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.
“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.
“I wanted to show Still I Rise on my back,” said Hamilton, referring to a poem by writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Just to follow up on that, Sebastian, do you think there’s anything that you need to change personally, in your approach to driving, to take the next step next season?SV: I think, naturally, the year I’ve had, I don’t think I ever any problems raising my hand if I made a mistake. I think, 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 but there’s other things that I think went wrong and don’t need a lot of reviewing and not over-complicating things too much. I think I know what I need to do. Certainly, here and there, looking back I haven’t been at the top of my game so… I look at myself first, I think I can be better than I was at times this year. Having said that though, I think we also had a lot of races where we got everything out of the car and the package and I felt that I did everything I could. I was happy with that. But yeah, that’s how it goes, that’s sometimes why you love racing and sometimes why you hate racing. Yeah, as I said, for now I need a bit of time just to shut things down and then I think usually…I don’t know, it’s a bit like skiing: maybe you learn something overnight before you go on the slopes again the next day. Obviously our night, it would help to hibernate, it would be stretching the night a lot longer than it is but I think we have a little bit of time to digest and analyse and yeah, I’ve always tried to improve things. I don’t think I need to change things upside down but certainly in there I can adjust and get stronger.
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.
F1 in 2018: How the world championship battles ended
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished third in the race ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo for a fifth straight podium.
Video: Lewis Hamilton & Sebastian Vettel Swap F1 Helmets!
Sebastian Vettel: German says he needs time to recover after disappointing year
Verstappen overtook Hamiltons teammate Valtteri Bottas to finish fourth overall behind Kimi Raikkonen, who retired early into his final race for Ferrari.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
A concerned Grosjean asked about Hulkenbergs condition on his radio. Stewards took no action against Grosjean, deeming it a racing incident.
Lewis Hamilton set a new record in F1 after winning the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, becoming the first driver to score over 400 points in a single campaign.
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.
Nico Hulkenberg flipped over on opening lap in Abu Dhabi
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.
Will Smith Holds Lewis Hamilton Hostage Before Grand Prix
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.
“Very happy to get past because it was quite crucial,” Verstappen said. “I had to get past. I enjoyed that battle.”
Vettel and his team made mistakes that cost him the chance to take the title to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, which Hamilton won.
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 explains why he stripped off on F1 podium
Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to end the season in which he clinched his fifth World Championship on a high.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Behind him, the race came to a tense climax as the differing strategies of Vettel and the two Red Bull drivers converged.
Abu Dhabi provisional grid: How the F1 field lines up
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.
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.