Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the fourth time, the season-ending event his 11th win of the season - equalling his personal best total from 2014, with an impressive drive from pole position in a safety car affected race.
Hamilton made the most of a great start, taking the lead into Turn 1, and retained it after a safety car period for Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg whose car rolled over dramatically into the barrier. The five-time F1 World Champion pitted early at the end of lap seven, under the Virtual Safety Car called to recover the stricken Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen who retired on the pit straight. He then re-took the lead at the end of lap 33, when Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo pitted, and never looked back.
“I’m so happy right now,” Hamilton said.
“My engineers, they always talk about stopping super early. They’re way too chilled back on the [pit] wall, and I was like yeah, I’ve got a long way to go, this car doesn’t feel too good right now. But once again they were calculated, and that’s really why we have so much trust in those guys!”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen completed the podium, in the last race of the year. Just a two-day Pirelli tyre test the final proceeding of a long season that lasted from March to November.
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Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
It’s the final round of the 21-round 2018 Formula One World Championship, with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a last chance for the drivers to make their mark before heading into the European winter and a much-needed break. It’s all on the line as the teams push one last time for top results.
Mercedes has locked out the front row at Yas Marina Circuit for the fifth-straight time, setting the record for the most for any team at any circuit. Five-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton starts on pole for the 11th time this season, with 10 wins behind him, and has a chance to equal his personal record of 11 race wins from the 2014 season. Valtteri Bottas is alongside the Brit, and needs the victory to stop him becoming the first Mercedes to have a winless season in the turbo-hybrid era.
On the second row, it’s both Ferraris - Sebastian Vettel ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn the last Scuderia driver on pole (Italy) and win (USA), with Vettel’s last win in Belgium. Then it’s both Red Bull Racing cars, Daniel Ricciardo (in his 150th race, and 100th start for the team, and last before joining Renault next year) ahead of Max Verstappen for the fifth time this season. The Dutchman will surely be on the backfoot towards the end of the race, starting on the softest hypersoft tyres, with a one-stop race expected due to the large pit stop delta.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso starts his final F1 Grand Prix (311th start), for now at least, from 15th on the grid - with both Toro Rossos behind him. He’ll need to move up to fifth to equal his best result from this year, earned at the opening round in Australia. But he’ll more likely need to be happy with a top-10 result, finishing his F1 career on a high.
Strategically, we’re expecting a one-stop for everyone - with the Mercedes and Ferraris starting on the purple ultrasofts, and likely to stop around Lap 17-25 for the supersofts and running to the end. For Verstappen on hypersofts, it’s likely Pirelli’s softest compound tyres will only last for 8-16 laps, and from there he’ll likely run the supersofts for the rest of the race. It’s understood the red tyres can cope with a full race distance, but how will they be holding up at the end?
Both Mercedes and Ferraris start on the ultrasofts, along with Red Bull Racing’s Ricciardo. Verstappen and the rest of the top-10 are on the hypersofts, and will want to make the most of the start. Behind the top-10, it’s Sainz (P11), Perez (P14), Alonso (P15) and Hartley (P16) on the ultras - with the balance on the supersofts.
Polesitter Hamilton gets a good start, and he stays first into Turn 1 - ahead of Bottas, Grosjean going wide through Turn 1. Verstappen behind Force India. Vettel stays P3, ahead of Raikkonen, then it’s Ricciardo and Leclerc. Verstappen down in P10. Leclerc going wheel to wheel with Ricciardo into the chicane, as Hulkenberg barrel rolls into the barrier at Turn 9. Huge crash there. Car on fire, as marshals douse the Renault. Safety car has been deployed.
So the order is Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Ocon, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Ericsson, Gasly, Alonso, Stroll, Magnussen, Vandoorne, Sirotkin. Hartley has pitted, and is 19th. Leclerc got ahead of Ricciardo in the seconds before the safety car. Hulkenberg’s car righted, and he’s out of the car and OK. Replays showing Grosjean’s front left made contact with Hulkenberg’s right rear.
We’re still under the safety car, with Hulkenberg’s car being towed away. Incident between Hulkenberg and Grosjean being investigated. Replay of Verstappen looking like he’s not been able to get away properly, the car bogged down into second gear. Perhaps a battery issue. No further action on Grosjean/Hulkenberg incident.
Safety car still out, and coming in at the end of the lap.
Hamilton retains lead, ahead of Bottas. Then Vettel and Raikkonen. The Mercedes cars have a good gap already. Verstappen passes Ocon for P8 into the hairpin, but the Frenchman goes wheel to wheel down the straight - and both Force Indias get past. “Is my engine off?!” Verstappen complains. Verstappen passes Perez for P9 into Turn 11.
Hamilton leads, setting the fastest lap, a 1:43.982. He’s 1.8 seconds ahead of Bottas. Verstappen passes Ocon for P8 into the hairpin, but Ocon repossess into Turn 8. Verstappen tries to pass again into Turn 11, and gets past for P8.
Hamilton’s lead over Bottas now 2.8 seconds. Raikkonen has stopped on the main straight, retiring from P4 on the side of the track. Virtual Safety Car deployed. The Ferrari lost power at the final corner. “What’s happening? I don’t have power,” the Finn says. He’s still in the car. Mercedes are in the pit lane.
Hamilton pits from the lead. He’s onto the supersofts. 2.5-second stop. He exits in P5, behind Verstappen. So Bottas leads this race, ahead of Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Hamilton. Raikkonen’s car is still being recovered. Leclerc, who also stopped, is down in P14 on supersofts.
VSC has been stood down, Hamilton going to the end. Bottas leads Vettel by 1.8 seconds. Hamilton passes Verstappen for P4 into the chicane, but the Dutchman re-passes Hamilton into Turn 11 and retains the place.
Ricciardo in P3 sets the fastest lap, a 1:43.861. Hamilton in P5 is just 9-seconds behind the leader. It’s Bottas, Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen - then Hamilton, Ocon and Perez. Replays show Hartley understeered into the wall on Lap 4 out of Turn 19.
Bottas lead Vettel by 1.5 seconds. Magnussen passes Sirotkin for P13 into the chicane. Sainz in P9 is 0.7 seconds behind Ericsson.
Verstappen in P4 is closing in on Ricciardo, with both doing 1:44s - with those ahead of 1:45s. Vettel locks up front left into the chicane. Sainz is closing in on Ericsson.
Hulkenberg has no obvious injuries, but will remain under observation for now. Vettel again locking up. Sainz tries to pass Ericsson for P8 into Turn 11, but can’t get past.
Bottas 2.3 seconds ahead of Vettel, with Ricciardo and Verstappen behind. Verstappen now in DRS range of his teammate, 0.4 seconds the gap there. Sainz passes Ericsson for P8 into Turn 11.
Bottas leads Vettel by 2.5 seconds, Ricciardo has edged out of DRS range from Verstappen - 1.1 seconds the gap there. Hamilton is P5, 9.4 seconds from the leader. Hulkenberg walking back to the garage, OK after his crash.
Vettel pits from P3, and is onto the supersofts - 3.7 second stop, very slow there so has botched an undercut attempt on Bottas. He’s dropped to P6 behind Ocon. Vettel passes Ocon and gets back to P5 into Turn 11. Vettel’s right rear the issue at his stop. So it’s Bottas, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Hamilton.
Bottas pits from the lead, onto the supersofts. 2.5 second stop, and he drops to P4 behind Hamilton. So Ricciardo leads this race, ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas, then Vettel. Sainz in P8 is chasing down Ocon, but can’t get past into the chicane. He tries again into the following straight, but can’t get past again.
Verstappen pits from P2, he’s onto the supersofts - quick 2.0-second stop. Vettel in P4 sets the fastest lap, a 1:43.602. Verstappen drops to P5, has he just undercut Ricciardo? So it’s Ricciardo, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Verstappen. Ocon pits, releasing Sainz.
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:43.095. Incredibly, it’s raining in downtown Abu Dhabi. Hamilton told to stay in touch with Ricciardo, with the Australian 6.3 seconds ahead and yet to stop.
Ricciardo leads this race, 6.1 seconds ahead of Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Verstappen. Vandoorne in P14 is racing Stroll, 0.8 seconds the gap.
Ricciardo in the lead doing mid 1:44s, with the balance of the top-five doing high 1:43s.
Hamilton told a threat of rain late in the race, along the main straight. So it’s Ricciardo 6.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen in P5 is 1.6 seconds behind Vettel. So Ricciardo likely holding out for rain - and possibly a late race hyper soft run.
18 runners left in this race, with Raikkonen and Hulkenberg out. Ocon in P17 is chasing down Sirotkin. We can see rain dropping from the Turn 8-9 grandstand.
Ocon passes Sirotkin down second straight and into Turn 11 for P16. Rain now falling hard. This is the first time we’ve seen rain in a race in Abu Dhabi. Will the pack be forced in for the intermediates?
Teams are preparing tyres with rain on the back straight. Ricciardo leads Hamilton by 5.7 seconds. Then it’s Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen. Sirotkin goes wide into final corner, and Hartley passes him around the outside of Turn 1 for P17.
Ericsson is slowing down to a crawl, and he’s pulling off in his final race for Sauber - “no power at all”. His teammate Leclerc is chasing Alonso for P9.
Leclerc passes Alonso for P9 into the chicane, and stays ahead into Turn 11 - and he’s got the place. Perez pits. Ricciardo leads Hamilton by 3.3 seconds, so Hamilton has reeled the Red Bull in. And is closing in.
Rain looks to have eased. Hamilton is now just 2.6 seconds behind Ricciardo - he was 1.6 seconds faster on that last lap, as Bottas in P3 sets the fastest first sector. Alonso pits from P10.
Ricciardo and Verstappen told wind changed, tailwind into Turn 1. As Vettel sets fastest first sector, he’s in P4 1.5 seconds behind Bottas. Lightning reported from helicopter.
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:43.017 in P4. Gasly pits from P7. Ricciardo has responded, doing a personal best - top-six are all in the 1:43s.
Perez in P8 is chasing down Leclerc, 0.7 sec the gap. Grosjean passes Vandoorne for P11 into the chicane. But Ocon uses the chance to try and get past - Vandoorne stays ahead, while Ocon passes Grosjean. Great job from the Belgian. Verstappen sets the fastest lap, a 1:43.000.
Bottas in P3 has Vettel and Verstappen behind him, the pair a tenth faster on that last lap. Ocon trying to pass Vandoorne and goes wheel to wheel out of Turn 11 - but gets too deep into Turn 17, runs wide but rejoins ahead of Vandoorne.
Bottas responds with the fastest lap, a 1:42.975. Searing pace. Grosjean passes Vandoorne into the chicane for P11. Alonso passes Sirotkin for P16 into Turn 11.
Ricciardo pits, onto the supersofts - 2.2 second stop and he drops back to P5, behind Verstappen. Ocon and Vandoorne battle under investigation. So Hamilton leads this race, ahead of his teammate Bottas, then Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo. Sainz is P6, then Leclerc.
Gasly passes Vandoorne for P13 into the chicane. Stewards have given Ocon a 5-second time penalty for passing Vandoorne off-track. Vettel passes Bottas for P2 into Turn 11. Bottas must have made a mistake, locked-up into Turn 5 and ran wide.
Bottas now has Verstappen behind him. Ricciardo sets the fastest lap, a 1:41.249. 2.7 seconds faster than teammate. Bottas goes off at the chicane, and Verstappen has closed in. Ricciardo is also closing on the back of his teammate.
Bottas under pressure from Verstappen.
Sainz pits. 13-seconds covers the top-five. Bottas out of line through Turn 9. Verstappen passes on the inside of the chicane, bumping wheels as Bottas goes off track. And he’s up to P3, as Ricciardo seeks to do the same.
So it’s Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas and Ricciardo. And Ricciardo goes past Bottas for P4 into the chicane. And stays ahead into Turn 11. So it’s Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Bottas.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 5.7 seconds. Top-14 are on the lead lap. Mercedes getting ready for a pit stop for Bottas.
Bottas pits from P5. He goes onto the ultrasofts. 2.5-second stop, free pit stop there.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 5.1 seconds.
Bottas told he was pitted as something concerned the team on the right rear tyre. The Finn sets the fastest lap, a 1:40.953. He’s 35-seconds off the lead, though.
Hamilton sets a personal best lap, he’s 5.4 seconds ahead of Vettel - and half a second faster on that last lap. The Brit showing he has pace in hand. The top-11 are on the lead lap.
Ricciardo in P4 is 1.8 seconds behind his teammate.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 4.4 seconds. Only top-nine on the lead lap now.
Ocon retires from the race, but has stopped in the pit lane entry - with no power, as marshals try to push. But his car is locked solid, so no way to push.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 5.1 seconds. Gasly looks like he has an engine failure, smoke coming out of his rear end. He stops out on track.
Only top-eight on lead lap now. So Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez.
Vettel reeling Hamilton in, 4.4 seconds the gap now.
Top-three doing personal best laps. Verstappen having an issue with engine braking, could it be his MGU-K?
Hamilton leads Vettel by 4.6 seconds. Ricciardo in P4 has dropped away from Verstappen, 2.5 seconds the gap there. Alonso has set the fastest middle sector of the race, but missed apex of Turn 9.
Hamilton sets fastest first sector, he leads Vettel by 4.7 seconds.
Perez fighting Leclerc for P7. Alonso gets 5-second time penalty for leaving track and gaining advantage after he cut chicane again.
Lap 55 - FINAL LAP:
Hamilton takes 11th win of 2018, signing off his mega season on the ultimate high.
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