Lewis Hamilton signed off on his title-winning 2018 FIA Formula 1 campaign in style by taking a controlled and composed 11th win of the season ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
The final race of the season ended with Hamilton and Vettel joining McLaren’s Fernando Alonso for a series of tyre-smoking donuts on the start-finish straight to celebrate the Spanish two-time champion’s final race as a Formula 1 driver.
Earlier, at the start, Hamilton got away well from pole position to claim the lead advantage ahead of fellow front row starter and team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Vettel and Räikkönen.
The race was soon neutralised, however. As Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean tussled into the chicane, the pair collided and the Renault man’s car was flipped into a series of frightening rolls. He came to rest upside down on the barriers. The Renault driver soon emerged unscathed but the Safety Car was swiftly deployed.
When the SC left the track Hamilton held his advantage and was soon building a lead over Bottas and Vettel. Further back, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was making moves and he attacked the Force India of Esteban Ocon soon after racing resumed. He got past but then seemed to struggle for power and Ocon swept past to reclaim the position. The Red Bull man was told to try a reset and with that in place and effective, he muscled his way past the Force Indian driver in the second chicane to claim eighth place after dropping back from sixth at the start.
Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen then ground to a halt on the start-finish straight with a total loss of power, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car.
That was the cue for Hamilton to pit on lap 7 and that vaulted Ricciardo up to P3 behind Bottas and Vettel. The Australian was now just four seconds behind Vettel, with Max two second behind his team-mate in P4.
Vettel was the next of the frontrunners to pit, the Ferrari driver taking on supersofts on lap 15. He emerged in P6 behind Ocon and then Bottas made the same move on the next lap. The moves meant that Ricciardo now led the race.
Verstappen’s opening hypersoft tyres were now beginning to fade and the Dutchman was the next to pit, taking on supersoft tyres and rejoining in P5 behind Vettel.
Race leader Ricciardo was now the only one of the top six to require a pit stop, but the Red Bull driver insisted his starting ultrasofts were in good shape. He proved it by managing a steady gap to Hamilton as he extended his opening stint.
Ricciardo finally made his sole stop on lap 33, taking on supersofts and rejoining in P5 behind Verstappen. He quickly began to make the most of his new tyres, closing a seven-second gap to Max to just 1.5s by lap 36.
Verstappen was also gaining ground, putting heavy pressure on Bottas, who twice locked up and went off track. Max continued to probe and on lap 39 he took a wide line through Turn 11 and then tucked in on the inside to pass in the next corner. The pair banged wheels but Verstappen claimed third place.
Ricciardo, juts behind, also got a run on the Mercedes man and on the next lap, under DRS into Turn 8, he breezed past to take P4.
The order at the front then settled, with Hamilton holding an advantage over Vettel of between four and five seconds while the Ferrari man managed a three-second gap back to the Red Bulls.
And, after 55 laps, Hamilton crossed the line to take his 11th win of the season ahead of Vettel. Max claimed his 11th podium of the season, and fourth place in the Drivers’ championship, ahead of Daniel who ended his final race of his five seasons with the team with fourth place.
Behind the Bulls, Bottas finished in fifth place ahead of Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, the Force India of Sergio Perez and the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Fernando Alonso ended his 311-start grand prix career with 11th place.
2018 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes –
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 2.581
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 12.706
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 15.379
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 47.957
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 1:12.548
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:30.789
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point Force India 1:31.275
9 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 L
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 L
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 L
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1 L
13 Lance Stroll Williams 1 L
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 L
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1 L
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso
17 Esteban Ocon Racing Point Force India
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber
19 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
20 Nico Hulkenberg Renault