ABU DHABI – Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to end the season in which he clinched his fifth World Championship on a high.
It was the 11th victory of the year for Hamilton, who dominated the race with a controlled drive
Hamilton performed ‘doughnut’ spins after crossing the line, before he and former title rival Sebastian Vettel flanked the retiring two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, and all three performed more doughnuts on the start-finish straight.
Hamilton and Vettel then each shared an embrace with Alonso, demonstrating their respect for each other’s abilities.
The three drivers hold 11 of some of the most recent World Championships won in a golden era for driving talent in the sport.
Vettel took second after Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas faded to fifth, which means the Finn ends the season without a victory.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took third and fourth.
“I really wanted to end the season strong, and I think on a personal note, I was able to do that,” said Hamilton.
“On the other side, the team did an exceptional job all year long, and I really wanted, race on, race off, to deliver for them and wanted to end the way that I plan to start next year. That was kind of the new psyche. So it’s been a really strong weekend, which I’m really happy with.”
He added: “It’s been a real honour and a privilege racing against Sebastian. I’ve known him since the F3 days and he’s always been an honest, hardworking racing driver and he’s always raced his heart out.”
Hamilton’s evening under the lights of the attractive but characterless Yas Marina circuit was complicated when Mercedes pitted him earlier than expected during a caution period caused when Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari stopped on the pit straight.
That was on lap seven of 55 – nine laps earlier than Bottas’ first stop – but Mercedes were covering one of their rivals potentially doing the same thing.
It meant a race of careful driving and tyre management, but Hamilton handled it well, to re-claim the positions he had lost one by one as his rivals pitted.
Behind him, the race came to a tense climax as the differing strategies of Vettel and the two Red Bull drivers converged.
Max Verstappen was closing on Vettel as the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo closed on the Dutchman.
But both Red Bull drivers lost time when they came upon the lapped car of Pierre Gasly as it was suffering an imminent engine failure with smoke pouring out of it.
That gave Vettel breathing space and locked the Red Bulls in their positions.
It was a disappointing end to a bold attempt by Ricciardo and Red Bull to benefit from a different strategy by running very long to their first pit stops, but in the end it made little difference.
Fernando Alonso’s illustrious career ended with an 11th place, just out of the points. The McLaren, which started 15th, was just not quick enough for him to do any more.