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Hamilton claims victory in Abu Dhabi as several F1 chapters close

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won the final race of the year, held at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Starting from pole position, Hamilton claimed a comfortable win to round off his championship season.

The race began in dramatic fashion when there was a crash halfway around the first lap. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg clashed with Haas’ Romain Grosjean while battling over P7 and Hulkenberg ended up swiping across the front of Grosjean. This ended up flipping the Renault over and it ended up upside down on the tyre wall. He radioed in to say he couldn’t get out, due to the Halo. Once it was established Hulkenberg wasn’t injured, the car was flipped over by a legion of marshals and he was extricated.

Racing had only resumed for five laps when the race was neutralised again by the Virtual Safety Car, when Kimi Raikkonen ground to a halt on the start/finish straight with an electrical failure. This marked the end of his Ferrari career, as he switches to Sauber for 2019. On Lap 8, Hamilton dived into the pits for a set of SuperSofts, and fell behind Bottas, Vettel & the two Red Bulls. Vettel pitted on Lap 15, trying to undercut Valtteri Bottas but a slow pitstop prevented him from achieving it. Bottas pitted a lap later and came out ahead of Vettel. This left the order Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas & Vettel.

Verstappen, who started on the HyperSoft, stopped on Lap 17 to swap to the SuperSoft and emerged behind Vettel, while Daniel Ricciardo went the other way and extended his first stint as long as he could. When he pitted with 22 laps to go, he came back out in P5.

This left the order Hamilton leading from Bottas & Vettel, but Vettel stalked Valtteri down and, when Bottas made an error at the first chicane, Vettel was able to get past to take P2 and start closing down Hamilton. Bottas, now struggling with tyres, he locked up again in front of Verstappen and the Red Bull was able to barge past to take P3. Bottas was forced to pit again as his struggles continued, and he fell down to P5 behind Ricciardo.

With Hamilton now leading on the oldest tyres of the top five, the gaps between all the drivers slowly reduced over the remainder of the race but Hamilton weathered the small amount of pressure to win by 5 seconds over Vettel & Verstappen. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo wrapped up his career with the team by taking P4, as he heads off to Renault for 2019. Bottas was forced to settle for P5.

Outside the usual top three teams, Carlos Sainz took P6 for Renault in his final appearance for the team before heading to McLaren, seeing off Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The young Monegasque had been fighting over P5 in the opening stint of the race when the team also brought him in under the early VSC that shuffled him right to the back – he spent the remainder of the race fighting his way back. He switches to Ferrari for 2019.

Sergio Perez finished P8 for Force India, while the two Haas drivers finished P9 & P10 with Grosjean & Magnussen respectively. Grosjean survived the Lap 1 crash with Hulkenberg, encountering no damage as a result, and was able to hold off Magnussen to lead the team’s double points finish.

Fernando Alonso, taking part in his final race in Formula 1, wasn’t able to find some luck and take home points as he was forced to settle for P11. He had been a possibility to take P10 right at the end as he closed in on Kevin Magnussen, but Alonso cut the chicane and was judged to have gained an advantage of a result. He was given a five second time penalty for it, costing him any chance of that. Brendon Hartley finished P12 for Toro Rosso, also surviving an early accident where he hit the barriers. Luckily, he struck it side on and didn’t do any proper damage. With Toro Rosso expected to change driver for 2019, it appears Hartley has taken part in his last F1 race.

Lance Stroll finished P13 for Williams while Stoffel Vandoorne had a very battling final race in Formula 1 as he departs for Formula E next month. He had to settle for P14 but showed well in an on track battle with Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean. Sergey Sirotkin finished his F1 career by taking P15 for Williams and the last classified runner.

There were five retirements: Hulkenberg on Lap 1, Raikkonen on Lap 7, Marcus Ericsson with a quarter of the race to go with an apparent engine failure, while Esteban Ocon & Pierre Gasly both retired from P10 within a lap of each other – both also appearing to suffer engine problems.

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Thomas Maher

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