In the last race of the 2019 Formula 1 season, Lewis Hamilton claimed a dominant victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, recording his eleventh win of his sixth title-winning season.
Hamilton’s 50th pole-to-win of his career was smooth sailing for the Brit as he eased away in the early part of the race and enjoyed an untroubled dash to the flag, maintaining Mercedes’ 100 percent win record at Yas Marina since 2014.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen hoped to challenge Hamilton off the line but had to settle for P2 ahead of Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who survived a post-race investigation into a fuel discrepancy.
Mercedes missed out on a double podium celebration by less than a second, as Valtteri Bottas recovered from a back-of-the-grid start but couldn’t pass Leclerc and had to settle for fourth. Sebastian Vettel pushed his Ferrari pass Red Bull’s Alex Albon in the penultimate lap to secure fifth, while a final lap fight between Lando Norris and Sergio Pérez saw the Mexican come out on top to claim ‘best of the rest’ in P7 ahead of the British youngster.
Daniil Kvyat was ninth for Toro Rosso, while Carlos Sainz also made a last lap pass on Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, to take a point for P10 – enough to see him claim sixth in the Drivers’ Championship standings for 2019.
With the stewards announcing an investigation into Charles Leclerc due to a “significant difference” in the amount of fuel in the car when he left the garage to go to the pits, compared to what Ferrari had said was in it, it meant that Leclerc would be racing with a cloud over him.
But it didn’t show as he launched off the start into a drag race with Verstappen for second into Turn 8. Meanwhile pole-sitter Hamilton eased away at the front ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen, behind came Vettel, Albon, Norris and Sainz.
In the midfield, Kevin Magnussen jumped from P14 to P9 off the line, while Pierre Gasly made contact with the Racing Point of Lance Stroll in Turn 1, forcing him to the box for a new front wing and dropping him to the back of the field. After starting from the back due to engine penalties, Bottas had made it up to P14 by the end of Lap 1.
Hamilton quickly built a lead over Leclerc in the early part of the race despite the drag reduction system (DRS) not being available, a technical glitch that would hurt the progress of his Mercedes teammate Bottas for the first 18 laps of the race.
As pit strategy came into play for the last time this year, Ferrari made a bold move to double stack the Prancing Horses on Lap 13. The strategy worked well for Leclerc but issues for the front and rear-left tyres of Vettel’s car saw him stationery in pitlane for 6.9 seconds. Leclerc rejoined in P4 while Vettel’s slow stop meant he had to settle for P7.
Robert Kubica threw all he had at his final race, defending against Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi to overtake at Turn 11 on Lap 24, with debris flying off both drivers’ cars as they touched. The stewards reviewed the incident but decided no further action was needed.
Just before the halfway point of the race, Verstappen headed to the pits on Lap 26, before Hamilton followed a lap later, with enough of a lead to emerge ahead of field, while Verstappen slipped in behind Leclerc in P3.
The work wasn’t over for Leclerc as Verstappen bolted past him on Lap 32 despite the Red Bull driver complaining about engine braking issues. Leclerc tried to fight back around the outside of Turn 11 but Verstappen guarded his second place well.
Ferrari decided to double-stack again on Lap 39, this time with better results for both drivers. Both stops were slicker with Leclerc changing to soft boots to emerge in P3, for the final 16 laps and Vettel took medium, dropping him to P6 behind Alex Albon and Bottas – with Bottas passing Albon for P4 on Lap 40.
While Leclerc’s new tyres didn’t make any difference to his fight with Verstappen and handed him a P3 finish, Lap 54 saw Vettel close up to the back of the struggling Alex Albon, using his fresher tyres to ease past him on the run down to Turn 11 to claim P5.
With scores to be settled before the final flag, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez passed seventh-placed Lando Norris on the last lap. Norris finished narrowly ahead of Daniil Kvyat whose points haul wasn’t enough to stop Renault beating Toro Rosso for fifth place in the standings.
Carlos Sainz snatched P10 from Niko Hülkenburg giving him a one-point advantage to finish ahead of Gasly and Albon for P6 in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
But with both Renaults finishing outside the top ten and the points with Ricciardo P11 and Hülkenberg P12, Ricciardo redeemed himself by passing his outgoing teammate on the last lap.
With 2019 seeing the rise of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, Max Verstappen taking the fight to Mercedes in his Red Bull and Vettel having arguably the most tumultuous season of his career, it is Lewis Hamilton who delivers another F1 masterclass, matching his personal-best tally of 11 victories in one year and setting a new points record (413) for a season.
Bring on 2020.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
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