The 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered for a simple phrase and an outpouring of love, respect, and admiration for a four-time World Champion. Not every day, the entire paddock and fans carried the message “Danke Seb,” his Father (the wonderfully emotive Norbert) bringing his first karting suit, helmet, and gloves for an emotional and heartwarming surprise, or for an athlete to receive a guard of honor.

Yes, Max Verstappen drove a masterful race for his fifteenth Grand Prix victory of the season, and Ferrari got the strategy call right! But the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was about saying goodbye to Sebastian Vettel. At least for now.

But it wasn’t a farewell or funeral at Yas Marina; it was more of thanks for the memories, and we’ll see you soon vibe to the weekend.

In true sports poetry, Vettel’s Abu Dhabi weekend mirrored his legendary Formula 1 career. We’ll get into the race and qualifying. Still, the narrative of our final Formula 1 Grand Prix review of 2022 revolves around Sebastian Vettel, potentially for the last time as a Grand Prix driver.

 

A Career and Race Weekend in Three Acts

Act 1: Surprising Success Early

When Sebastian Vettel first sat in a Formula 1 car, he topped the timing sheets in his first Free Practice 2 session as a rookie. His talent was undeniable, but his performance was shocking. When Vettel sat in a Toro Rosso, he set the records at the time for the youngest pole sitter and youngest Grand Prix winner.

At the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel’s qualifying performance took center stage on Saturday. Early in Q1 it looked like it was going to be another early exit from qualifying for Seb. Vettel pieced together laps and got his Aston Martin AMR-22 into Q3, avoiding and passing a Red Bull in the last two turns on all three of his best times in the qualifying session.

Act 2: The Fierce Grand Prix Racer On Display and Coming up Just Short

After Daniel Ricciardo’s grid penalty from the São Paulo Grand Prix was applied, Vettel started the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next to his biggest rival during his four World Championships with Red Bull, Fernando Alonso. Needless to say, we had to watch the race start a few times to see what happened at the front because our focus was on P9 and P10 when it was lights out, and away we go.

Vettel then found himself on the same tire strategy as the eventual race winner but dropped the order as other cars in the midfield changed tires, leaving Vettel and Aston Martin as “sitting ducks.”

But Sebastian Vettel is a four-time World Champion for a reason. Seb continued his incredible run of form that we’ve been watching since the Summer Break, working his way through the field, aiming for the best finishing position possible to help Aston Martin in their Constructors’ Championship fight.

Much like his time at Ferrari fighting with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, Seb came up just short in the end. While Vettel did score points as we predicted elsewhere and fought his way back into the points and chased down Ricciardo for ninth. However, Vettel came up short, finishing 0.620 seconds behind Ricciardo.

Vettel’s tenth-place finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix helped Aston Martin tied in the Constructors standings with Alfa Romero. However, Alfa Romero won the tie-breaker against Aston Martin on countback. Despite Vettel’s form, Aston Martin missed out on winning more prize money because Vettel came up just short.

Act 3: The Emergence of the Respected Elder Statesman

In the last race of the year, the top-ranking drivers do donuts and burnouts in front of the grandstand crowd amidst a pyrotechnic display. There are always post-race interviews with the top-three drivers. It’s not every day that the driver who finishes tenth gets the spotlight.

Clearly, this was not any other day.

Vettel took the microphone from fellow World Champion Jensen Button and delivered a quick post-race speech that reflected his emergence as a respected and revered elder statesman of the grid. Grateful, humble, gracious, and with a message of hope and a reminder that another race needs to be run and, hopefully, won.

The End…For Now

While we say, Danke Seb, we are very aware of Audi’s entry into Formula 1 in 2026, eventually taking over (for all intents and purposes) the Alfa Romero-Sauber team. Whether we see Super Sub Seb at Suzuka, in the role of sporting director for the Audi F1 team, or mirroring hero Michael Schumacher’s retirement and return to Formula 1 with a German automotive manufacturer’s works team, we’ll likely see Sebastian Vettel again in some form.

But for now, we say Danke Seb, Wir sehen uns auf der Straße! (We’ll see you down the road).

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying

Another story was overshadowed by Formula 1’s weekend-long tribute to Vettel: the fight for second in the Drivers’ Championship. Sergio Pérez and Charles Leclerc were tied on points heading into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Throughout practice, Ferrari was seemingly off the pace, while Mercedes was second behind the flying Red Bulls.

The Mercedes duo dropped off in qualifying and were never the threat they could have been, while we had a Red Bull front row and an all-Ferrari second row, with Leclerc and Pérez separated by 0.040 seconds.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Fastest Qualifier: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 1:23.824

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Are you ready for our final flying lap of the 2022 Formula 1 season? We promise it’ll be a fast one.

Lights out, and away we go!

Max Verstappen asserted his position in P1 over Checo at turn 1, taking the race from turn 1, masterfully managing his tires, and never making a mistake, cruising to a sublime fifteenth win of the season. We’ll have time to explore Verstappen’s incredible 2022 during the Winter break.

Pérez challenged Verstappen at turn 1 but was quickly forced to back off in reaction to Max’s masterful start and line through the first two corners. Checo didn’t have a chance as Max placed his car perfectly and took the best possible line off the race start possible.

There were overtakes and on-track battles across the grid. Lewis Hamilton’s acrimonious relationship with the fatally-flawed W-13 led to his first DNF of the season – a remarkable testament to Mercedes’ reliability. But the focus was Sebastian Vettel, strategy, and the race for second.

Checo was on a different strategy from Leclerc and Verstappen. Checo wasn’t going to get help from Max and needed to do it on track himself. He also needed to work through back markers and midfield cars on older tires. Pérez made one mistake costing him a second or so of race time, and then needed extra time to clear the midfield as he charged to the front.

Pérez was on pace to catch Leclerc on the last lap, despite his fight through the pack.

Meanwhile, Ferrari and Leclerc were sitting in second place in a race to be determined by strategy. That’s a recipe for disaster for Ferrari.

However, Ferrari GOT the STRATEGY RIGHT!!!!!!!!

With Ferrari leaving Leclerc on a one-stop strategy, Leclerc pushing hard, and Pérez having to make his way through the field and making a mistake or two along the way was enough to keep Ferrari and Leclerc in second place in both the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Drivers’ Standings.

Oh, and George Russell finished in the top six for the nineteenth time this season.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Top 6

P1: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 1:27.45.914

P2: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – +8.771

P3: Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) – +10.093

P4: Calos Sainz (Ferrari) – +24.982

P5: George Russell (Mercedes) – +35.888

P6: Lando Norris (McLaren) – +56.234

Up Next: ???

So, what’s next? Well, testing begins at the end of February for the 2023 Formula 1 season. As for what’s next in Knupsports coverage of Formula 1? We’ll bring you the news and notes from Winter break, but we’ve got a few things in the works.

We’ll have an obligatory Formula 1 year in review, do a deep dive into Max Verstappen’s dominant 2022 season, and maybe we’ll tell part of the story of how the greatest racer of all time became the Wiley ‘Ol Campaigner.

 


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