Lewis Hamilton caps title-winning 2018 in Abu Dhabi after Hülkenberg flips

Lewis Hamilton caps title-winning 2018 in Abu Dhabi after Hülkenberg flips
World champion Hamilton wins season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
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.

Ferrari taking Charles Leclerc for 2019. The Monegasque started his debut season billed as a star of the future and, after a briefly shaky start, he absolutely lived up to it. Leclerc was sensational – there is no other word for it. He put in a series of superb races, crushed team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and won praise from all the top drivers. Yes, there were a few mistakes here and there, but it is to be expected in a drivers first season. His battle with Vettel next year is a mouth-watering prospect.

“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.

Sauber started the year having already improved – catching up to the pack after being last by far last year. But they made quite remarkable progress through the season. Second slowest team in the first half of the year, they were sixth quickest in the second half, and regular top 10 contenders. They closed on Mercedes by 0.4secs over the course of the year. It will be interesting to see whether they can keep the progress up now that Leclerc has left.

“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.

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.

Haas finished finished fifth in the constructors and had the fifth fastest car with probably the second smallest budget. But there are still too many questions about the advantages their close relationship with Ferrari brings. They buy as many parts as they allowed to under the rules from Ferrari – everything bar the monocoque and aerodynamic surfaces – and the car is designed in the Ferrari wind tunnel.

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.

Red Bull. Give them the power of a Mercedes or Ferrari engine and they would at the very least have been right there at the front all the time and quite possibly ahead. They had a mid-season dip but the car came on strongly in a late-season surge. If new partner Honda can deliver the goods next year, Max Verstappen could go toe to toe with Hamilton and Vettel. And how exciting would that be?

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

Bottas: Abu Dhabi slump sums up my year

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.

At the next race in Brazil, he explained: “I remembered the podium that got taken from me in Melbourne (in 2014), I said I was tripping balls. And it is an evolution of tripping balls. I may have said it around friends before, I dont know, but it just came to me. I say some spontaneous stuff sometimes. That was certainly one of them. Did you like it?”

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.

No contest here. Sebastian Vettel crashing out of the lead of his home German Grand Prix was not only highly embarrassing and the sort of error a beginner should not make, let alone a four-time world champion, but it handed a victory to Hamilton and meant a 32-point swing in the title race from which Vettel and Ferrari never recovered.

Abu Dhabi GP: Race team notes – Ferrari

“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 second Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was underwhelming. And Max Verstappen slipped ahead of the Finn into fourth place in the championship with a drive combining the maturity and speed he has generally shown in the second half of the season – the odd pit-lane fracas aside – and which is marking him out as champion of the future.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Martin Brundle: Lewis Hamilton sends ominous warning with Abu Dhabi win

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.

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.

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.

Max Verstappen will challenge Lewis Hamilton next season for THIS reason – David Coulthard

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

Q: Lewis, congratulations. Finally, Max you said you would be on the podium, your fifth straight podium result. Some good hard racing there with Valtteri Bottas, good day for you.Max Verstappen: Yeah, not an easy race. I had a problem off the start. Actually, the launch was good but then the engine went into like a safety programme and I had it again on the re-start afterwards. It was not easy but we managed to go back into a good position, putting pressure on the guys ahead. I think I stopped quite early but I had to, because I was on the hypers. Then we managed to keep the supersoft alive and I had good pace. But the last few laps were not that easy as there was a Toro Rosso leaking oil onto my helmet, so I couldn’t really see where I was going, but at the end of course very happy to be third.

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.

Q: Actually, Seb, stay here, stay here. You guys have made this season epic. So, a little words; we don’t often get to hear you talking together. How much has it meant to be battling out there wheel-to-wheel?LH: It’s been a real honour and a privilege racing against Sebastian. I’ve known him since Formula 3 days and he’s always been an honest, hard-working racing driver and he has always raced his heart out. He did a fantastic job this whole season. There’s so much pressure on us all, so don’t every look at our shortcomings as anything less than us giving our best and Sebastian did. I know next year he’s going to come back strong, so I’ve got to make sure I come back with him, but I’m really grateful for the time.

“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.”

Q: Seb, for you, racing wheel-to-wheel with Lewis?Sebastian Vettel: Well he’s the champion and he deserves to be the champion. Yeah, it’s been a tough year. I tried everything until the last lap, also today, I really enjoyed. Catching a little bit, a little bit, but I think he controlled the pace at the front. I would have liked it to be a little more wheel-to-wheel but yeah, a long year, a lot of races. Congrats, and as he said I will try, we will try, I think our whole team will try to come back stronger to make sure we give him a harder run into next year. But the final word: I think also well done to Fernando. I think the last years have been very tough for him, we’ve been missing him and we will miss him, so well done on his career.

After 21 races, across nine months, the drivers now head off for a well-earned winter break. But while some will hit the slopes buoyed by a strong finish at Yas Marina, others will be left frustrated by how things turned out. We pick out the winners and losers from the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix…

And Max. Do you feel ready for a title push?MV: I always find that a really difficult question, because you’re so dependent on the package in Formula One. I mean, when I was watching back in the day to Formula One, it seemed like Lewis was ready for the title in his first year. Seemed like you were pretty quick. Of course, I think in a year you can always do things better but I think that’s every year. Even if, at the end of the day, you win the title, there are always things which you can do better. So, yeah, even if we have a winning package, for sure there will be weekends where maybe you make a mistake, or it can be a better weekend overall. Hopefully first we’ll have that package.

Lewis Hamilton could have taken his foot off the gas in Abu Dhabi. The drivers title had been won in Mexico. He then helped secure the constructors title one race later in Brazil. The two top honours were, once again, heading to Mercedes bulging trophy cabinet.

Abu Dhabi GP: Race team notes – Renault

But instead, he struck a hammer blow against his rivals. He is as hungry as ever to win and already has his sights set on next year. I wanted to end the way that I plan to start next year, he said after Sundays race.

Bottas has become the first Mercedes driver since 2012 to go the whole season without a victory, but said a slow puncture was the reason behind his slump down the field in Abu Dhabi.

His lap to take pole was staggering – no one else could get close. He then delivered the perfect start and managed his tyres to absolute perfection after an early pit stop in reaction to the Virtual Safety Car.

Whilst Hamilton powered to an 11th victory of the season, Bottas slid from P2 to P5 with Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo all finding a way past the Finn.

Formula 1 Paddock Diary: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix day four

This was his 11th triumph of the year, matching his best-ever tally in a single season, and his 17th podium in 21 Grands Prix this season. He also became the first driver to ever score 400 points in one season and finishes a staggering 88 points clear of nearest rival Sebastian Vettel in the drivers standings.

Winner of four of the last five drivers world titles, Hamilton is already favourite to make it five out of six – and six in total. And what an achievement that would be…

“Im just going to take it easy for a while and then I start to look forward. For now its just difficult to see the positives but I will.”

Vettel salvages some pride Sebastian Vettel admitted it has been a long year, one where he has suffered defeat once again despite having a car believed by many to be the class of the field.

A tough evening under the lights for @ValtteriBottas, he has to settle for P5 at @ymcofficial #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/r16IThCwNG

The Ferrari driver was off the pace on Friday, but hauled himself into contention come Saturday. At points in the race, he showed impressive turns of pace, but he never really threatened Hamilton.

That said, second place is a morale-boosting result for a driver who has had a season littered with mistakes and missed opportunities. Second is also Ferraris best-ever finish in Abu Dhabi, giving the boys and girls in red something to be positive about as they head into the winter break.

He added: “For sure it has been on my mind but after this kind of season I dont have the energy to look too far away.

It was his 12th podium of season, too, matching his team mate Kimi Raikkonens tally but finishing 69 points clear of the Finn in the drivers standings.

Asked to summarise his season, he replied: “Honestly you’re asking that too early after the end of the year.

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Verstappen makes more headlines Max Verstappen has been in stunning form since returning from the summer break. With each race, he has got better and better and ends the year in impressive fashion.

Motor racing: Vettel takes stock as Ferrari lick wounds

In the last six races, only he and Hamilton have scored 100 points or more. A magnificent achievement considering the Red Bulls power deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel: I think todays race sums up the year pretty well: a few ups and downs and in the end just being close, but not close enough. Today, I really tried to hang on as long as I could, but it was tough being behind Valtteri. I believe I was a little bit quicker, but it was very difficult to get close, especially in the last sector, until he had some issues and I managed to get past. We were strong in the straights and we had speed, but we were struggling in the last sector to keep up, especially in the last two corners. At one point, I had hopes of winning the race, so I was pushing as hard as I could, but in the end it was not enough. It has been a very intense year and I think we have to look at ourselves, as there are many things that we can do better and the potential this team has is still huge.

In Abu Dhabi, he had a tremendous battle with rival Esteban Ocon and then Valtteri Bottas, with his bullish and brash approach to racing earning him third place, having started sixth on the grid.

Maurizio Arrivabene: Todays result, a second place for Sebastian, along with the work of the entire team, means we have been able to finish the world championship with our drivers in second and third places. Kimi deserved a better result from todays race, but the send off he was given by the guys, as he drove out of the garage was a lovely moment. As from Tuesday, we take part in the tyre test, which is the first step for next season and the entire team, both at the track and back in Maranello, will be giving their utmost once again in 2019. My heartfelt thanks goes to all of them, to our sponsors, our fans and customers, who have always supported us.

This was Verstappens fifth consecutive podium – the best streak of his F1 career – and helped him pass Bottas to finish a career-best fourth in the drivers standings. Verstappens threat is growing.

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Carlos Sainz is one of a number of drivers who will be heading off to pastures new next year. He wanted to sign off in style and boy did he manage to do that.

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I wanted to end the way I plan to start next year – Lewis Hamilton on Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2018 | Formula 1®

Renaults pace and performance has been peaky, particularly in the second-half of the season, but Sainz made the most of a strong weekend as he got the best out of the package to finish sixth.

Thats the first time he has scored in Abu Dhabi, having retired at Yas Marina in each of the last two years, and sixth place was his best result since round four in Azerbaijan.

Hamilton won the race ahead of Ferraris Sebastian Vettel and Red Bulls Max Verstappen. The Briton claimed his fifth title in 2018 equalling Juan Manuel Fangios record. 

That points haul was also enough to lift him above his friend and mentor Fernando Alonso into 10th in the drivers standings on a weekend where Renault secured fourth in the constructors championship. Chapeau.

Leclerc maintains impressive consistency Charles Leclerc has made quite the impression in his debut season, so much so that Ferrari have opted to sign him alongside Sebastian Vettel for next year.

US actor Will Smith tied up five-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton minutes before the season-ending grand prix in Abu Dhabi Sunday. 

Theres so much potential, as he demonstrated in Abu Dhabi with a textbook drive to seventh – his third successive finish in that position and 10th points finish of the season.

Smith says its a once in a lifetime opportunity for him to race and implores Hamilton to “leave something for other people.”  

That tally of points played a huge role in Sauber finishing eighth in the constructors, which is two places higher than they managed last term.

Meanwhile, Leclerc climbed above Romain Grosjean into 13th in the drivers standings, an impressive achievement considering Grosjeans experience and the strong performance of the Frenchmans Haas.

LOSERS Bottas struggles under the lights This was not Valtteri Bottas finest race. It was also not his finest season. In fact, the Finn reckons it was the worst of his F1 career as he ended up winless while team mate Hamilton took 11 victories.

Sebastian Vettel takes stock as Ferrari lick wounds

He came close, of course – Baku is a good example – while he handed victory to Hamilton in Russia courtesy of team orders. But they were highs in an otherwise frustrating season.

In Abu Dhabi, he simply couldnt keep pace with Hamilton in qualifying and then his performance deserted him in the race. Part of that pace deficit may ultimately be put down to a brake issue, while he sustained floor damage when he banged wheels with Verstappen.

He limped home fifth, a position he has now ended up in for four successive races. He leaves 2018 as the first Mercedes driver since Michael Schumacher in 2012 to suffer a winless season.

Meanwhile, seven second-place finishes is a record in a winless campaign. Thats not the kind of record he would have hoped for at the start of the season.

Fernando Alonso thankful to Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel for improvised send-off

Nothing really dramatic. Thats how Nico Hulkenberg described his spectacular opening-lap barrel roll after making contact with Grosjean. Watch the footage and youll surely think otherwise…

The Renault driver, who emerged unscathed, was battling with the Haas and cut across to take the corner. Grosjean was left with nowhere to go and the two touched, pitching Hulkenberg up and over.

My head was spinning around, as was the car, which is never a good sign – something had clearly gone wrong! It looked spectacular, but it was not a hard crash.

Did the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix mark the end of an era?

That was his second successive retirement and seventh of the season. There was something to be cheerful about, though, as seventh in the drivers standings – and best of the rest behind the drivers in the top three teams – is a career-best for the German.

This has been Kimi Raikkonens best season since returning to Ferrari in 2014, but a 13th podium finish was not to be as he brought his time with the Scuderia to a close in Abu Dhabi.

The Finn, who arrived as Yas Marina off the back of three straight podiums – a streak which began with a first victory since 2013 in Austin, qualified a solid fourth.

But his hopes of continuing that run expired when an electrical issue kicked in on the back straight. He felt like he was lacking power and then suddenly, everything shut down.

That was his fourth retirement of the year and a disappointing end to a season that has still yielded third in the drivers standings – his best finish since 2012.

F1 Paddock Notebook – Abu Dhabi GP Sunday

Leclerc highlighted Saubers potential in Abu Dhabi with a strong points finish, but unfortunately Marcus Ericsson could not replicate that performance in what might be his last F1 appearance.

The Swede started on the hardest tyre compound and struggled with the balance throughout the first stint. The feeling began to improve, but just a few laps later mechanical gremlins struck and he was forced to retire.

Hamilton: Will Smith “completely changed” pre-race pattern

The race did not end as I would have liked it to, he admitted. It has been my best season so far in Formula 1 and I will always remember it.

Seventeenth in the drivers standings is indeed his best in F1, his points tally of nine – achieved via six top-10 finishes – also equal to his best, last achieved in 2015.

No Shoey for Ricciardo on final Red Bull outing Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull have been intertwined for the best part of a decade, so it was no surprise both he and the team wanted him to end his stint with the squad on a high.

But Sundays race – his 100th for Red Bull – was a disappointment, like much of his season, with the Honey Badger crossing the line fourth for the seventh time this year.

F1 in 2018: How the world championship battles ended

The Australian briefly led the race, but by staying out longer than his rivals, he lost track position – and ultimately a podium shot – to team mate Verstappen.

It means he becomes the first driver since Jochen Rindt in 1970 to take multiple race wins but no other podium finishes in a season. A fresh start now awaits at Renault.