Clean win for Hamilton, big farewell to Alonso

Wednesday November 28 2018

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso gestures during his farewell party at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi on November 24, 2018 ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. PHOTO | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC |

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso gestures during his farewell party at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi on November 24, 2018 ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. PHOTO | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC |  AFP

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton mastered the changing conditions in Abu Dhabi to end the year on a high with his 11th victory of the season.

The five-time champion’s win at the Yas Marina Circuit in a race coming after being crowned champion was ‘clean’ this time around, unlike the previous race in Brazil when Force India's Esteban Ocon inadvertently helped the Brit win courtesy of his collision with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen which was leading the race.

Hamilton won despite a questionable strategy that saw him pit much earlier than others from the lead during a virtual safety car period on the seventh lap to take care of the stricken Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari engine gave way ruining the Finn's last race with the team.

Hamilton and his teammate, Valterri Bottas, had managed to get away from the rest at the start.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen were on the second row and also launched off well.

The same, however, cannot be said of Verstappen who lost four positions right away from his sixth place start.

It meant that the Dutchman had to claw his way back up and in the process, he encountered Ocon, whom he duly shoved aside, avenging the collision with the Frenchman in Brazil, to claim eighth place.

Sauber's Charles Leclerc, who will next year be Vettel's teammate, had also managed to overtake Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo but the Australian was able to reclaim the position from the man who has already made a name for himself in his rookie season.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso started his last Formula One race in 15th position.

There was a major incident on the first lap when the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg came into contact with the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

The Renault was flipped over and somersaulted into the barriers catching fire in the process which was quickly extinguished with the driver safely removed.

Raikkonen final race for Ferrari, with his third position on the drivers' standings on the line, ended at the start of lap seven.

Vettel, who was behind the race leader, Bottas, pitted on the fifteenth lap while Verstappen came in two laps later. This meant that Ricciardo inherited the lead from then on, with Hamilton then Bottas behind him.

The Abu Dhabi GP would determine the third, fourth and fifth places in the drivers’ standings and so Bottas and Verstappen had a lot at stake.

Race Control had given a 40 per cent chance of showers and almost halfway into the race, it started raining. The rain was, however, not heavy enough to compel the teams to change their tyres as the track did not get wet.

Twenty laps to the end of the race, Bottas was in second place, behind his teammate, and needed to finish in that position to secure third place on the standings. Vettel, however, caught up with him and passed him.

On laps 38 and 39, Verstappen and Ricciardo followed suit. While jostling for position, Verstappen and Bottas came into contact, the Finn coming out worse off for he was called into the pits soon afterwards after the team saw something they were uncomfortable with from the collision.

With eleven laps to go, car no. 44 was on the lap 44, with driver Hamilton, gunning for an eleventh win of the season. He was 5.6 seconds ahead of Vettel.

The only thing that Hamilton needed to do to win the race was ensure that the gap to Vettel was maintained without rapid degradation of his tyres, and that he did without much of a struggle.

Further behind, Alonso made a brave attempt to catch the Haas of Kevin Magnussen that was in 10th position in the hope of getting that one point that would take his career tally to 1,900, but it was not to be.

On his last race, the two-time champion did what he has done throughout his 17-year career, played his heart out, despite all.

It was a fitting tribute to have three champions, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso do a triple-doughnut at the pit straight to the delight of fans in honour of the departing Spaniard.