Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2018

Untouchable Hamilton ends season with 11th victory

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

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Lewis Hamilton controlled proceedings in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, delivering his 11th win of the year and heading into the off-season on a high.

Behind him, the race provided more action than Yas Marina usually manages to serve up, particularly with both championship decided before the race began.

Hulkenberg flips

From his 11th pole position of the year, Hamilton easily kept the lead at the start as the top five cars held grid order through turn one. But from sixth on the grid Max Verstappen fell into the clutches of the midfield after his engine went into its ‘safe mode’.

“There was a long hold on the grid today and the engine temperature started to creep and creep,” explained Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who suggested Renault had tightened up the software limits on the power unit following Daniel Ricciardo’s stoppage earlier in the weekend with a header tank problem.

Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean were among those who passed Verstappen, which gave him a perfect view of the collision between the pair which brought the Safety Car out. Hulkenberg dived down the inside of the Haas at turn eight, then swung into the next corner as if the Haas wasn’t there. It was, and the contact flipped Hulkenberg upside-down onto a barrier.

There was a momentary fire at the rear of the car, which alarmed Hulkenberg as he hung upside-down waiting to be recovered. Afterwards FIA race director Charlie Whiting said Hulkenberg’s extraction had gone as planned and there was “nothing to worry about”. However the race was neutralised while the extraction team headed to the scene.

Ricciardo fails to go out on a high

Start, Yas Marina, 2018
Leclerc attacked Ricciardo at the start
In his 100th and final race for Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo led 17 laps and looked like a victory contender at one stage. But this was only ever a mirage created by the unusual circumstances of the race.

Kimi Raikkonen, also in his final race with his current team, dropped out on lap seven when his Ferrari’s electrics failed. After sitting on the start/finish line trying to coax his unresponsive power unit back to life, he climbed out, and the Virtual Safety Car was deployed.

The timing couldn’t have been better for leader Hamilton, as he and only he had enough of a gap to make a pit stop during the VSC and rejoin still ahead of the midfielders. He rejoined side-by-side with Verstappen, the Red Bull fractionally ahead, then moved passed him. Showing good presence of mind, Hamilton immediately slowed to give the place back.

The race restarted with Valtteri Bottas leading Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull drivers, Hamilton and the rest. Within a few laps Vettel’s tyres were beginning to fade and he pitted, prompting Bottas and Verstappen to do likewise.

For Ricciardo, the best chance of salvaging anything from the race was to run long on his ultra-soft tyres, then attack the final stint. It seemed a viable strategy, particularly as he was able to go well past halfway on his first set of tyres. After his lap 36 pit stop, he resumed just 16.4 seconds behind Hamilton, though to Red Bull’s disappointment it turned out the Mercedes driver wouldn’t need a second stop.

When Ricciardo cut that gap to 13.8 seconds in one lap it looked like it was game on. “When he came out of it and went two seconds a lap quicker than the leaders we thought this would be another China,” said Horner. But his pace advantage proved short-lived.

Meanwhile Bottas was struggling. A right-rear brake was vibrating, which combined with the increasing wind and – a rarity for this desert island track – a spattering or rain, prompted a mistake. Vettel pounced and was through into second.

Soon the Red Bull pair were on his tail as well, Verstappen elbowing his way past at turn 13 before Ricciardo also took advantage. Bottas, with nothing left to lose, pitted for a fresh set of tyres and began to count off the laps to the end of the season.

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Sainz beats Leclerc home

Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2018
Verstappen barged past Ocon
Verstappen therefore took a third place which looked unlikely during his opening lap struggles. His engine had gone into safe mode again while he was trying to pass Ocon. “It was only when things got running properly the temperatures all came under control,” said Horner. “And by that point Renault were able to disable the alarm as well.”

That allowed Verstappen to see off Ocon. Perhaps frustrated by his engine, perhaps remembering the events of Brazil, he saw the Force India off with a particularly strong move at turn seven.

It was a lively afternoon in the midfield. Charles Leclerc impressively saw off both Red Bulls on the opening lap, aided in his move on Ricciardo by the Safety Car being deployed for Hulkenberg’s crash moments after he nosed ahead. He ran the same strategy as Hamilton and used it to great effect, finishing ahead of all the other midfield drivers except Carlos Sainz Jnr, who had the advantage of being allowed to start on new tyres.

The other Sauber didn’t make it to the chequered flag. Marcus Ericsson, in his final F1 race before moving to IndyCar, was passed by Carlos Sainz Jnr then retired a few laps later.

He was joined in retirement by Esteban Ocon, who had a great tussle with Pierre Gasly and Stoffel Vandoorne, though was unlucky to pick up a five-second penalty after he was unable to surrender a position he’d gained after going off the track. Further ill luck rendered that moot: His engine failed while he was running ninth.

Gasly joined him in retirement, also suffering an oil leak. However he contrived to spray most of it over future team mate Verstappen, who was trying to lap him at the time. These two retirements promoted the Haas pair to the final points places.

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Alonso bows out

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2018
Alonso went out in style
A few weeks back Fernando Alonso remarked that Yas Marina, the scene of his final race, was unlikely to be a strong race for McLaren, and he might as well cut all the chicanes. This sounded like a joke at the time, but his antics over the final laps made you wonder.

Having been told he was one place away from the points, Alonso remarked he already had 1,800 in his career, implying he didn’t need any more. He then repeatedly cut the chicane, collecting a trio of five-second time penalties.

When the chequered flag finally dropped on his F1 career, Hamilton and Vettel flanked him on the way back to the pits, and the trio lit up the start/finish area with a few doughnuts for the crowd. Given McLaren’s performance in the second half of the season, this was the closest Alonso was likely to come to ending his career on a high.

Hamilton sets up bid for number six

Hamilton’s second half of the season illustrates home dramatically things turned around for him this year. After winning three of the first 10 races, he was victorious in eight of the remaining 11 rounds.

In past seasons where Hamilton has wrapped up the title with races to spare he’s been accused of ‘phoning it in’ over the final races. Arguably, that left him on the back foot going into 2016, when he lost the championship to Nico Rosberg after his team mate won the final three rounds of the previous year.

There has been none of that this time. Victories in the final two races delivered the constructors’ crown for Mercedes and sealed his fifth title in emphatic style. Now with 73 career victories to his name, reaching Michael Schumacher’s records of seven championships and 91 race wins looks a genuine possibility in the next two seasons.

How realistic that chance is will depend to a great extent on Mercedes’ work over the coming weeks and months. The 2019 F1 season has already begun.

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Untouchable Hamilton ends season with 11th victory”

  1. The Telegraph reported the Hulkenberg instead like this (and I quote) –

    Nico Hulkenberg trapped in ablaze Renault for three minutes after dramatic crash at Abu Dhabi GP

    If that isn’t clickbait, what is?

    1. Instance*. Goddammit, why do I lose control of my vocabulary at times like this?

  2. Leclerc was in a great position, ahead of Ricciardo (who later led the race), before he pitted. After pitting he quickly made up two places but got stuck behind Alonso for half the race until the latter ran out of tyres. This eventually dropped him behind Sainz. I argue that not giving up track position on a track where passing is difficult would have been a better strategy for Leclerc, even despite a later pit stop under green would take longer than his early stop under VSC did. That is assuming that the tyres he started would last enough to build a gap over the cars who dropped out in Q2 and started on harder compounds.

  3. Basically, Vettel mistakes or not, Lewis would have won it regardless

    1. Vettel had not much left to win, broken spirit, pressure was off for Lewis. So, no.

      1. Yeah.. because when the pressure was on Lewis didn’t delivered…

  4. I liked the ending. Vettel and Hamilton owe a lot to Alonso, you’re as great as your rival is and the fights those three had will be remembered forever. I doubt it’s the last we’re going to hear from Alonso in F1 tho, but it’ll be odd not to see him racing in F1 next year.

  5. Interesting that when performing strong moves to overtake that Verstappen seems to be the only one that needs to bang wheels with his opponent.

    Ocon had to swerve a huge amount to get out of his road and still got clipped and Bottas nearly got belted off the track.

    Still, it’s Max so verybody thinks it’s OK to do that because he’s a star.

    1. It was an interesting one that. If Ocon hadn’t given him room and Max had
      piled into the side of him Max probably have got a penalty.

    2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      27th November 2018, 10:04

      DC actually made a really interesting point about how Max makes a move, it LOOKS haphazard but he actually very accurately tee’s up the line so his tyre will face the opponent’s tyre face on. So either they connect and he can barge his way through with minimal risk (tyre face to tyre face) OR the opponent gets spooked and takes avoiding action thus compromising their line and slowing them down anyway.

      It’s pretty impressive that he can calculate the speed differential and angle of attack vs the other car so accurately time and time again if you think about it.

      1. Ooorrr….drivers just move out the way because they know he will ram into them otherwise. Sounds like DC has jumped on the Max bandwagon to come up with that nonsense…DC basically said Max will purposely drive into other cars to make a pass at any cost. More often it’s the other driver that wishes to finish a race and get points that have Max crash into them.

  6. So far there has been 100 races in the hybrid era, Lewis Hamilton has won 51 & secured 52 pole positions.

    1. I’ll remember this next time someone undermines his credentials by bringing up his win%.

      1. KGN11
        Correct, he has done a great job, but its not like he is driving Mr. Bean’s 3 wheeler out there is it?
        Not a bad car to drive, most dominate of all time I say!!

        1. Nor was Vettel, Schumacher, Prost, Senna etc etc etc etc

    2. and Mercedes won 74 of those 100 races, really impressive stuff, never a team was so dominant for so long

      1. That’s funny, cos you unwittingly make Hamilton’s record even more impressive by pointing out he won more than two-thirds of Mercedes wins in the hybrid era.

        Ain’t stats fun?:)

        1. ain’t it funnier that you thought I intended otherwise, when really I just wanted to praise the team as a whole? Hamilton included

  7. This season truly Hamilton was untouchable. His best season to date.
    Expect lot of praise in the off season and voted the Best driver of 2018 by team principals.

  8. This was a typical race for Bottas. But he (with his car) deserved more this year due to the strong start.

    Toto has treated Bottas like the doormat of a wingman by issuing team orders in Russia (and Germany). We all knew it wasn’t necessary, and a direct result is that Bottas is now fifth in the WDC rather than third.

    And imagine Toto is Bottas’ manager; thus I assume Bottas pays that guy.

    1. @coldfly
      Agree, while I think RBR ‘preferred’ Max over Daniel, the Mercs certainly let Bottas know he is No. 2 …….. a few times.
      Now Toto talks about Ocon having a year off he seem destined for that Merc drive. I think Ocon can be as good as Max, but that doesn’t make Bottas feel great unless Lewis may leave early.

      I don’t think Toto managers Bottas anymore, I thought it was part of his contract that Toto cant manage and employ him?

    2. Care to tell us how ‘we’ all knew it wasn’t necessary? Please provide hard facts and not just ‘opinions’

      BTW – Toto is not Bottas’ manager and he hasn’t been since 2012

      1. Hard facts won’t cure myopia, unless maybe when it hits you in the head :P

        1. Based on your initial comment, your myopia is at an advanced state.

          1. Agree with coldfly, hamilton had a huge advantage already and at that point even if ferrari had been stronger he had the championship wrapped up, YET mercedes was stronger as well in those races, and YET there was the need for team orders. Unreasonable, and I said that since russia.

    3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      27th November 2018, 16:46

      @coldfly my argument to you and anyone else is that Bottas put himself in the position to be a wingman. He had a great start but he needed to keep that momentum going. He’s definitely a team player and there’s nothing wrong with that unless his main contribution is being a team player, not a driver.

      I think Lewis, Toto, and everyone else is surprised that Bottas wasn’t able to win another race in 2018 but ultimately that was Bottas’ fault, not Toto’s or Lewis’, especially when his teammate had 11 poles and 11 wins.

      I think Bottas is in the same mental state that Kvyat was after being bumped down to Toro Rosso. It’s a tough spot to be in but I think he has the mental fortitude to overcome it. I also feel that Toto wants Bottas to succeed at Mercedes.

  9. We all knew it wasn’t necessary

    It may not seem necessary because of how the races panned out @coldfly, but the Russia result essentially served as a double whammy in that there was a psychological blow to Ferrari and Vettel by having a bigger points gap, and making them feel pressure has shown to be very effective. Back at the Russian GP no one knew whether unreliability would play a role (Vettel’s reliability has been bulletproof btw), Hamilton was close to losing his engine in Brazil and if he had it would have meant a grid penalty the following race, what’s to say that this couldn’t have happened before the title was decided. Team orders at Russia was playing it safe, but was the sensible thing to do. Sometimes you have to finish your opponent off while you have the upper hand lest they recover and strike you down. Justifiably ruthless imo.

    1. “but the Russia result essentially served as a double whammy in that there was a psychological blow to Bottas
      FTFY @3dom ;)

      PS Vettel had car issues in Brazil, ending up behind the other top team drivers due to that.

      1. Nice cheeky one there @coldfly 😄

        Admittedly the blow to Bottas was collateral damage here, but with championships you have to strike while the iron is hot, because it ain’t a given that you’ll be up there the next year (or for some time after that), look at 2008-2009. Mercedes made a sensible decision. Bottas knows he needs to perform early on to keep himself in contention early in next season to avoid being in that position again, even tho anyone with sense can see that he was unlucky to be as far behind as he was. He’ll be hoping for better luck next year, but he’ll need to be on top of his game to challenge HAM.

        ps Vettel’s slight issue that cost him pace in Brazil was relatively small when compared to the reliability of the rest of the top 6, he’s had a good year from that standpoint.

        1. ‘cheeky’ are my initials, @3dom ;)
          Let’s hope that the Bottas of early 2018 (or his Williams days) returns in Melbourne.

          Yours sincerely,

          Coldfly Hermann Eduardo Evert Knowitol Young

          1. Great with the initials @coldfly 😄

  10. Rosberg in a Ferrari in 2020 would be a dream. In his current form, he seems to be the only driver who could really take it to Hamilton on Saturday or Sunday.

  11. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    27th November 2018, 16:38

    11 victories, 11 poles, and 4 championships with Mercedes for #44!

    I think Lewis has been absolutely magisterial this season and he just keeps getting better and better.

  12. The margins next season will be so tight that Mercedes will not be able to start the season with ‘gift’ wins to their ‘B’ driver. If Mercedes are to secure that next championship they’ll need to start the championship with their A-game.

    I’m sure Ferrari will be doing everything to maximise the points for their A – driver. That said, if Ferrari’s new driver proves to be competitive, this could give a focused Mercedes the advantage. I can’t wait.

Comments are closed.