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This is how victorious Hamilton does it

Tuesday December 03 2019
By ALEX MWANGI

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton capped his 2019 season with an emphatic victory from pole at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to wrap up a year in which he dominated despite a tough second half.

In the process, the Briton tied Ayrton Senna's record of 19 lights-to-flag victories.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen came in second while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was third.

Ferrari was investigated for a fuel load infringement after the race and penalised €50,000 but Leclerc was allowed to maintain his podium position.

The Monegasque took the honours of beating his more illustrious teammate, Sebastian Vettel, in the championship at the first time of asking.

Hamilton got his groove back at the Yas Marina Circuit beating his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, to pole despite the Finn having his car fitted with some new parts to its power unit which meant that whatever position he qualified in, he would start from the back of the grid.

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Behind the Mercedes pair, Verstappen was yet again able to supplant the Ferraris, clocking in ahead of Leclerc and Vettel.

At the start, Hamilton got off well and made it to Turn One without the kind of pressure that had been anticipated from Verstappen.

The only incident during the start at that turn was when SportPesa Racing Point's Lance Stroll collided with Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso, creating problems for Gasly at the start and eventually leading to the Canadian's retirement later on.

Leclerc passed his age-mate, Verstappen, at the Speed Trap on that first lap, declaring his intentions pretty early. Keen to replicate the move by his teammate, Vettel also tried to overtake Verstappen but the Red Bull driver was not in the mood to let both Ferraris through that easily.

By the third lap, Bottas, who started last on the grid, had climbed up to 14th.

Just when one had hoped that the excitement level would go a few notches higher courtesy of the enablement to use the Drag Reduction System (DRS) from the third lap onwards, the system was hit by a technical fault, which meant the drivers could not overtake as easily as they should have.

Bottas, however, was still “going up”, and had managed to get to eighth position by the 12th lap. On that same lap, Ferrari opted to double-stack their cars at the pits.

Leclerc emerged unscathed with a 2.6-second pit-stop while his teammate, Vettel, remained stationary for 6.9 seconds, the front left wheel gun failing to deliver. Both cars took on the hard compound which meant that they were equipped to go till the end of the race.

DRS was still not available on the 17th lap when Bottas, who was behind the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg (who was participating in his last Formula One race), was caught up by Vettel.

The four-time world champion twice tried to pass the Finn but was unable. Albon also joined the “party”. A lap later, DRS was enabled and Bottas quickly dispatched with Hulkenberg.

Verstappen went in for a fresh set of tyres on the 25th lap and came out behind Leclerc. Hamilton swapped his tyres a lap later. By the 30th lap, Hamilton was more than 10 seconds ahead of Leclerc.

The Monegasque was in trouble as Verstappen was gaining on him. Verstappen passed Leclerc at the Speed Trap and on the outside of Turn Eight. It was Leclerc's turn to then have DRS and he attempted to regain the lost position by charging through the outside of Turn Eleven but Verstappen effectively 'closed the door'.

Ferrari gambled with another double-stack on the 38th lap, putting Leclerc on softs while Vettel was given mediums in a bid to give them a chance to fight for higher position finishes.
Leclerc rejoined in third, while Vettel was sixth, behind the Red Bull of Alexander Albon and Bottas.

With five laps to go, SportPesa Racing Point's Sergio Perez was within DRS range of McLaren's Lando Norris, aiming to inherit seventh position from 10th at the start of the race.

Bottas was also closing in on Leclerc. With three laps to go, Hamilton's engine was tuned up to give him maximum power in an attempt to reclaim the fastest lap of the race from his teammate, Bottas, which is worth a single point. Against the odds, he managed to set the fastest lap which doubled up as a new lap record of 1 minute, 39.283 seconds.

Vettel, on fresher tyres, was able to pass Albon on the penultimate lap and defend from the Thai driver.

McLaren's Carlos Sainz also pulled out a last lap overtake on Hulkenberg that ensured he ended the season with 96 points and in sixth position, a single point ahead of Gasly, with that solitary point earned by that overtake since it promoted him to 10th position.

The last lap had drama as the dogged determination of Perez paid off and he was able to overtake Norris on the outside of Turn 11, a crucial development, which the Mexican termed as one of the “greatest” of his career as it saw him claim 10th position on the drivers' standings with 52 points against 49 for Norris.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was marked by a familiar face at the pit-lane as world marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, was hosted by Mercedes at the season-ending race.

Hamilton's overall points haul of 413 is the highest ever at the end of a Formula One season. At 33 races, the six-time world champion equalled his record for consecutive points finishes.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was Hamilton's 250th Formula One race and his win was the 11th this season, equalling the number of wins he had in 2014 and 2018. For Mercedes, it can be said, there is little doubt that the team is now in full party mode.

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