsure if that is a sporting penalty or a team fine. Most likely the latter.

02:17 PM GMT

Lap 48 of 58 - Perez gets Norris this time

So he will not have to give the place back. Norris gets DRS, though, and tries to go around the outside but fails.

That incident on the previous lap is being looked at. Perez for causing a collision. He might pick up a penalty as he didn’t try his best to take the corner as you normally would but it was a case of under-steering into Norris, I’d say. It was robust but happens.

02:16 PM GMT

Lap 47 of 58 - Perez goes up the inside of Norris for fourth at turn nine

But Norris runs off the escape road and keeps the place. He will surely have to give that place back.

“He just crashed into me,” Norris says. “He just steered into me,” Perez says. Hmmm.

Sainz loses ninth place to Hamilton which means the Mercedes/Ferrari pendulum swings in another direction.

02:15 PM GMT

Lap 46 of 58 - Alonso takes eighth off Sainz...

Not really sure how Mercedes vs Ferrari is going to pan out. Perez is probably going to get Russell for third... but will he get Leclerc?

02:12 PM GMT

Lap 45 of 58 - Worse news for Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton noted for a pit stop infringement. Not exactly sure what. Perez the fastest man on track and is rapidly closing in on Lando Norris. This could well be a podium, or even second, for Perez at this rate.

02:11 PM GMT

Lap 44 of 58 - It's only Sainz in the top 10 who has to stop again

Here’s how it stands:

  1. VER

  2. LEC

  3. RUS

  4. NOR

  5. PER

  6. TSU

  7. PIA

  8. SAI

  9. ALO

  10. HAM

Ferrari scoring 22 points, Mercedes 16 as it stands but Sainz has to stop again. Piastri holds the fastest lap points.

02:10 PM GMT

Lap 43 of 58 - Verstappen leads Leclerc by 25sec

But the Dutchman is about to stop for the second and hopefully last time...

02:08 PM GMT

Lap 42 of 58 - Sainz is asked for a race update

He has been told to wait as long as possible and to hope for a Safety Car. That is probably his best hope of scoring a few points. Norris moves up into fifth ahead of Tsunoda. If that stays as it is, Williams would lose seventh place to AlphaTauri. Not sure Tsunoda is staying there, though.

02:06 PM GMT

Lap 41 of 58 - Mercedes vs Ferrari watch

Mercedes currently on course to score 12 points, Ferrari 17. Ferrari, then, would take second by a single point...

02:04 PM GMT

Lap 40 of 58 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. PER +16.5

  3. LEC +30.6

  4. RUS +32.6

  5. TSU +34.1

  6. NOR +35.7

  7. STR +38.6

  8. PIA +42.3

  9. SAI +43.9

  10. OCO +44.9

02:03 PM GMT

Lap 39 of 58 - Verstappen leads Perez

Alonso has been noted for erratic driving.

02:03 PM GMT

Lap 38 of 58 - Alonso says they are the slowest car down the straight

But Alonso gets him back to move into 11th again. Hamilton says he was brake-tested by Alonso on the long straight and he is correct. He came off the power in the middle of the straight as he was drifting right and off the track. A bit odd...

02:00 PM GMT

Lap 37 of 58 - Verstappen leads Perez by 16.1sec

Verstappen (and Perez) have yet to stop for a second time. Norris eventually gets Stroll for sixth place. Alonso gets overtaken by Hamilton for 11th, but they should both move up when others stop.

01:59 PM GMT

Lap 36 of 68 - Can Leclerc keep Russell behind?

Yes, he does. Stroll has allowed Norris to close in on Russell but in the end he actually helps the Mercedes, giving him the use of DRS down the straight and he takes seventh place from the Aston Martin. Norris needs to dispatch the Canadian pretty sharpish if he is to trouble Russell, though I suspect the Mercedes has the pace over the McLaren today.

01:57 PM GMT

Lap 35 of 58 - Norris vs Russell

He keeps the place ahead of Norris but the McLaren is charging. Seems to be a decent out lap from the Mercedes man but Russell has Stroll ahead of him... this could give Norris a chance.

Meanwhile in comes Leclerc...

01:57 PM GMT

Lap 34 of 58 - In comes Russell

This will be to cover Norris who just pitted. He wanted to stay out a bit longer and try a one-stop strategy but is overruled. He has a good chance of second today, which would be his best result of a difficult year.

01:55 PM GMT

Lap 33 of 58 - Verstappen's lead over Leclerc is now eight seconds

I imagine he will get to around 10-12 seconds and leave it there. Norris comes into the pits from fourth, but he was about to get eaten up by Perez. Will it be a quicker stop than last time? Yes. 2.3sec this time. Not rapid but pretty decent. He comes out behind Stroll and in 10th.

01:53 PM GMT

Lap 32 of 58 - Verstappen leads Leclerc by 7.5sec

Russell’s pace is pretty much the same as Leclerc’s and has made no further inroads into the Ferrari in second place. Norris likewise on Russell. Perez has the pace to challenge Norris for fifth, though, and will be on his rear wing in the next five or six laps at this rate.

01:51 PM GMT

Lap 31 of 58 - This is a classic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

That is to say... a little bit dull.

01:49 PM GMT

Lap 30 of 58 - Bottas pits for a first time

He slipped back down the field a fair amount.

01:48 PM GMT

Lap 29 of 58 - Full order at half race distance

  1. VER

  2. LEC

  3. RUS

  4. NOR

  5. PER

  6. PIA

  7. ALO

  8. HAM

  9. TSU

  10. STR

  11. RIC

  12. OCO

  13. GAS

  14. SAI

  15. BOT

  16. HL

  17. ALB

  18. ZHO

  19. SAR

  20. MAG

01:47 PM GMT

Lap 28 of 58 - Verstappen now leads Leclerc by six seconds

Yes, this is exactly what everyone thought would happen.

01:46 PM GMT

Lap 27 of 58 - Russell closing in on Leclerc for second

Not at a massive rate of knots, but by a tenth or two per lap. Perez is chasing down Piastri for fifth. McLaren in no danger of losing that fourth place in the standings to Aston Martin.

01:44 PM GMT

Lap 26 of 58 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. LEC +5.5

  3. RUS +7.0

  4. NOR +9.8

  5. PIA +13.1

  6. PER +14.3

  7. ALO +15.2

  8. HAM +20.3

  9. TSU +22.1

  10. RIC +23.1

01:42 PM GMT

Lap 25 of 58 - Mercedes would finish ahead of Ferrari as it stands

Russell showing good pace for Mercedes in third.

01:41 PM GMT

Lap 24 of 58 - Sainz comes in

A good stop, as he switches to the hard tyres. So that will have to be two stops. Stroll has gone from hard tyre to hard tyre so he also has to stop again. Tsunoda could one-stop here. So could Bottas, who is the last man to stop.

01:39 PM GMT

Lap 23 of 58 - Tsunoda finally pits which means Verstappen is back in the lead

As we have seen so often recently, the Red Bull driver has started to stretch his lead in the second stint. 4.4sec it is now ahead of Leclerc, with Russell 1.9sec behind the Ferrari, Norris 2.2sec behind him.

01:38 PM GMT

Lap 22 of 58 - Verstappen gets Stroll for second

As Leclerc gets Sainz for fourth. Leclerc losing time to Verstappen since they began their second stint.

Tsunoda maintains his lead and looks to be going for a definite one-stops strategy. Sure, he will drop down once he pits but the AlphaTauri late-season form has been superb. A good chance of a decent points haul today. Enough to overtake Williams for seventh? Not sure. Not impossible.

Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT04 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT04 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

01:35 PM GMT

Lap 21 of 58 - Perez currently the fastest man on track

Here’s the top 10:

  1. TSU

  2. STR

  3. VER

  4. SAI

  5. LEC

  6. RUS

  7. NOR

  8. PIA

  9. ALO

  10. BOT

Drivers in bold yet to stop.

01:34 PM GMT

Lap 20 of 58 - Just over a third race distance

Verstappen gets past Sainz fairly easily. Gasly is unhappy that he has been undercut by team-mate Ocon, who was behind at the first pit stops. There was two laps difference when the pair stopped and Gasly has been stitched up there.

01:32 PM GMT

Lap 19 of 58 - Russell now on the back of Leclerc after that earlier stop

Verstappen is 3.4sec ahead of Leclerc, but the has the other Ferrari of Sainz ahead of him. Sainz can play a role here for his team.

01:31 PM GMT

Lap 18 of 58 - Leclerc pits from second

That means Yuki Tsunoda now leads Stroll and Sainz. it’s then Verstappen, Leclerc, Bottas and then Russell.

01:29 PM GMT

Lap 17 of 58 - Verstappen pits at the end of the last lap

Leclerc stays out and he will lead Tsunoda. Hamilton says he has “definitely lost some front end”. Verstappen comes out in seventh behind the Ferrari of Sainz, who is going longer on the hard tyres. Not sure Sainz will be able to keep that Red Bull behind for long if he wants to help his team-mate’s chances of the win out.

01:28 PM GMT

Lap 16 of 58 - Full order

None of the top nine have stopped. Everyone else has.

  1. VER

  2. LEC

  3. TSU

  4. PER

  5. GAS

  6. STR

  7. SAI

  8. BOT

  9. ALB

  10. RUS

  11. NOR

  12. PIA

  13. ALO

  14. RIC

  15. HAM

  16. OCO

  17. MAG

  18. HUL

  19. ZHO

  20. SAR

01:28 PM GMT

Lap 15 of 58 - Hamilton tags the back of Gasly

We only saw the end of it but his front-wing left end-late is askew.

“I’ve just damaged my front wing. He locked up in front of me,” he says. It wasn’t a particularly hard hit and not much Gasly or Hamilton could have done there. Hamilton could have backed up, I guess but he might have locked up himself.

Hamilton pits from ninth. They do not change the front wing at Mercedes.

01:26 PM GMT

Lap 14 of 58 - Piastri comes out JUST ahead of Alonso

But Alonso will have warmer tyres... Piastri locks up and that gives Alonso the advantage heading into turn nine... can he keep the place? Yes, so far.

Norris in the other McLaren has been told to pit and George Russell follows him in. It’s a painfully slow stop from Norris, who is overtaken in the pit lane by Russell! Could that cost the team a podium? I think they are probably looking safe in the battle for fourth with Aston Martin but let’s see...

01:24 PM GMT

Lap 13 of 58 - Verstappen leads Leclerc by 1.7sec

He is very comfortable in the lead. Alonso comes into the pits which suggests a two-stop strategy from here.

Piastri comes into the pits at the end of the lap...

01:22 PM GMT

Lap 12 of 58 - Piastri now under pressure

Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri is right on his rear wing.

“Right front is slowly getting a bit hurt,” Verstappen says.

Better news for Red Bull is that Perez has overtaken Gasly for eighth place. Nothing at stake for Perez other than points here; he has already secured second in the drivers’ standings.

01:21 PM GMT

Lap 11 of 58 - Ferrari vs Mercedes

Ferrari currently scoring 18 points. Mercedes scoring 11, which would mean Ferrari take second in the standings.

Russell harries Piastri again at the start of the lap and then eventually - finally - gets the move done at turn nine. That means it’s Ferrari 18 and Mercedes 13... which means Ferrari would take second by just one point as it stands.

01:19 PM GMT

Lap 10 of 58 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. LEC +1.4

  3. NOR +2.7

  4. PIA +4.6

  5. RUS +4.6

  6. TSU +6.2

  7. ALO +6.8

  8. GAS +7.9

  9. PER +8.7

  10. HAM +9.1

  11. OCO +10.3

01:18 PM GMT

Lap 9 of 58 - Leclerc keeping Verstappen honest

But I don’t think the leader is under any real threat.

01:18 PM GMT

Lap 8 of 58 - Verstappen extends his lead to 1.5sec over Leclerc

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-23 during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-23 during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Hamilton is still behind Perez, with DRS. In fact most cars have DRS on the one ahead, which is what can sometimes happen at this track. DRS trains aplenty.

01:15 PM GMT

Lap 7 of 58 - Verstappen leads Leclerc by 1.5sec

Norris is a second behind him and Russell is attacking Piastri and has DRS but cannot get the job done initially and then goes around the outside at turn nine but cannot get the job done there, either.

01:13 PM GMT

Lap 6 of 58 - Magnussen comes into the pits to change his tyres

Most of the runners are on fresh medium tyres, with a few on the hards - Stroll and Sainz the most notable ones.

01:12 PM GMT

Watch: Verstappen leads Leclerc at race start

01:11 PM GMT

Lap 5 of 58 - Norris gets Piastri for third

He sets the fastest lap of the race in the process and now sets about charging down the Leclerc of Ferrari in second place, who trails leader Verstappen by 1.4sec.

01:09 PM GMT

Lap 4 of 58 - Top 10 as it stands

  1. VER

  2. LEC

  3. PIA

  4. NOR

  5. RUS

  6. TSU

  7. ALO

  8. GAS

  9. PER

  10. HAM

01:08 PM GMT

Lap 3 of 58 - Leclerc has closed in on the lead now

He’s back within a second of the Red Bull in the lead. Perez makes up a place on Hamilton, who is now down in 10th. Leclerc may have close in on the lead but Piastri in third is even closer to him.

01:07 PM GMT

Lap 2 of 58 - Verstappen leads Leclerc

He has extended his lead to 1.3sec on this lap. Norris is closing in on Piastri, who is closing in on Leclerc in second...

Hamilton is up into ninth, Perez down into 10th. Sainz into 13th from 16th.

01:06 PM GMT


It’s a good start for Leclerc, who takes the inside line but Verstappen just drives around the outside, cleanly and into the lead! They pair battle throughout the rest of the lap, Leclerc getting his nose in front briefly in the middle sector but Verstappen has the grip and the nous to keep the lead!

Norris ahead of Russell on that first lap too, into fourth. Good racing at the very front.

01:04 PM GMT

Here we go

The drivers are all lined up on the grid. Verstappen ahead of Leclerc, Piastri and Russell.

01:01 PM GMT

More from Tom Cary on the grid

“Zak Brown seen giving some last minute words of encouragement to Oscar Piastri. Or maybe just reminding him that if he and Lando Norris find themselves in the same vicinity on track, not to take each other out.”

12:58 PM GMT

Not long to go now

Predictions? Can anyone challenge Verstappen?... I mean.

12:50 PM GMT

Toto Wolff speaks to Sky Sports F1

“We are always trying to achieve the maximum... second and third is not what you want to achieve but today we are going to give it our all to try and achieve the maximum.”

12:43 PM GMT

Tom Cary is also there on the grid for us

“Pierre Wache checking out the opposition Mclaren car
“Pierre Wache checking out the opposition Mclaren car

“Pierre Wache checking out the opposition. Will McLaren be the biggest threat to Red Bull today? And next season?”

Footballer Ronaldo (Brazil) speaks to Red Bull
Footballer Ronaldo (Brazil) speaks to Red Bull

“In a sea of celebrities, this guy is definitely the biggest draw. The original.”

12:40 PM GMT

I'm trying to think of the best/most memorable moment of 2023


12:37 PM GMT

There is also the battle for seventh between Williams and AlphaTauri

Williams lead by seven points but AlphaTauri have been in good form of late and they have Tsunoda starting in sixth. Were he to finish there he would score eight points...

12:33 PM GMT

Final starting grid for today's race

2. LEC 1. VER
4. RUS 3. PIA
6. TSU 5. NOR
8. HUL 7. ALO
10. GAS 9. PER
12. OCO 11. HAM
14. ALB 13. STR
16. SAI 15. RIC
18. BOT 17. MAG
20. SAR 19. ZHO

12:27 PM GMT

The 72-year-old who fixes broken F1 drivers in his Ford Puma

A very interesting feature piece from earlier in the week from Natasha Bird.

Rob Wilson poses in front of a Ford Puma
Rob Wilson poses in front of a Ford Puma

When the best racers in the world find their careers on the line, they call Rob Wilson – Telegraph Sport finds out why.

12:22 PM GMT

A bit more on Lando Norris and McLaren from Tom Cary

It speaks volumes for McLaren’s dramatic improvement this year that Lando Norris left the mixed zone after qualifying in Abu Dhabi on Saturday absolutely furious with himself, bemoaning a “stupid mistake” on his final lap which left him fifth on the grid for Sunday’s season-ending grand prix.

“I’m just doing a s--- job on a Saturday,” Norris fumed as he stalked off. “It was a terrible day for me today.”

What Norris and McLaren would have done for such a ‘terrible’ day at the start of this season. Eight months ago, Norris qualified 11th and finished 17th at the season-opener in Bahrain, two laps down on winner Max Verstappen.

Read more from Tom, over in Abu Dhabi, here. 

12:15 PM GMT

Ferrari vs Mercedes is the battle to watch today

Sadly the winners of the championships have been decided but there is some pride at stake for the best-of-the-rest team. Mercedes currently lead Ferrari by four points heading into the final race. Ferrari have had an excellent upturn in form since the Dutch Grand Prix, when they trailed Mercedes by 54 points and were behind even Aston Martin.

Here’s what Lewis Hamilton had to say about his team’s hopes of finishing second.

It would better their 2022 result by one place, but given they won eight titles in a row from 2014-2021...

It’s fairly evenly poised with a driver from each team in the top four and one from each outside the top 10.

12:06 PM GMT

F1 qualifying head-to-heads in 2023

Red Bull: Verstappen 20 Sergio Perez 2
Mercedes: Hamilton 11 Russell 11
Ferrari: Leclerc 15 Sainz 7
McLaren: Norris 15 Piastri 7
Aston Martin: Alonso 19 Stroll 3
Alpine: Gasly 14 Ocon 8
Williams: Albon 22 Sargeant 0
AlphaTauri: Tsunoda 8 De Vries 2, Tsunoda 4 Ricciardo 3, Tsunoda 2 Lawson 3
Alfa Romeo: Bottas 15 Zhou 7
Haas: Hulkenberg 15 Magnussen 7

Few drivers really took a pounding, with only Perez, Stroll and Sargeant failing to register seven qualifying ‘wins’ over their team-mate over a full season.

12:02 PM GMT

The classic end-of-year photo

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 26, 2023 The drivers pose for a group photo before the race
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 26, 2023 The drivers pose for a group photo before the race

Most of those drivers are at the same team for the start of next year; Logan Sargeant the only one who has yet to be confirmed. But how many of them will be in place at the end of 2024?

11:53 AM GMT

Current constructor standings

11:48 AM GMT

Current driver standings - Top 10

11:39 AM GMT

Fair to say Lando Norris was not best pleased with his Q3

11:35 AM GMT

Qualifying times for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  1. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 23.445secs

  2. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:23.584

  3. Oscar Piastri (Aus) McLaren 1:23.782

  4. George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:23.788

  5. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:23.816

  6. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:23.968

  7. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Aston Martin 1:24.084

  8. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Haas F1 Team 1:24.108

  9. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:24.171

  10. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpine 1:24.548

  11. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:24.359

  12. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:24.391

  13. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:24.422

  14. Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:24.439

  15. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:24.442

  16. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spa) Ferrari 1:24.738

  17. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 Team 1:24.764

  18. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:24.788

  19. Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:25.159

  20. Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams no time set

11:30 AM GMT

Good morning F1 fans

Welcome to our coverage for the final race of the season – the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Glad it’s nearly over? Well, I think you would have good reason to be. Yes, you can talk about the excellent battles behind the very front but that is not the headline draw of F1. It’s who wins that matters. Who can remember who finished second in the 2002 constructors’ championship? Exactly.

The season has been dominated by Max Verstappen since race one, pretty much. There was a brief period after four rounds where Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was holding his own but since then he has been mired in a battle with the Ferraris, McLarens, Aston Martins and Mercedes cars despite driving what will end up being the most dominant F1 car in history.

Things have been a little closer in recent months with Ferrari denying Red Bull a clean sweep in Singapore but, really, does another team winning one race out of 22 really make that much of a difference? Even in Mercedes’ best years Ferrari or Red Bull would pop up with a few wins here and there. And even in those leaner years for competition Nico Rosberg or Valtteri Bottas gave a better account of themselves in the title than Perez has.

Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing looks on from the drivers parade prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Sergio Perez has been left in Max Verstappen's wake - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

How much are Red Bull and Verstappen holding in reserve, too? Both titles were clinched long ago and were a formality long before that. Unfortunately the final race of the year looks like going the way that the vast majority of the others in the last 18 months have done, with Verstappen strolling to victory.

After a difficult FP3 yesterday he managed to get his RB19 in the window and himself in the zone and took pole position by a few tenths over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Lando Norris in the McLaren may have challenged for pole – at least he thinks so – but made a mistake on his final flying lap.

Four different manufacturers in the top four is encouraging (and Red Bull have not been a shoo-in for pole in the last few months) but you would feel that someone needs to take out Verstappen on the first lap to be able to live with his race pace.

Anyway, the race gets going at 1pm GMT and we are here for all the build-up, live updates and reaction as the 2023 season ends.