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.
Close call, this. On average one-lap pace, the Mercedes was 0.124secs faster, but how much of that was down to Hamilton? Ferrari arguably had a faster car than Mercedes for at least half the races, if not more, but they got in a technical fog in the autumn before recovering. Hamiltons impeccable driving in his best-ever season and Mercedes operational advantage over Ferrari tipped the balance. Lets call it a draw.
Formula 1 in 2018: Who was the best driver? Which was the best race? Who made the worst mistake?
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.
Video: Lewis Hamilton & Sebastian Vettel Swap F1 Helmets!
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished third in the race ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo for a fifth straight podium.
WATCH: Vettel prefers a Red Bull drink over any other
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.
Verstappen attacked Ocon only for the Force India driver to fight back and both Ocon and Perez take a position off the Red Bull driver. Complaining about his Renault power unit, he immediately attacked Perez to once again run behind Ocon before giving the Frenchman a little shove as he retook P8 off him. Ocon immediately retook it. Verstappen took it back.
The Six: Stargazing, the celebrities we spotted in Abu Dhabi
“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.
A mistake from Bottas – a lock up into Turn 5 coupled with running wide at 6 – handed second place to Vettel as he swooped past the Mercedes with Verstappen closing up on the Finn. The Dutchman attacked a few laps later, using the switchback and every inch of track to barge his way up to third.
Hamilton: Will Smith “completely changed” pre-race pattern
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.
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.
Valtteri Bottas – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix sums up my season
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.
Champion Lewis Hamilton ends season with 11th victory in Abu Dhabi
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Vettel admits he wasnt “at the top of my game” in 2018
“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 stood on top of the podium, pulled down his race suit and whipped off his shirt to reveal the tattoos on his back.
He wanted to show off his Still I Rise tattoo, which is written across his shoulders, but it didnt quite go how I planned, he admitted last night after the slightly awkward moment that followed the champagne.
That was his 11th trip to the top step this season, equalling his best set in 2014, in what has been an utterly dominant campaign by the newly-crowned five-times world champion.
He becomes the first driver to break the 400-point barrier but even more stark than that, his closest rival Sebastian Vettel ends the season an enormous 88 points behind him.
Fernando Alonso thankful to Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for improvised send-off
Get The International Pack for free for your first 30 days for unlimited Smartphone and Tablet access.