Lewis Hamilton has won the final race of the 2018 season from former title rival Sebastian Vettel at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s win was secured from the moment he got away cleanly from the line, temporarily losing the lead only after an unexpectedly early pit stop, but although Vettel attempted to apply pressure for the lead in the final stint, the Briton had more than enough pace in hand to control the gap.
“My engineers always talk about stopping super early,” Hamilton said. “Once again they were calculated and correct. That’s really why we have to put so much trust in those guys. A big, big, thank you to Mercedes and all the team.”
Vettel lamented the fact he couldn’t catch Hamilton toward the end of the race, but the Ferrari driver said he was ready to focus on renewing his championship campaign next season.
“I tried everything until the last lap today,” he said. “I really enjoyed catching a little bit, but I think he controlled the pace at the front.
“A long year, a lot of races — I think out whole team will try to come back strong and give him a harder run next year.”
Max Verstappen finished third after recovering from a poor start, in part by inheriting places from Kimi Raikkonen’s broken-down Ferrari and the suspect Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
“It was not an easy race,” he said.” I had a problem off the start — actually the launch was good by my engine went into a safety program. In the end of course, very happy to be third.”
Verstappen’s start left him ninth by the first turn, contrasting starkly with the top five ahead of him, who got away in qualifying order. He had little time to recover, however, as a safety car was triggered just hallway around the first lap to clean up a monster crash between Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean.
The pair were battling for seventh place when the German closed the door on the Frenchman on the apex at turn nine. They made contact, but the camber of the corner and the awkwardness of the collision catapulted the Renault into the air and into a barrel roll before coming to rest in the barriers.
The marshals reacted quickly to extinguish an exhaust fire before righting the car, allowing Hulkenberg to extract himself from the cockpit and walk away unscathed.
The race resumed on Lap 5, allowing Verstappen to climb to eighth, but the grand prix was neutralized again two laps later to collect Kimi Raikkonen’s stricken Ferrari, which had ground to a halt on the start-finish straight with an electrical problem.
Hamilton took the opportunity to pit while the field circulated at a reduced speed. The Briton emerged from pit lane behind Verstappen, who had recovered his lost place, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and fourth respectively but was unable to pass either despite his newer tires. He dropped back and chose instead to wait for their pit stops to move them out of the way.
Vettel was next to pit, the German coming in for supersofts on Lap 15 to undercut Valtteri Bottas for net second place, but the strategy was undone by a slow stop, which dropped him into traffic. Bottas made his pit stop one lap later for the same compound and easily covered the gambit.
That left Ricciardo in the lead of the race ahead of Verstappen. The Dutchman stopped for supersofts on Lap 17, but the Australian didn’t make his tire change until Lap 33, earning himself a significant performance offset for late in the race. He emerged from pit lane eight seconds behind his teammate and 17 seconds off the lead and immediately began eating into both.
Bottas, meanwhile, was losing his battle against Vettel to hold second place. The Finn was complaining of braking issues and a lock-up on Lap 35 was all the invitation the Ferrari driver needed to seize position.
Verstappen and Ricciardo muscled their way past Bottas on Laps 38 and 39 and began bearing down on the leading Hamilton and Vettel at half a second per lap, but it was in vain — their pace tempered as the laps wore on, and they were forced to settle in third and fourth. Bottas finished a distant fifth after a late precautionary pit stop.
Carlos Sainz was best of the midfielders, finishing sixth in his final race for Renault. Charles Leclerc was seventh for Sauber ahead of his Ferrari switch, keeping at bay Force India’s Sergio Perez by just half a second at the flag.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished ninth and 10th to score three points for Haas.