Lewis Hamilton caps off season with Abu Dhabi win

There was drama in the final race of the season as Nico Hülkenberg’s car flipped

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates on top of his car after winning the Abu Shabi Grand Prix. Photo: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates on top of his car after winning the Abu Shabi Grand Prix. Photo: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

 

Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a superb run from pole position for his 11th victory of the season. He produced a consummate drive at the season finale to close out 2018 on a high for Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel was in second for Ferrari and Max Verstappen third for Red Bull.

After a season in which he has often dominated, Hamilton finished with another performance at Yas Marina in which he was barely threatened by his rivals. Mercedes called his strategy, with an early pit stop, perfectly and Hamilton exploited it to ensure he has completed his fifth championship-winning season with another display of control and patience once again proving he is at the very peak of his powers. He rightly celebrated with some on-track doughnuts.

This is the 73rd win of his career. He won at the last round in Brazil after Verstappen’s accident but this was an emphatic victory entirely of his own. Having previously not won a race after taking the championship before the end of the season, he has closed with two, concluding a remarkable run in the final third. Since the Belgian Grand Prix he has won six of the eight remaining races.

With his fourth victory at Abu Dhabi he is now the most successful driver at the circuit, with one more than Vettel. While, with 51 wins from the last 100 races he has maintained his average of 10 a season since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014.

Hamilton has said he wanted to close strongly to serve notice to his rivals of his intent to continue the form next season and he did so with a performance that reflects both his and Mercedes strengths across the season.

Mercedes expected to be strong at Yas Marina, a circuit that suits their car and where they now have not been beaten since 2014 and where Ferrari have yet to win. As the season comes to a close, with the drivers’ and constructors’ championship double achieved for a record-equalling fifth time, they will take huge optimism into returning with every chance to repeat the feat next year. They have shown resilience in adversity and have proved undoubted winners of the development battle with Ferrari.

Alongside Hamilton’s 11 wins Mercedes have secured 13 of 21 pole positions, while Ferrari have not taken pole since Monza. Vettel managed only five wins, not nearly enough to challenge Hamilton. Errors by both team and driver have been costly and have emphasised the gap they must overcome to their rivals.

Hamilton got away cleanly holding the lead through the first lap, during which the safety car was deployed after Nico Hülkenberg was clipped by Romain Grosjean. The German’s car took a nasty barrel roll into the barriers but Hülkenberg emerged unscathed.

Racing resumed on lap five but the VSC was deployed on lap seven when Kimi Raikkonen retired with a power failure and Mercedes opted to pit Hamilton who rejoined in fourth. The stop worked well with Hamilton losing only nine seconds on the leaders with the team hoping he could make it to the end on the supersoft tyres.

Valtteri Bottas was then leading from Vettel, who pitted on lap 16 but it was a slow stop, the right rear wheel slow to come off. Bottas covered it a lap later and held his position. With the two Red Bulls yet to stop it left Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen in front.

Verstappen pitted on lap 18 but Red Bull went long with Ricciardo. Hamilton however was keeping well in touch with the Australian, keeping the gap to six seconds and closing to within three when Ricciardo finally pitted on lap 33.

With the pit stop sequence complete, Hamilton was once again in front with a six-second advantage on Bottas. The Finn lost second to Vettel however after locking up and going wide and on lap 38 Verstappen passed him for third.

The Red Bulls made a concerted charge on fresher rubber at the end but Hamilton and Mercedes had done enough. He took the flag with ease managing the gap and his rubber to the end with aplomb.

Ricciardo was in fourth, with Bottas in fifth. Carlos Sainz was in sixth for Renault in front of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Force India’s Sergio Pérez. Grosjean was in ninth with Kevin Magnussen 10th.

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, was given an emotional send-off by his McLaren team and bowed out for the moment from his F1 career with 11th place. – Guardian service

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