REUTERS: Max Verstappen broke Mercedes' stranglehold on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with victory in Formula One's season finale on Sunday, but his Red Bull team will want to wrest a bigger prize from the dominant champions next year.
The 23-year-old Dutchman converted pole position to an unchallenged victory nearly 16 seconds ahead of Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
That ended a run of six successive wins and qualifying one-twos for the Brackley-based team, who this weekend tasted their first Abu Dhabi defeat of the turbo hybrid era.
“You’ve only got to look at every pole, every race winner for the last six years has been a Mercedes car,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters.
“So to break that stranglehold here with them finishing behind us second and third, that’s a great result for us at a venue that has been probably one of their very strongest.”
Red Bull, who started the season with a car that its drivers found difficult, can take encouragement from their performance in Abu Dhabi.
Honda, who supply their power unit, is also the only engine manufacturer other than Mercedes to win this season.
With the cars staying largely the same barring a few minor aerodynamic tweaks, Red Bull hope to be able to give Mercedes, who won 13 of this season’s 17 races, a run for their money in both title battles next year.
Red Bull, the last non-Mercedes winners in Abu Dhabi with Sebastian Vettel in 2013, have a history of closing the gap at the end of the season before falling back again at the start of the following year.
“We need a car that performs at a whole variance of circuits which Mercedes have been very good at producing,” said Horner of next season.
“I think that, particularly at a circuit like this, to take that kind of performance into the winter is very, very encouraging.”
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle in Mumbai; editing by Toby Davis)