Lewis Hamilton ended his fifth championship-winning season with victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The safety car was out on the opening lap of the race after Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was launched into the air after he tangled with Romain Grosjean, resulting in the German being trapped upside down against the barrier.
Stewards had to extinguish flames coming from the back of his Renault before Hulkenberg could be extracted from the upside-down car.
When the action resumed, Verstappen came under pressure from the Force Indias, and banged wheels with Esteban Ocon as the Frenchman briefly got ahead of the Red Bull, before Verstappen managed to get ahead.
Charles Leclerc had gained three places before the safety car, and closed in on the back of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari after the restart. He managed to pass the Finn, but the Ferrari came to a halt on the pit straight a couple of corners later, resulting in a virtual safety car.
Hamilton pitted from the lead during the VSC, while the rest of the front runners stayed out until later in the race, handing the champion the advantage.
With a 40% chance of rain in the second half of the race, Daniel Ricciardo stayed out longer than the rest of the leaders, with drops starting to fall on the 24th lap.
Marcus Ericsson’s final race for Sauber came to a premature end midway through the race when his car lost power, forcing him to pull into to runoff area.
When Ricciardo finally stopped, he came out behind Verstappen, but with much fresher tyres he quickly closed the gap to his teammate. Valtteri Bottas, who was running in second, started to struggle on his tyres, letting Vettel past before Verstappen closed up to the back of the Mercedes. Bottas and Verstappen’s battle meant Ricciardo was soon on the back of the duo.
Verstappen managed to force his way past Bottas before he was caught by Ricciardo, while the Australian cruised passed the Mercedes a lap later before attempting to overhaul Verstappen’s advantage.
Inside the final 10 laps, Ocon’s final race with Force India came to an early end when smoke started coming out of the back of his car, with Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso doing the same moments later.
Gasly’s issue came just as the Red Bulls came to lap the Toro Rosso, letting Verstappen extend his gap over his teammate again, which proved to be enough to give the Dutchman the final place on the podium, denying his teammate in the Honey Badger’s final outing for the team.
Fernando Alonso pushed hard in the final couple of laps as he attempted to close the 3-second gap to Kevin Magnussen to end his F1 career in the points, but he locked up and ran wide, earning him a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Vettel found some late pace in the last couple of laps, setting a fastest lap on the penultimate lap, but the Ferrari driver had left it too late to reel in Hamilton, crossing the line 3 seconds adrift of the champion.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
6. Carlos Sainz (Renault)
7. Charles Leclerc (Sauber)
8. Sergio Perez (Force India)
9. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
10. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
11. Fernando Alonso (McLaren)
12. Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso)
13. Lance Stroll (Williams)
14. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren)
15. Sergey Sirotkin (Williams)
Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)
Esteban Ocon (Force India)
Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)