Max Verstappen coasts to victory in Abu Dhabi season finale as Mercedes fend off Ferrari to take second in the constructors’ standings after dramatic battle… with Charles Leclerc and George Russell on the podium

Fingernails scraped the windows, but Mercedes clung tenaciously to second place in the Constructors’ Championship – almost £10 million their reward for holding off Ferrari.

It is a season for the Silver Arrows to be consigned to the dustbin of history, just as it is a season that Max Verstappen, and an amazed public, will never forget. Under a full moon at dusk in Abu Dhabi, the Dutchman finished with 19 wins from 22 races.

Verstappen’s monologue is in stark contrast to Mercedes, for whom George Russell took a courageous third place at the weekend when he found it easier than his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who came in with two points and finished ninth.

This combined effort was just enough to overshadow Ferrari. Charles Leclerc’s second place was offset by teammate Carlos Sainz who finished only 18th. The gap between the two legendary teams was three points (409-406), and in terms of prize money £105 million to £96 million.

The discrepancy will be reflected in the bonuses paid to staff, which could at least boost the Christmas gift market around Brackley, if not the championship-winning kitchen showrooms.

The final table means that Mercedes, who started the race four points ahead of Ferrari, have finished best of the rest behind Red Bull for two years in a row.

But it’s telling that this time the margin was wide: binocular length. Last season the gap was 244; this time there were 413. No one can call this progress.

Toto Wolff, a team boss who has struggled with solutions, even had to give pep talks to Hamilton, such as: ‘Lewis, second fastest car on the last lap. You are fast.’ And later, that it was the fastest car there was.

Times always fluctuate – Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll set the fastest lap moments later – and Wolff focused on a glimmer of hope, causing laughter in the press room.

Incidentally, Wolff did not congratulate Russell when he set the then fastest lap (or it was not broadcast if he did), reinforcing the appearance Wolff creates by singling out Hamilton for flattery.

Hamilton started 11th for the second race in a row, but had worked his way up to eighth by passing Daniel Ricciardo before dropping the order on his second tire change.

He then had a duel with his old enemy Fernando Alonso, accusing the wily Spaniard of trying to slow him down as they battled for position.

The stewards announced that they would investigate a pit stop violation related to Hamilton’s stop.

It related to the fact that the pit crew may not be wearing the required eye protection, and it had to be taken into account once the race was completed. Ditto stops made by Verstappen, Williams’ Logan Sargeant and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou.

Lando Norris finished fifth for McLaren, despite Red Bull’s Sergio Perez receiving a five-second penalty for hitting him.

This was manna from heaven for Mercedes as Perez was on the back of Russell and had he passed the Brit might have handed the bounty to Ferrari (although Sainz had to retire again so it might not have been relevant depending on the uncertainties ).

Russell, who has only been on the podium once this season, inquired several times during the evening about the situation with the constructors.

With four laps to go, Russell was passed by the Mexican. Could Perez close a five-second gap in the final moments of the season? It was a nervous moment for everyone involved.

Perez couldn’t do that – the gap was 3.9 seconds when he nearly finished fourth after the penalty was applied – and his fingernails were stuck to the rim.