Hamilton was returning to the sport after missing the previous weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after testing positive for COVID-19.
From his first pole position of 2020, Verstappen aced the start to lead Bottas – who had a big slide on the exit of the first corner – and Hamilton. Verstappen quickly pulled clear of DRS range, while his teammate Alex Albon hounded Lando Norris’s McLaren for fourth.
Albon moved ahead on Lap 6, but was already 5s shy of third-placed Hamilton. Last weekend’s winner Sergio Perez was the race’s first (and only) retirement with an oil pressure problem within his Racing Point, which caused a virtual safety car under which all of the frontrunners pitted. A full safety car was then required as Perez’s car appeared to be jammed in gear.
Neither Ferrari nor Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) took the opportunity to pit, so Ricciardo – who started on the hard tyres – jumped to fifth but would have to pay with a pitstop with 15 laps to go. That dropped him behind both McLarens of Norris and Carlos Sainz, but just ahead of Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.
Sainz will be investigated after the race for backing up the pack in the pitlane when McLaren double-stacked its cars under the VSC. Regardless of a likely 5s time penalty, that was enough for McLaren to take third place in the 2020 constructors’ championship.
Verstappen stroked to a straightforward victory, well clear of the Mercedes, with Albon fourth ahead of Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo (who took fastest lap) and Gasly. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) lost ninth place to Esteban Ocon (Renault) on the final lap.
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race results
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fastest laps
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tyre history
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as it happened