Shirtless, sweaty and soaked in rose water, Lewis Hamilton celebrated a successful 2018 Formula 1 World Championship campaign with yet another victory – the 73rd of his career – under the Abu Dhabi floodlights.

It was a victory fitting of the Mercedes driver’s masterclass run to a fifth Drivers’ Championship title. His launch from pole position was flawless and despite fleeting concerns about an early switch to Supersoft tyres, the Englishman controlled proceedings for the remainder of the 55-lap race.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport RS18 - 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Nico Hülkenberg was tipped upside-down.

The major drama happened behind him when Nico Hülkenberg’s Renault was flipped over by Haas’ Romain Grosjean at Turn 9, sending the German barrel-rolling into the barriers. His car came to a rest upside-down and briefly caught fire, with Hülkenberg helplessly trapped in the cockpit as his path to extricate himself was impeded by the very Halo cockpit system designed to protect him.

Marshals quickly extinguished the fire and righted the car so he could get out, but the incident became the Halo’s first test case of this type of incident and it failed.

The field was held behind the Safety Car for four laps, with the early order seeing Hamilton leading from teammate Valtteri Bottas, followed by the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen.

Hülkenberg was helplessly trapped in the cockpit as his path to extricate himself was impeded by the very Halo cockpit system designed to protect him. The incident became the Halo’s first test case of this type of incident and it failed.

The race resumed on Lap 5 and was neutralised by a Virtual Safety Car just two laps later when Räikkönen ground to a halt on the start/finish straight after his Ferrari’s electrics failed. It was an unhappy end to the Finn’s second stint at Ferrari and put his hold on maintaining third place in the Drivers’ Championship standings at risk.

Mercedes took the call to pit Hamilton behind the VSC, dispensing his Ultrasoft tyres for Supersofts. The red-walled tyres would have to run for a further 48 laps and the Englishman – who rejoined the circuit in fifth place initially had misgivings about the call from the pit wall.

Bottas now led from Vettel and the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, with the Dutchman putting in some feisty overtaking moves on his Brazilian Grand Prix nemesis Esteban Ocon as he recovered from a sluggish start.

After initially trying and failing to pass Verstappen, Hamilton held back to protect his tyres and waited for those ahead of him to pit. Verstappen, Vettel and Bottas all peeled off to swap tyres, leaving the Renault-bound Ricciardo up front on an alternate strategy.

Once the Australian pitted, Hamilton resumed the lead of the race and was never really threatened, although the gap back to his rivals yoyoed as each driver worked their way past the backmarkers.

Bottas appeared to be struggling on his set of Supersoft tyres and after being passed by Vettel for second place, the Finn quickly fell into the clutches of Verstappen. The pair briefly traded positions on successive laps with DRS-assisted passes before Verstappen forcefully eased Bottas aside through the Turns 11/12/13 complex.

Ricciardo followed suit soon after to demote the Mercedes driver to fifth and he quickly headed into the pits for a second pit stop. With sixth-placed Carlos Sainz Jr. well behind in his Renault, Bottas retained fifth place but had a lonely run to the flag to end his 2018 campaign winless.

Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Force India’s Sergio Pérez battled for seventh place in what was an important battle for both teams as they disputed seventh and eighth places in the Constructors’ Championship standings. With their respective teammates, Marcus Ericsson and Esteban Ocon, both out with engine-related failures, the battle went the way of Leclerc but Sauber fell four points short of drawing level with its rival team.

The two Haas’ of Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top-ten points-scoring positions, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso finishing eleventh in his swansong F1 outing. The Spaniard was issued three separate five-second time penalties for repeatedly shortcutting the Turn 8/9 chicane in his attempts to close down the gap to tenth-placed Magnussen.


FORMULA 1 2018 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX GRAND PRIX – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (55 LAPS)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 55 1:39:40.382
2. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 55 + 2.581
3. Max Verstappen nl Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14 55 + 12.706
4. Daniel Ricciardo au Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14 55 + 15.379
5. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 55 + 47.957
6. Carlos Sainz Jr es Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 55 + 1:12.548
7. Charles Leclerc mc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 55 + 1:30.789
8. Sergio Pérez Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 55 + 1:31.275
9. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 54 1 lap behind
10. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 54 1 lap behind
11. Fernando Alonso es McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 54 1 lap behind
12. Brendon Hartley nz Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 54 1 lap behind
13. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 54 1 lap behind
14. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 54 1 lap behind
15. Sergey Sirotkin ru Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 54 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps
DNF. Pierre Gasly fr Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 46 Engine
DNF. Esteban Ocon fr Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 44 Engine
DNF. Marcus Ericsson se Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 24 Power Loss
DNF. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 6 Electrical
DNF. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 0 Collision
Fastest Lap Team / Entry Lap Time
Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 54 1:40.867

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Fernando Alonso was issued three 5-second post-race time penalties for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.
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