Abu Dhabi - New
five-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton kept his cool in a n
incident-filled final Grand Prix of the season on Sunday to claim his
11th win of the campaign in Abu Dhabi.
The 33-year-old Briton, who started from his 83rd pole position, came
home 2.5 seconds ahead of his main title rival, four-time champion
Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, on the day Fernando Alonso bade farewell to
Retirement-bound Alonso finished just outside the points positions
for McLaren as the two-time champion taking 11th in his 311th and final
Hamilton's win came after a race that began with an horrific opening
lap crash from which Nico Hulkenberg escaped unhurt despite his Renault
car catching ablaze and barrel-rolling into the track-side barriers.
Hamilton's victory completed a season of total dominance for the
"I am so happy right now," he said, before praising Vettel.
"I know next year he's going to come back stronger."
Vettel responded generously.
"He deserves to be champion," Vettel said.
"It's been a tough year and I tried until the last lap."
Dutchman Max Verstappen finished nearly 13 seconds back in third,
ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo - who is moving to Renault
after 100th race for Red Bull - and Valtteri Bottas in the second
Carlos Sainz came home sixth for Renault ahead of Ferrari-bound
Charles Leclerc of Sauber, Sergio Perez of Force India, Romain Grosjean,
who had tangled with Hulkenberg on the opening lap, and his Haas
team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
On a hot evening at the Yas
Marina Circuit, after a series of farewells and pre-race theatre that
included flag-waving Hollywood star Will Smith, the engines out-roared
the hype as Hamilton made a perfect start from his 11th pole of the
season to draw clear of Bottas.
Drama then intervened when Hulkenberg tangled with Grosjean and was
sent into an airborne roll that saw him crash violently into the
barriers as flames erupted.
"Get me out," pleaded the German in his burning vehicle. "There's fire. There's fire."
He was unhurt and climbed out after his car was manually rolled back by the marshals, who extinguished the blaze.
The race was red-flagged as a Safety Car was deployed, re-starting after five laps with Hamilton resuming as leader.
"I'm very sorry for him (Hulkenberg), but there was nowhere I could go," said Grosjean.
On resumption, Hamilton pulled 1.2 seconds clear while Verstappen
fought back after falling to 10th. His progress included a passing move
at the hairpin on Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman who had collided with him
in Brazil - and been shoved and threatened afterwards.
Ocon responded by regaining his place on the straight and this was
repeated before, at the third attempt, the Dutchman made it stick
shortly before Kimi Raikkonen, in his farewell outing for Ferrari, lost
power and retired, parking on the pit straight.
This triggered a Virtual Safety Car intervention that saw Hamilton, on lap seven, pit to change to harder tyres.
Bottas took the lead and Hamilton rejoined in fifth, the racing
resuming on lap nine, and after a series of pit visits from the leading
drivers, Hamilton eventually retook first place.
With 20 laps remaining, it was clear Bottas and Mercedes were
struggling with tyre-wear and Vettel took advantage, sweeping past for
second behind Hamilton to set up a dramatic finale.
Bottas briefly held off an attack from Verstappen on lap 38 but could
not resist the Dutchman as they banged wheels as he passed at Turn 11,
before then falling behind Ricciardo.
All this left Hamilton leading, on worn tyres, six seconds ahead of
Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo. Bottas made a final charge after
pitting for softer tyres, but could not make a dent.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Sebastian Vettel 1 Ferrari 2.581s
3 Max Verstappen 3 Red Bull 12.706s
4 Daniel Ricciardo 1 Red Bull 15.379s
5 Valtteri Bottas 3 Mercedes 47.957s
6 Carlos Sainz 5 Renault 72.548s
7 Charles Leclerc 1 Sauber 90.789s
8 Sergio Perez 6 Force India 91.275s
9 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 LAP
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 LAP
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 LAP
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1 LAP
13 Lance Stroll Williams 1 LAP
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 LAP
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1 LAP