Hamilton closes F1 season with Abu Dhabi victory as Alonso bows out

Hamilton closes F1 season with Abu Dhabi victory as Alonso bows out
Lewis Hamilton ends season with Abu Dhabi win
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — World champion Lewis Hamilton coasted to victory from pole position at the year-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, and in doing so equaled his personal best for a season with his 11th win of the campaign.

Having already secured a fifth F1 title, the British Mercedes driver beat Ferraris Sebastian Vettel at the Yas Marina circuit to secure the 73rd win of his career. He is contracted to Mercedes for the next two years at least, giving him a realistic chance of matching Michael Schumachers F1 record of 91 GP wins. Vettel is third all-time with 52, and did not look like adding to that in a race controlled by his rival.

Read more Get me out of here, there is fire, there is fire, he said. Im OK but Im hanging here like a cow. Get me out of this car. Marshals quickly extinguished the fire and righted the car and Hülkenberg was able to climb out, unhurt. The incident has again raised questions about how easy it is to extricate drivers past the halo cockpit protection device.

Hamiltons November reign in Abu Dhabi

“I wanted to finish on a high. The team has done an exceptional job all year,” said Hamilton, who stripped down to the waist on the podium and pointed to a tattoo on his back.

Hamiltons win at Yas Marina was a fitting finale, his run from pole was flawless and his Mercedes team called his strategy to perfection. An early pit stop under the virtual safety car proved inspired and Hamilton brought his car home in front with control, patience and the faultless judgment he has displayed across 21 meetings.

“I wanted to show Still I Rise on my back,” said Hamilton, referring to a poem by writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

It was a symbolic finish to a season where, again, Hamilton showed his superiority under pressure to beat Vettel into second place overall for the second straight year.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished third in the race ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo for a fifth straight podium.

Hamilton said he too was looking forward to a break, to spending the winter with his family. He has earned it, doing his talking on the track. Aptly then, at the close in Abu Dhabi as the champagne flew on the podium and he stood, back to the crowd, the swirls of a tattooists ink said all that was needed.

Verstappen overtook Hamiltons teammate Valtteri Bottas to finish fourth overall behind Kimi Raikkonen, who retired early into his final race for Ferrari.

Fernando Alonso bowed out of F1, finishing in 11th place. All my career I have always been fighting, sometimes in competitive cars, sometimes not, but Ive never given up, he said. Right now I am not thinking about coming back but I dont know how I will feel next year. I need a break.

Verstappen and Ricciardo made light work of overtaking Bottas, who finished fifth, raising questions again about the Finnish drivers ability to withstand pressure in a season where he has not won.

He has made it clear that the challenge from Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel has been the hardest fight he has faced. Vettel could manage only second in Abu Dhabi in front of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, and that too reflected where the German and the Scuderia stand in relation to Hamilton.

Veteran Spanish driver Fernando Alonso placed 11th with McLaren in his last F1 race with the team. The two-time F1 champion is pursuing other racing interests.

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“Its been an honour and a privilege to race in the same era as him,” Hamilton said. “The sport will miss him, we will miss him.”

“I don’t know if it blocked me or not,” he added. “That was the first time for me having the car on the roof, so I was sitting tight waiting for the marshals and they reacted very quickly and obviously got me out.”

Video: Flyover at the 2018 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Etihad Airways

The race was held up after a spectacular crash on Lap 1 involving French driver Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg, who was sent tumbling into the barriers and finally settled upside down. Hulkenberg was unharmed and eventually climbed out.

But the race will be remembered for Hulkenberg’s opening-lap crash, which saw him somersault through the air after a collision with Romain Grosjean at the ninth bend, and landing upside down against the tyre barriers.

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Grosjean has a reputation as one of F1s more reckless — or adventurous — drivers. He caused the crash by clipping the right rear tire of Hulkenbergs Renault, sending it tipping upward, barrelling over and sliding on its back. As some smoke billowed from the car, a fearful-sounding Hulkenberg urged his team to get him out fast.

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A concerned Grosjean asked about Hulkenbergs condition on his radio. Stewards took no action against Grosjean, deeming it a racing incident.

F1 season belonged to Lewis Hamilton but Max Verstappen finished strong

After a few moments, Hulkenbergs Renault was tipped over the right way and the German driver climbed out unassisted. His car was crane-lifted off the track. The incident held up the race for a few laps, with drivers forced to slow down behind a safety car, until the race resumed on Lap 5.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg miraculously walked away unscathed from a frightening crash after his car flipped and rolled into the barrier before catching fire. WATCH the shocking crash here.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2018 race report | Formula 1®

Verstappen and Esteban Ocon tangled on track once again, continuing their feud from Brazil two weeks ago where Verstappen fell from first place to second after being tagged by Ocon. This time they narrowly avoided touching cars as they fought for space.

As you were, no changes to Abu Dhabi grid

Raikkonens race ended on Lap 6 when his car had a power cut. The Finnish driver, who is joining Sauber next year, trudged back to the team garage.

With the halfway point in the 55-lap race approaching, there was a rare sight as rain briefly fell on the desert track. Ricciardo, by this point, was in the lead and about 5 seconds clear of Hamilton but had yet to change tires. He eventually did so with 21 laps to go, and Hamilton regained the lead ahead of Vettel and Bottas in third but Verstappen pressuring behind him.

“Knowing as well, as a racing driver, how quickly things can go wrong, how quickly things could have gone differently this year, I think, yeah, I have to review a couple of things.

“Very happy to get past because it was quite crucial,” Verstappen said. “I had to get past. I enjoyed that battle.”

It was also farewell from Ricciardo to Red Bull after a difficult season where he has won two races — including the Monaco GP — but retired from eight largely because of engine problems. He is leaving to join Renault next year.

“Hes such a big character, we will miss him and we wish him the very best for the future,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “He had a really rough second half of the year, so its been hugely frustrating for him and the team.”

Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to end the season in which he clinched his fifth World Championship on a high.

“I know what I need to do. Certainly, here and there, looking back I havent been at the top of my game so… I look at myself first.”

Vettel relieved to avoid starting on hyper-softs

Hamilton performed doughnut spins after crossing the line, before he and former title rival Sebastian Vettel flanked the retiring two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, and all three performed more doughnuts on the start-finish straight.

Hamilton and Vettel then each shared an embrace with Alonso, demonstrating their respect for each others abilities.

I hope its not the case. He says not, hes a strong Finn and a warrior but now over the winter we have to pick him up again and get him back to a good place.Bottas was forced into a two-stop strategy in Abu Dhabi after slipping behind Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, having suffered a sudden drop-off in performance.

The three drivers hold 11 of some of the most recent World Championships won in a golden era for driving talent in the sport.

Vettel took second after Hamiltons team-mate Valtteri Bottas faded to fifth, which means the Finn ends the season without a victory.

FIA post-Abu Dhabi GP press conference

Renaults Nico Hulkenberg emerged unhurt from a frightening-looking accident in which he was pitched into a roll and landed upside down in a first-lap clash with Romain Grosjeans Haas.

We have data and it was a safety issue which is why we did the pit stop, so we dont know whether there was a serious concern on the car that made the performance drop, or whether its just gone.

Hulkenberg sounded scared as he said to the team: “Im hanging here like a cow. Get me out. Theres fire.”

Hamiltons evening under the lights of the attractive but characterless Yas Marina circuit was complicated when Mercedes pitted him earlier than expected during a caution period caused when Kimi Raikkonens Ferrari stopped on the pit straight.

After a long conservation I believe that when you have no shot anymore of the championship, and you know you need to give up, it kind of damages you mentally.

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in pictures

That was on lap seven of 55 – nine laps earlier than Bottas first stop – but Mercedes were covering one of their rivals potentially doing the same thing.

Wolff revealed Mercedes disovered an issue on the rear right brakes of Bottas W09, which he says instigated the second stop.

It meant a race of careful driving and tyre management, but Hamilton handled it well, to re-claim the positions he had lost one by one as his rivals pitted.

There was a hilarious moment in the post-race press conference though. A German reporter asked Vettel a question when Hamilton offered him a sip of his drink. Vettel had the best answer for Lewis as he said he rather have a Red Bull rather than anything else.

Behind him, the race came to a tense climax as the differing strategies of Vettel and the two Red Bull drivers converged.

Sebastian Vettel finished second behind Lewis Hamilton at Abu Dhabi and the championship today. He performed synchronised donuts with Alonso and Hamilton post-race and also hugged the Spaniard in a tight embrace.

Max Verstappen was closing on Vettel as the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo closed on the Dutchman.

But both Red Bull drivers lost time when they came upon the lapped car of Pierre Gasly as it was suffering an imminent engine failure with smoke pouring out of it.

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It was a disappointing end to a bold attempt by Ricciardo and Red Bull to benefit from a different strategy by running very long to their first pit stops, but in the end it made little difference.

Fernando Alonsos illustrious career ended with an 11th place, just out of the points. The McLaren, which started 15th, was just not quick enough for him to do any more.

There was time for one more bit of radio magic, though, when his engineer in the closing laps said: “Go and get a point.”

Actually, he has 1,899 so it would have made a round 1,900, but he could not catch Kevin Magnussens Haas – not helped by a five-second time penalty for cutting a chicane when he missed his braking point pushing while chasing the Dane.

Lots of hard work designing and building new cars, pre-season testing and then a new season starts in Melbourne, Australia in March next year. Itll be there before you know it.