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Race Weekend Review – November 25, 2019 F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit
Hamilton finishes the season with another win

Abu Dhabi, UAE, Nov 25/18 (GRW): When the Formula I circus came to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the 2018 season, Lewis Hamilton had long since tied up his fifth world championship and Mercedes had clinched the manufacturers title as well. So the race ran in a rather end-of-term mood. Nonetheless, everyone was hoping for a good result – and in the end it was pretty much what we might have expected. Hamilton was the race winner by a 2.6-second margin over Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari, ahead of the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

As for the other two of the top three teams, Valtteri Bottas, who many had expected to win here, was fifth and Kimi Räikkönen was a DNF, having retired with mechanical problems after only six laps.

The race was far from processional in the early going. The two Mercedes were lined up one-two for the start with the two Ferraris in the second row the two Red Bulls (Ricciardo and Verstappen) making up the third row.

When the lights went out, the front four shot out ahead but Verstappen was in trouble, falling back. Apparently one or more of the air baffles had been left in his cooling ducts blocking the air flow and the engine detected this as overheating and went onto a shut-down mode. This happened a few times before the problem was completely addressed and it dropped Verstappen down several places before he got going properly.

Meanwhile, a little farther around the first lap, NIco Hulkenberg was trying to make a pass on Esteban Ocon and he put his rear wheel in between the left-side wheels of Ocon and the wheels touched. This threw the Hulkenberg Renault up in to the air and it barrel-rolled a couple of times, coming to rest upside down against the barrier. This brought out the Safety Car. It looked bad for a while but they righted the car and the driver emerged unhurt.

No sooner had the track gone green after this was cleared up than Räikkönen, who had been running in fourth place, came to a stop on the track right in front of the pit lane. A Virtual Safety Car was called for, freezing everyone in their place. Hamilton took advantage of this and pitted. The tire strategy for this race was going to be a single stop for everyone, so Hamilton now had his pit stop done for the day. When the green came back out he was down in fifth behind Verstappen who had recovered fairly well from his earlier troubles.

Next to pit was Vettel who had a slow stop and was unable to put himself in a position to undercut Bottas when the Mercedes driver pitted two laps later. After Verstappen pitted on the next lap after that, the race order settled out to be Ricciardo, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Verstappen – and there were reports that rain might be coming to this desert track. Some light rain did fall but it did not affect the racing.

Ricciardo had yet to pit – indeed, he did not pit until lap 33. This pit stop completed the full sequence of single pit stops among the front five, seemingly setting up the order for the rest of the race – Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo.

However, it was soon obvious that Bottas was having traction problems, locking up a wheel and falling back. He had dropped to fifth by the time his crew called him into the pits on lap 40 for a replacement tire, but by then the next car back, Carlos Sainz, was so far back that Bottas had no worries about losing fifth place to Sainz. But he was never able to catch the cars Ricciardo, who was now up into fourth place.

As the laps wound down to the finish on lap 55, the order was now established. Ricciardo, in fourth place did close up on his teammate for a while but he was unable to get within DRS distance and he had to settle for fourth, 2.6 seconds back of Verstappen. In the closing laps, Vettel was able to match Hamilton’s pace but he was never a real threat.

Photo F1 AbuDhabi podiumTop three finishers Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari and Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podium during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

If there were any question about Hamilton’s right to the championship title this year, the fact that this win came easily to him and that it was his 11th win in the 21 F1 races this year should put that idea to rest.

“This year has been a very uplifting experience for me,” said Hamilton. “I wanted to come here and make sure that I left no stone unturned; the team did an exceptional job all year long, so I really wanted to deliver for them and end the season off strong. I think I was able to do that and I’m really grateful for all the support throughout the entire year. I’ve been able to be a better me all year long and I will continue to try to work on that and try to work on the energy that I’m projecting to people.”

The next F1 race will be the 2019 season-opener at Melbourne, Australia, on March 17.

Click HERE for the final classification of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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