Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez among drivers absent from post-season meal

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were among seven drivers who appeared to be absent from the traditional post-season driver meal in Abu Dhabi. Fans were treated to a picture of the grid enjoying each other’s company after Zhou Guanyu uploaded the snap to his Instagram page after Sunday’s race.

11 different drivers were present in the photo posted by Zhou, who was pictured sitting on the right-hand side of the table along with team-mate Valtteri Bottas as well as Yuki Tsunoda, Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton.

Six drivers were on the opposite side with Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, George Russell, Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo making up the remainder of the attendees. While only 11 of the grid were captured in the shot, video evidence later appeared on social media proving that the McLaren duo of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris were also in attendance.

This meant that seven drivers were unaccounted for at the meal, including the Red Bull pairing of Verstappen and Perez. The other five drivers who were not spotted at the Hakkasan restaurant in Abu Dhabi were the two Haas drivers, Logan Sargeant, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

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The 2023 edition of the post-season meal was held in the same restaurant as last year’s, which seemingly produced a much stronger turnout as the drivers gave four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel a memorable sign-off at the end of his F1 career.

In 2022 it was confirmed that Hamilton organised and paid for the entire grid’s meal with Alex Albon offering a peek behind the curtain. “We had a set menu,” he explained. “There were a lot of people with dietary requirements like obviously, Lewis Hamilton is vegan.

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“Lewis covered the bill, very nice of him. He organised it as well – very nice of him. The dinner, truthfully speaking, was really special. It was a lot of fun. I think every driver, [including] myself, my cheeks were aching just smiling and laughing the whole time, so it was really good.”

That was far from the first instance of the drivers getting together for a group meal though. Nico Rosberg shared an insight into the 2016 edition on social media at the time, and the Mercedes man offered some behind-the-scenes insight when he said: “The hidden agreement usually is that the world champion pays.”

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