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Who can stop Verstappen and hope for Hamilton? – Key questions after F1 finale

Max Verstappen celebrates his 15th win of the season at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Max Verstappen celebrates his 15th win of the season at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

The Formula One season concluded on Sunday with Max Verstappen winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five questions following a campaign dominated by both Verstappen and Red Bull.

Is F1 braced for a period of Verstappen domination?

The Dutch driver’s victory in Abu Dhabi was his 15th of the season and 35rd of his career. Only Lewis Hamilton (103), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53), Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (43) sit above him.

Given that Verstappen celebrated his 25th birthday only in September, and is probably yet to reach his peak at a Red Bull team built for him, it is not hyperbole to suggest Hamilton’s win record, and perhaps even the Briton’s championship haul of seven – a record he shares with Schumacher – is starting to look vulnerable.

How good has Verstappen been?

Sport is built on rivalries and the absence of a Hamilton-Verstappen rematch has been a major blow to F1. That said, nothing should be taken away from Verstappen, who is in the purple patch of his career.

Aside from two significant blips at the penultimate round in Brazil – a collision with Hamilton and subsequent refusal to switch positions with team-mate Sergio Perez – Verstappen has become a more measured version of the win-at-all-costs driver of last year, aided in part by the lack of a major rival.

He has been in a different postcode to Hamilton and Mercedes, and Charles Leclerc’s encouraging start to the season with Ferrari imploded through faults by man and machine.

What about Hamilton?

Hamilton considered retiring from the sport following Michael Masi’s botched handling of last season’s finale. However, he was persuaded to return to avenge the nightmare of Abu Dhabi and claim a record eighth crown.

But on Sunday night, Hamilton departed the Yas Marina Circuit following, statistically, his worst season.

The 37-year-old lost his unique record of winning at least one race in every year of his career. He also finished sixth in the championship – his poorest result in 16 seasons – and scored 35 fewer points than his less established team-mate George Russell.

Can Hamilton launch a title tilt next year?

Despite his turbulent season, the seven-time world champion appears motivated to right the wrongs of 2022 and turn both his and Mercedes’ fortunes around.

Hamilton, who is set to sign a new multi-year contract extension with Mercedes to take him beyond his 40th birthday, has been encouraged by his team’s improvement.

Russell claimed Mercedes’ sole win at the penultimate round in Brazil, with Hamilton completing a one-two for the grid’s once-dominant team.

But Mercedes were third best to Red Bull and Ferrari in Abu Dhabi to suggest there is plenty of work to do over the winter if they want to carry Hamilton to another championship.

How is the grid shaping up for 2023?

Sebastian Vettel brought the curtain down on his remarkable period in F1 following Sunday’s race in Abu Dhabi. The 35-year-old German was given an emotional send-off by the sport following an illustrious career which yielded four world titles and 53 wins. He will be missed.

Daniel Ricciardo took part in his final race for McLaren – and possibly the final race of his career – following two poor seasons with the British team. The 33-year-old is set to rejoin Red Bull as a reserve driver. Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, has been dropped by Haas. Nicholas Latifi is on his way out of Williams.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso, 41, is leaving Alpine to replace Vettel at Aston Martin, while highly-rated Australian Oscar Piastri will join McLaren.

Nico Hulkenberg, 35, is back after three seasons out, to take over from Schumacher. On Monday, it was confirmed that Logan Sargeant will become the first American on the grid since 2015 after securing a drive with Williams.