Lewis Hamilton ends season with Abu Dhabi win

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Abu Dhabi
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.

A sweet moment: Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso indulge in a triple doughnut
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
Hamilton goes topless on the podium, and we thought Raikkonen refusing to remove his sunglasses was controversial...

It started with a bang

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg emerged unhurt from a frightening-looking accident in which he was pitched into a roll and landed upside down in a first-lap clash with Romain Grosjean's Haas.

Hulkenberg sounded scared as he said to the team: "I'm hanging here like a cow. Get me out. There's fire."

But once the fire was extinguished and the car righted, he was able to climb out unaided.

Nico Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg appeared trapped in his car as it caught fire

Not as easy as it looked for Hamilton

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.

Was Fernando Alonso a pantomime villain?

Red Bull showing racing potential for 2019

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.

Lewis Hamilton and Will Smith
Will Smith was guest of honour of Lewis Hamilton as part of his 50th birthday bucket list - and filmed it all for social media

A low-key end for Alonso

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.

There was time for one more bit of radio magic, though, when his engineer in the closing laps said: "Go and get a point."

Alonso, 37, replied: "I've already got 1,800."

Actually, he has 1,899 so it would have made a round 1,900, but he could not catch Kevin Magnussen's Haas - not helped by a five-second time penalty for cutting a chicane when he missed his braking point pushing while chasing the Dane.

Driver of the day

Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen did a great job in keeping his hyper-soft tyres alive for a longer first stint than either Mercedes on the ultra-softs, pressured Bottas and took a third place that lifted him to fourth in the championship.

What happens next?

Lots of hard work designing and building new cars, pre-season testing and then a new season starts in Melbourne, Australia in March next year. It'll be there before you know it.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton dunkin' his donut with maximum smoke
Abu dhabi
Raikkonen retired from his last race for Ferrari
Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton said after 83rd career pole: "I'm so grateful for the mechanics who put this [car] together for me."
abu dhabi
Abu Dhabi prefers the red, white and green arrows
Fans watch the sun go down
Goodbye 2018 season.... it's been emotional


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