There are still some intriguing storylines ahead of the final race of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Max Verstappen enters the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (8 a.m. ET, ESPN2) as a three-time world champion looking to cap off the most dominant season in F1 history. If Verstappen wins on Sunday, he’ll finish the season with a record 19 wins in 22 races and solidify the best single-season winning percentage ever.
If you’re tired of Verstappen’s record-setting season, there are still a few things worth watching for during the season finale. Here’s what’s at stake.
Can Ferrari pass Mercedes?
Verstappen has scored 549 points heading into the season finale and has outscored every other team by himself by over 150 points. He has single-handedly won both the driver’s title and the constructor’s title for Red Bull.
Thanks to Sergio Perez’s efforts, Red Bull has 822 points and is currently 432 points ahead of Mercedes in second place. But Mercedes leads Ferrari by only four points for second in the team standings ahead of Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari cut 16 points off Mercedes’ lead in Las Vegas thanks to Charles Leclerc’s second-place finish and Carlos Sainz’s sixth-place finish as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished seventh and eighth.
Can Ferrari repeat that effort in Abu Dhabi? The two teams should be very evenly matched over the race weekend and the edge could come down to qualifying. If it does, Ferrari has an advantage. Mercedes’ qualifying pace has been hit-or-miss this season.
McLaren looks to hold on vs. Aston Martin
McLaren has rebounded from a disastrous start to the season and is currently fourth in the constructor’s standings. The duo of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are 11 points ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.
But like Ferrari, Aston Martin cut into the McLaren advantage in Las Vegas. Stroll finished fifth while Alonso was ninth. Piastri finished 10th as Aston Martin gained 10 points on McLaren. Abu Dhabi should suit the McLaren car more than Las Vegas did, but Aston Martin has found some late-season speed by going back on the upgrades it attempted to make throughout the season.
Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso are tied for fourth
The top three spots in the driver’s standings are set. Perez is second behind Verstappen and 41 points ahead of Hamilton in third. Hamilton is 31 points ahead of Sainz.
Fourth through sixth are up for grabs after that. Sainz and Alonso are tied for fourth at 200 points apiece while Norris is sixth with 195 points and Charles Leclerc lurks in seventh with 188 points. Whoever finishes better between Sainz and Alonso on Sunday will have the better points position while Norris could leapfrog both of them with a podium finish if neither finish in the top four.
The race to be best at Alpine
The closest battle between teammates is at Alpine where Esteban Ocon trails Pierre Gasly by four points for 11th in the standings. Ocon cut the gap by 12 points at Las Vegas with a fourth-place finish while Gasly finished outside the points in 11th.
Each driver has a podium finish this season, while Gasly’s average finish is 1.3 spots better than Ocon’s. However, don’t count Ocon out from getting past Gasly with even a decent weekend. Seventh-place pays out six points and an eighth-place finish earns four.