ANALYSIS: 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Assessing the field

by Sudha Sundararaj

Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to seal his eleventh win of the season and put the cherry on top of his sixth championship winning season.

The two young pretenders, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, joined Hamilton on the podium at the twenty-first and final race of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

In an entertaining race that saw a lot of action in the final laps that decided the minor places, the top three finishers were in command from the early laps.

Top of the class…

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.194s

Race margin to team-mate: -44.379s

Lewis Hamilton ended his sixth world championship winning season with a commanding performance at the Yas Marina circuit. Hamilton started the weekend with a scruffy Friday and then regained his rhythm on Saturday.

The Briton secured pole position comfortably for just his fifth pole of the season and his first since the German Grand Prix nine races ago.

On race day, Hamilton was untouchable as he led every lap from lights out to the chequered flag. Hamilton’s eleventh win of the season helped him achieve a “Grand Chelem” as he also recorded the fastest lap of the race.

An understandably satisfied Hamilton said: What a way to end the season! As a team, as a whole, we’ve been very strong this weekend and Valtteri did a great job today as well. I’m just so grateful for everyone’s continued hard work and dedication this year, we continue to raise the bar together.

The support has been unbelievable, I’m completely overwhelmed, so a big, big thank you to everyone at the track but also back home who supports me. Team LH is such a cool, positive movement, I really appreciate it.”

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Max Verstappen – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.543s

Race margin to team-mate: -52.433s

Max Verstappen ended a season that saw him clinch three wins on a high note with second position, albeit a distant 16.772s from Hamilton. The Dutchman qualified in third position, but started in second position because of Valtteri Bottas’s demotion due to grid penalties.

Verstappen was overtaken by Leclerc at the start and dueled with the Monégasque driver a couple of times. Verstappen essayed another mature drive that saw him bring the car home even though he complained about turbo lag issues all-race long.

The second position also helped him seal third in the drivers’ championship behind the two Mercedes drivers. The good ending to the season bodes well for next season for Verstappen and the Red Bull Racing team.

Verstappen was another satisfied driver who said: Of course I’m very happy to finish the season with a podium and to be third in the championship ahead of both Ferraris is also a good achievement.

On this track today Mercedes and Lewis were just a bit too quick but as a Team we had a good strategy, good pit stops and the car was working really well so second place is a good result on this track. It’s a great ending and now we just want to focus ahead and be even more competitive in 2020.”

Charles Leclerc – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.120s

Race margin to team-mate: -20.922s

Charles Leclerc ended a good season with his tenth podium of the season which included two wins. The Monégasque driver beat four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship with fourth position in his first season at Ferrari.

Leclerc qualified in fourth position and started in third position in the race. He got the better of Verstappen on lap 1 and stayed in front until the first pit stop. As has been the case all-season long, Ferrari lacked the race pace of the W10 and RB15.

A two pit stop strategy in contrast to Hamilton and Verstappen did not yield the desired results. Leclerc had to hold off the fast closing Bottas in the final laps. Leclerc escaped punishment for a fuel infringement though the team was fined after the race. This was a solid performance to end the season for the young driver.

In a season with highs and lows, Leclerc has made his share of mistakes. There have also been brilliant, incandescent performances especially after the summer break from Leclerc.

Carlos Sainz – McLaren F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.023s

Race margin to team-mate: +4.857s

Carlos Sainz capped a fine season with the resurgent McLaren F1 team with a last gasp tenth position in the race. The solitary point helped the Spaniard pip Pierre Gasly by one point for sixth position in the drivers’ championship.

In a race in which Sainz was outqualified and outraced by team-mate Lando Norris,the fine overtake on Nico Hulkenberg on the last lap salvaged his race.

The position of the ‘best of the rest’ in the drivers’ championship was well-deserved as Sainz held that position in many of the races. The best finish of the season was his first podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Sainz turned things around after a slow start to the season at McLaren. In the race when he made a two-stop strategy work, the adaptability and race craft of Sainz came to the fore again.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1201209199289683968

Nico Hulkenberg – Renault F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.254s

Race margin to team-mate: +1.365s

Nico Hulkenberg ran out of luck on the final lap as Sainz first overtook him for tenth position. The German lost another place to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo before he crossed the finish line.

Hulkenberg was overtaken by two drivers who were on a two-stop strategy and on fresher tyres at the end. This luckless finish after spending most of the race in the points was emblematic of his career.

Hulkenberg does not have a drive for next season. The affable German is popular among Formula 1 fans who gave him a warm farewell with ‘Driver Of The Day’ honors.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1201152632271884289

Homework to do…

Pierre Gasly – Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.052s (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate: +85.773s

Pierre Gasly after the high of his first podium in Formula 1 in the previous race was level on points with Sainz for sixth position in the drivers’ championship.

Gasly qualified in eleventh position at the Yas Marina circuit and started the race on the durable medium compound tyres. But the clash at the start with Lance Stroll saw him drop to the back of the grid after a lengthy pit stop on the opening lap for a front-wing change.

The Frenchman could not make any progress after that and ended outside the points in the race. But the seventh position in the drivers’ championship was creditable after Gasly was demoted to Toro Rosso from Red Bull Racing after the summer break.

Lance Stroll – Racing Point F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.048 (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Lance Stroll had a timid end to a poor season as his race ended on lap 45. The Canadian got into the second session of qualification for only the seventh time in twenty-one races.

Stroll started in twelfth position, but his race was compromised at the start when his clash with Gasly led to front-wing damage and an early pit stop.

Stroll finished in a disappointing fifteenth position and a good thirty-one points behind team-mate Sergio Pérez in the drivers’ championship.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1201435838845833216

The rest…

Valtteri Bottas finished in a creditable fourth position after he started the race in last place after grid penalties for a new Power Unit.

Lando Norris sealed a fine rookie season with an eighth-place finish and a characteristic laughter inducing team radio message after the race. Daniil Kvyat finished in ninth position to cap a fine comeback season for the Toro Rosso team.

The Renault F1 and Alfa Romeo Racing teams finished the season with a pointless race after doing well in the previous race. The Haas F1 team continued their slide as both drivers finished outside the points again for the fifth race in a row.

The curtains came down on the 2019 Formula 1 season with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton made history again after he sealed his sixth world drivers’ championship. The teams will complete a Pirelli tyre test next week and reassemble again for pre-season testing in February 2020.

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