Hamilton victory brings down the curtain

2018-11-28 06:00

DESPITE the fact that the 2018 Formula 1 season consisted of 21 races, it ran through the calendar rather quickly.

As the season finale, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix brought down the curtain on a season which will be remembered by many.

One of the biggest and most lasting memories will be Lewis Hamilton. An unrelenting and near faultless charge has earned him a fifth drivers’ title which he easily capped with a victory in Abu Dhabi. The victory marks the 11th of the season for Hamilton, who was never troubled on his way to the chequered flag.

The race got underway in dramatic fashion as a clash between Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg sent the latter into a barrel roll. Stewards rightly deemed it a racing incident and Hulkenberg was able to walk away from the spectacular crash without injury. The fast starting Charles Leclerc dispatched Daniel Ricciardo to be running fifth.

Up ahead Hamilton easily built a gap over teammate Valtteri Bottas at the restart after the safety car period.

The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen followed in third and fourth. Though he started sixth on the grid Max Verstappen dropped to 10th at the start of the race as his engine engaged a safety mode off the start line.

At the restart of the race he found himself in close attendance with none other than Esteban Ocon and his Force India teammate, Sergio Perez.

He got past Perez relatively easily but it would take slightly more to get eighth place from Ocon.

A lap later Kimi Raikkonen pulled off to the side of the start/finish straight as his Ferrari succumbed to an electrical failure.

Despite attempting to restart the car there was nothing to be done as the Finn signed off his career at Ferrari with a DNF.

While Hamilton pitted early, Red Bull attempted the opposite strategy with Daniel Ricciardo by running the Australian much longer on his Ultrasoft tyres.

Though he led the race for some time, it was clear that Hamilton had the pace to negate any advantage Red Bull would get from running longer. Ricciardo dived into the pits on lap 34.

He emerged in fifth and seemed set to make a go of getting on the podium in his final race for Red Bull.

Further ahead Vettel took advantage of a mistake from Bottas and snatched second place from the Finn. It wasn’t too long before another error allowed Verstappen onto his gearbox and eventually pass him. Ricciardo too made short work of the doleful Bottas, who eventually finished fifth.

There is much for the Finn to contemplate over the winter as he now has the unenviable stat of being the first Mercedes driver since 2012 to not win at least one race in the season.

While there was little in the way of a close battle at the sharp-end of the race the midfield ensured for several dices with a three-way battle for position between Stoffel Vandoorne, Grosjean and Perez providing the best entertainment.

It was as easy a Sunday drive as Hamilton has likely experienced in 2018 and it demonstrates a shift in his own mentality too.

In previous years his motivation would take a determined dip after securing the title but it never materialised in 2018.

It is a great testament to Hamilton and his ability that despite a near faultless season that he still sees room for improvement.

While Hamilton upped his tally of wins to 73, Sebastian Vettel secured second with Verstappen in third for Red Bull.

Ricciardo’s late charge fizzled before the chequered flag but in his 100th race for Red Bull, he still finished a solid fourth. While Bottas dejectedly trundled home in fifth, Carlos Sainz was best of the rest in sixth.

2019 Ferrari driver Leclerc was seventh ahead of Perez in eighth, while Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10.

There should rightly be a few days of reflection about the 2018 season. After all, it provided extreme highs and memories that will live on for quite some time.

But Formula 1 is a sport that relentlessly focuses on the future and with 107 days to go to the Australian Grand Prix, it can’t come soon enough.

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