Daniel Ricciardo finishes ninth in final F1 race with McLaren as Max Verstappen claims year-ending victory

Daniel Ricciardo finishes ninth in final F1 race with McLaren as Max Verstappen claims year-ending victory

Daniel Ricciardo has scored points in what could be his last race in Formula 1, as Max Verstappen capped off his second championship year with victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In his final race for McLaren the Australian was able to fight from 13th on the grid to finish ninth.

He was challenged all the way to the finishing line, with retiring four-time world champion and former Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel threatening to overtake him on the final lap.

But Ricciardo fended off the German into the final turn to stay ahead.

“I’m relieved with how the race ended,” Ricciardo told the UK’s Sky Sports F1.

“To see the chequered flag, to be in the points, to hold off Vettel for the last 10 or so laps, that was fun.”

Ricciardo leaves McLaren after two seasons with the British outfit and is rumoured to be headed back to Red Bull in 2023 as a reserve driver.

He has completed 232 F1 races since debuting in 2011, winning eight grands prix.

The Australian said his rumoured move back to Red Bull as a reserve driver will be the most likely outcome for him in 2023, but it is not official. 

“That [Red Bull] is the highly likely place for me,” he said.

“I can’t say 100 per cent until things are signed off, but that’s certainly what’s closest now.”

Out in front, Verstappen made it three consecutive wins in Abu Dhabi, converting pole position into a single-season record 15th race win.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was able to hold on for second place as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez ran out of laps on fresher tyres.

The result means Leclerc finished second in the championship, ahead of Perez.

“What an amazing season we’ve had. Unbelievable,” Verstappen said over his team radio.

There was plenty of ceremony at the start of the race as Vettel was given a guard of honour from his fellow drivers.

Vettel announced his retirement from F1 earlier in the year in his first-ever post on Instagram, after famously being one of the few sporting superstars not to be on social media.

It looked as if Vettel would finish outside of the points in his final race, but a late retirement by Mercedes Lewis Hamilton allowed the German to score one last world championship point.

“I wish it had been a couple of more points, but I enjoyed the race,” he said before paying a nice compliment to Ricciardo.

“I had a nice battle with Daniel [Ricciardo] but I just couldn’t get close enough.

“It was nice with him to fight the last couple of laps and both of us finishing in the points.”

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