F1: Lewis Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi GP to end season in style
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton produces a commanding drive from pole to win Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; ends title-winning season on a high
Abu Dhabi: Lewis Hamilton ended a dominant 2019 season on a high, cruising to an unchallenged win under the floodlights at the Formula One season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Briton, who wrapped up his sixth title two races ago at the U.S. Grand Prix, started from pole and led every lap as he took the chequered flag a comfortable 16.7 seconds clear of Red Bull's Max Verstappen. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who is under investigation by the stewards for a fuel irregularity and could still be penalised or even disqualified, was provisionally classified third ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who fought his way up from last on the grid, and Sebastian Vettel who was a distant fifth.
Verstappen and Leclerc had gone into the weekend battling for third in the overall standings. Finishing runner-up means the Dutchman grabs the spot, regardless of whether Leclerc keeps the podium. Hamilton's Abu Dhabi win was the 84th of his career, putting him just seven short of Michael Schumacher's all time record haul of 91. It was also the Mercedes driver's 11th win of the season and a record-extending fifth triumph in the Gulf emirate. "That was an absolute master class," said Hamilton's engineer over the radio, congratulating the Briton on the cool down lap.
"You look like you didn't break into a sweat. "I can assure you, I am definitely sweating!" Hamilton responded. Hamilton looked in control right from the get go even as behind him Verstappen and Leclerc engaged in a battle for second. The Red Bull driver had started alongside Hamilton on the front row of the grid but couldn't stop Leclerc in his Ferrari from sailing past on the first lap. But having pitted much later, he was able to catch and pass the Ferrari on his fresher tyres forcing the Maranello-based team to switch to 'Plan C' meaning a two stop strategy.
"Our pace was quite decent, but Mercedes and Lewis were too quick," said Verstappen who suffered from engine braking issues during the race. "Overall it's been a positive season and to be P3 in the championship is encouraging." Leclerc's race had a cloud hanging over it even before the start. He was referred to the stewards after regulators found a significant discrepancy in the amount of fuel Ferrari had declared was in his car and the amount it was actually carrying. The team, suspected for some time by rivals of gaining its formidable straight-line speed advantage by running its engine illegally, has been summoned to the stewards after the race.
They tried everything, including a botched double stack pitstop for its drivers in an attempt to squeeze a result from the final race of an ultimately disappointing season. Still, Leclerc, who has won two races this season and has taken more poles than anyone, saw the positives. "I'm extremely happy about this year, to be now with this team is unbelievable," the 22-year-old, who has beaten four time world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel despite being in only his first season with Ferrari and second in Formula One.
"Now it's up to me to work and hopefully give them the success they deserve." Alexander Albon finished sixth in the other Red Bull ahead of Racing Point's Sergio Perez. Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren, who end the season fourth in the constructors' standings, beating engine suppliers Renault's works team. Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat was ninth ahead of Norris' team mate Carlos Sainz who rounded out the top ten. Nico Hulkenberg, who is out of a drive next season after being replaced at Renault by Frenchman Esteban Ocon, was 12th on what may have been his Formula One swansong. Robert Kubica, who is leaving Williams and will most likely fill a simulator driver role with another team, finished the final race of his comeback last after banging wheels with Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi.
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