Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his eleventh win of the 2018 season, to break his own record for the most points scored in a single Formula 1 season.
A fourth career win at the Yas Marina Circuit saw Hamilton reach 408 points, finishing two seconds ahead of his nearest rival Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen.
Starting from pole position, Hamilton held his lead on the first lap ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and the Scuderia Ferrari duo of Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen. Verstappen struggled with his getaway, despite starting on the hyper-soft tyres, and fell to tenth.
The early action was halted by a terrifying accident between Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean at Turn 9; the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team car pitched into a roll by the Frenchman, who ran out of space, before coming to rest by the barriers upside down. A small fire attracted worry over the German’s safety, but moments later he appeared from wreck and was released from the medical centre after a quick observation.
After four laps, the Safety Car retreated back to the pitlane, racing resuming with Verstappen trying to atone for his sluggish start. A highly-charged combat with Esteban Ocon ensued with the Dutchman muscling his way through at the hairpin twice, only to see the Mercedes power in the Racing Point Force India F1 Team help the Frenchman breeze back past on both occasions. On lap six, the Red Bull made the move permanent into the triple chicane of Turns 11, 12 and 13.
At the same spot, future Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc made light work of passing the man he is to replace for next year. A few corners later, the explanation for Räikkönen’s lack of defence emerged as an electrical problem. The Finn’s final race for Ferrari ended on the pit straight.
The resulting Virtual Safety Car on lap eight saw Hamilton make an early pitstop for super-soft tyres and rejoin behind the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and the recovered Verstappen. Once again, Verstappen was powerless to defend on the long back straight but, as he did to Ocon previously, managed to stay ahead into Turn 11.
New leading pair Bottas and Vettel waited longer than Hamilton to get rid of their ultra-soft tyres. Ferrari made the first move on lap 16, rejoining in sixth due to a sticky right rear tyre. One lap later, Bottas suffered no such issues and comfortably kept ahead of the German in fourth, as Ricciardo assumed the lead. Showing promising pace, Verstappen managed to stretch his hyper-softs to lap 18 and emerged in fifth.
A brief, and unexpected, rain shower saw Red Bull hesitate to bring Ricciardo in for fresh rubber. As the adverse weather passed having caused no issues, the Australian finally came into the pits on lap 34, with 22 laps remaining. Similarly to his rivals, he took on a set of super-softs. Ricciardo’s stop allowed Hamilton to retake the lead he last saw on lap eight and he failed to relinquish it for the remainder of the race.
While one Mercedes was in complete control, the other was in free fall. Reportedly aiding a problem on the right rear, a lock-up into Turn 5 for Bottas allowed Vettel to get within striking distance. With the aid of the second DRS zone, the German eased into second place. It soon got worse for the race’s remaining Finn as a bigger lock-up, this time into Turn 8 gave Verstappen a chance at a podium. After two laps of chasing, the Dutchman forced his way through – with a little contact – at his preferred passing spot.
At the front, Vettel found some pace in the final three laps and closed the gap to Hamilton, but he could never trouble the Mercedes driver who heads into 2019 with two successive race wins.
Ricciardo also found a way past Bottas to take fourth, ending up two seconds behind Verstappen and a podium in his last race for Red Bull. Having made a precautionary pitstop, Bottas ended up in an effective no man’s land between Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz Jr.
The Renault driver compensated for Hülkenberg’s dramatic exit with a fantastic drive to sixth, securing fourth place for the French marque. Leclerc took a third successive seventh place finish in his last race for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team – running as high as third early on – ahead of Sergio Pérez and the Haas pair Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
Even with some late loose interpretation of track limits, Fernando Alonso could not finish in the top ten in what could be his final Formula 1 race, improving on his qualifying position of fifteenth to end up eleventh.
[table id=3644 /]