It was a spectacular end to yet another season of the Formula 1 Championship with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took this season’s 11th win amidst much drama at the Yas Marina circuit, while Fernando Alonso completed the last race (for now) of his F1 career in 11th place, bringing an end to an illustrious career in the sport. The former world champion was also announced as the driver of the day after a fantastic drive. Finishing on the podium though behind Hamilton were Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished second 2.5s adrift, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished third, 12.7s behind the race leader.
The race started with a massive collision on the opening lap as Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg send the latter’s Renault flying. While Nico was thankfully uninjured, the incident did end his race for the day. Hulkenberg turned in to the apex of the right-hander and hit Grosjean’s front-left, which pushed the Renault into a barrel roll. The car came to stop when upside down against the outside barrier, but left Hulkenberg unhurt despite briefly catching fire. The trackside was quick to extract him and was rushed to the hospital and was declared unhurt. The virtual safety car was immediately deployed post the incident which lasted on the track for the next five laps with Hamilton in the lead.
(Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton doing donuts in the 2018 F1 grand finale)
At the restart, Hamilton was again in P1, pulling at least a second clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas. The top drivers had switched to supersofts at the time. The Briton ran the longest stint of any driver after pitting on Lap 7, a second clear of Vettel. The same lap saw Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari switch off on the final corner on the start-finish line, abruptly ending the Fin’s final race with Scuderia Ferrari. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo extended their stint on the ultrasofts, while Verstappen continued his run on the hypersofts.
Verstappen had received an early engine warning but overcame the issue thanks to a fail-safe, as he charged towards P3 passing Bottas and teammate Daniel Ricciardo, denying the latter a podium finish in what would be his last race with Red Bull Racing before switching to Renault in 2019. Pitting late, Bottas, who was second to Hamilton early in the race dropped heavily after facing some problems under hard braking. The first lock up on Lap 35 allowed Vettel to move past to second, while Ricciardo caught up a lap later. Mercedes pitted Bottas again but the fresh tyres didn’t help the driver as he finished fifth behind the Red Bull. This season turned out to be a winless championship for Bottas.
Coming in sixth was Carlos Sainz in what was his last race with Renault so far, fetching an appreciable result in the bottom half of the top 10, while Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez finished eighth, trying to defend P7 but eventually lost it to Charles Leclerc of Sauber. The final spots were taken by the Haas duo Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who finished ninth and tenth respectively.
Alonso’s final F1 appearance in the future saw the driver pick-up a five second penalty late in the race for a track limits offense. The penalty though did not affect his final standing. The Spaniard will continue with his other racing commitments though including IndyCar and Endurance Racing, as aims to bring the Triple crown home. In terms of retirements, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen were joined by Marcus Ericsson, Esteban Icon of Force India and Pierre Gasly. The latter two retired after finding smoke coming from their cars respectively, early in the race.
This was by far the most successful season for Hamilton with 11 wins, which helped seal his fifth F1 world championship title. Raikkonen was the most successful driver for Ferrari and second overall in the standings, while Vettel finished third. With a podium finish in the final race, Verstappen took the fourth place on the points table beating teammate Ricciardo.
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