Formula One: Hamilton's faultless flourish

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrating his Abu Dhabi victory yesterday with third-placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull. With 51 wins from his last 100 races, the Briton has maintained his average of 10 a season since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrating his Abu Dhabi victory yesterday with third-placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull. With 51 wins from his last 100 races, the Briton has maintained his average of 10 a season since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

Five-time champ ends season on a high with perfect run from start to finish in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI • Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday with a superb run from pole for his 11th victory of the season.

He produced a consummate drive at the season finale to close out the year on a high for Mercedes, ahead of runner-up Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari while Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull.

After a season in which he has often dominated, Hamilton finished with another performance at the 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 the completion of his fifth championship-winning season. Another display of control and patience once again proved that he is at the very peak of his powers.

"Thank you guys so much for all the support this year," the Briton, who rightly celebrated the 73rd win of his career with some on-track doughnuts, told reporters.

"It's been a real honour and a privilege racing against Sebastian. He's done a fantastic job. I know next year he's going to come back strong, so I need to do the same."

The 33-year-old won the previous round at Interlagos after Verstappen's accident, but this was an emphatic victory entirely of his own.

  • ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX

  • RESULTS

    1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 39min 40.382sec

    2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +2.581sec

    3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +12.706

    4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +15.379

    5 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +42.957

    6 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Renault +1:12.548

    7 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber +1:30.789

    8 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +1:31.275

    9 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas +1 lap

    10 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas + 1 lap

    FINAL STANDINGS - DRIVERS

    1 Hamilton 408 pts

    2 Vettel 320

    3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) 251

    4 Verstappen 249

    5 Bottas 247

    6 Ricciardo 170

    CONSTRUCTORS

    1 Mercedes 655 pts

    2 Ferrari 571

    3 Red Bull 419

    4 Renault 122

    5 Haas 93

    6 McLaren 62

    7 Force India 52

    8 Sauber 48

    9 Toro Rosso 33

    10 Williams 7

Having previously not won a race after taking the championship title before the end of the season, he has now closed with two, concluding a remarkable run in the final third.

Since the Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton has won six of the eight remaining races and, with his fourth victory at Abu Dhabi, he is now the most successful driver at the circuit, with one more than Vettel.

And with 51 wins from his last 100 races, he has maintained his average of 10 a season since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014.

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

Mercedes expected to be strong at Yas Marina, a circuit that suits their car and where they have been unbeaten since 2014.

With the drivers' and constructors' championship double achieved for a record-equalling fifth time, they will be hugely optimistic of breaking that mark next year.

They have shown resilience in adversity and have proved undoubted winners of the development battle with Ferrari.

Other than Hamilton's masterclass, the only noteworthy event at the race - other than Nico Hulkenberg's opening-lap crash, from which the Renault driver walked away unscathed - was the appearance of Hollywood star Will Smith, who attended the drivers' parade.

Smith, who was invited by Mercedes, was thrilled that Hamilton had helped him fulfil his 50th birthday bucket list.

He told ESPN: "I'm just speechless, I love this. This is so exciting. I'm glad to be here to support my man, the world champ. We've been talking about it for so long. He granted the old man a wish!"

Fernando Alonso was given an emotional send-off by his McLaren team and closed out his F1 career with 11th place, missing out on a point in his farewell grand prix.

"It has been a pleasure racing with these champions and I feel privileged. Thanks to everyone and to Formula One, I will always be a fan of this sport," the Spaniard said.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2018, with the headline 'Hamilton's faultless flourish'. Print Edition | Subscribe