(From L) Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (2nd), head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport F1 communications Bradley Lord, Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (1st) and Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen (3rd) celebrate on the podium after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 25, 2018, in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton secured a comfortable win at the Abu Dhabi GP to put the cherry on the top of a championship winning 2018 Formula 1 season. Hamilton recorded his 73rd career win and his 11th win of the season at the season finale. Sebastian Vettel finished second behind his title-rival. Max Verstappen completed the podium places, his first podium finish at the Yas Marina circuit.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth in his last race for Red Bull Racing as he moves to Renault for next season. Valtteri Bottas finished a disappointing fifth to end a winless season. Carlos Sainz finished sixth and β€œbest of the rest” in his final race for Renault as he moves to McLaren next season. Charles Leclerc finished an impressive seventh for Sauber as he moves to Ferrari to partner Vettel in 2019. Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, and Kevin Magnussen rounded off the top 10 positions.

Lewis Hamilton Wins Final Race Of 2018

The race started as the sun began to set with air temperatures at 32 degrees C and track temperatures at 35 degrees C at the Yas Marina circuit. Mercedes had a front row lockout with Hamilton on pole. Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen started on the second row. Red Bull drivers, Ricciardo and Verstappen, started on the third row. Grosjean, Leclerc, Ocon and Hulkenberg lined up at the front of the grid.

The top 5 drivers started on the purple-striped ultrasoft tyres which were expected to last longer than the pink-striped hypersoft tyres. Max Verstappen started sixth on the hypersoft tyres. The other drivers outside the top 10 were on a mixture of the red-striped supersoft tyres or the ultrasoft tyres.

The Start

Hamilton made a clean start as he led Bottas, Vettel, and Raikkonen into Turn 1. Ricciardo fell behind the fast-starting Leclerc. Verstappen had a shocking start due to engine problems and fell to P10. As Grosjean and Hulkenberg jostled for position at Turn 9, the German clipped Grosjean’s car. This resulted in a nasty crash that saw Hulkenberg in the barrier with his car turned upside down.

The Safety Car (SC) was deployed and the German walked away unharmed from his damaged car. On lap 4, the SC period ended and Hamilton had a smooth restart. Verstappen started to make his way to the front of the grid as he moved from tenth position to eighth position in a couple of laps.

The Early Pitstops

On lap 7, Raikkonen’s car ground to a halt in his last race for Ferrari. The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed. Surprisingly, race leader Hamilton made an early pitstop to switch to the durable supersoft tyres. The Briton rejoined P5 behind Bottas, Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen. Leclerc also pitted to rejoin P14.

Hamilton’s pitstop was less than 10 seconds under the VSC but he would have to make his tyres last for more than 47 laps. Vettel was the next top driver to pit on lap 16 and rejoined sixth behind Ocon. By lap 19, all the top six drivers except Ricciardo had pitted. At the end of lap 20, the order was Ricciardo, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Ericsson, Gasly, Alonso, and Leclerc.

A Sprinkling Of Rain and Bottas Falls Behind

On lap 24, the drops of rain started falling harder. If Ricciardo hoped to cash in on the rain as he stayed out lap after lap, it did not come to fruition. The light rain made no impact as it was absorbed by the hot track. Finally, Ricciardo pitted on lap 34 and rejoined P5 behind Verstappen. The gap between the Red Bull teammates was +7.4 seconds and the Australian was on a much fresher set of tyres.

At the front, Vettel passed Bottas and set about catching Hamilton who had a 7-second gap in front. As Bottas’ tyres started to go, Verstappen and Ricciardo also passed the Finnish driver. Bottas had a free pitstop at this stage and pitted for fresh tyres and finished the race in a lonely and disappointing fifth place. Ericsson (lap 26), Ocon (lap 47) and Gasly (lap 48) all on last races for their current teams saw reliability end their races.

Lewis Hamilton Cruises To Easy Victory

Vettel could not get closer than 4.5 seconds to Hamilton in front and settled for second. Verstappen held on to the final podium place to deny Ricciardo a grand finish in his last race for Red Bull Racing. In a season which allowed only three engines per driver, the drivers heaved a sigh of relief as the last race ended and they put their tired engines through doughnuts.

This was the last race of their careers for the time being for Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson, Esteban Ocon, Brendon Hartley, Stoffel Vandoorne, and Sergey Sirotkin. A number of drivers will be moving to new teams and new beginnings in 2019.

Another triumphant season for Hamilton and Mercedes ended as they have clinched their fifth consecutive double title-winning season. Vettel and Ferrari will hope next season will see them topple the champions. Verstappen and Red Bull Racing will hope the new partnership with Honda will propel them to the front.

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