Lewis Hamilton claimed one of the most dominant victories of his glittering sixth title-winning season at the Abu Dhabi GP to sign off from F1 2019 in ultimate style.
The Briton matched his personal-best tally of 11 victories in one year – and set a new points record (413) for a season – with an immaculate performance under the lights of the Yas Marina circuit, winning by 17 seconds from Max Verstappen.
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Verstappen capped his own fine 2019 with a second place after winning a duel with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. It confirmed the Dutchman’s third place behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship.
Leclerc overtook the Dutchman on the first lap, but Verstappen’s ability to run longer on his tyres through the first stint proved key and he was able to re-pass the Ferrari on track in a bold but brilliant overtake after the first stops.
Leclerc kept third place after a Sunday evening investigation into a fuel discrepancy on his Ferrari.
On the track, the Ferrari just held off Bottas in the closing stages as the Mercedes driver underlined the world champions’ peerless pace by racing strongly from the back of the grid following engine penalties.
Sebastian Vettel made a late move on Alex Albon for fifth place, but it proved a disappointing afternoon to cap a difficult season for the four-time world champion as he finished behind Leclerc in the season’s standings.
Sergio Perez, meanwhile, produced one of the drives of the day to scythe through the midfield pack in the closing stages on fresh tyres.
Having overtaken Carlos Sainz and both Renaults, Perez then denied McLaren’s Lando Norris seventh place with an overtake on the season’s final lap. Daniil Kvyat also made up late ground on a similar strategy and ended up ninth.
Sainz, who made a late second stop for tyres, did salvage 10th place on the final lap from Nico Hulkenberg with the extra point meaning he did pip Pierre Gasly and Albon to sixth in the Drivers’ Championship.
Abu Dhabi GP Top 10 result
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
4. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
5. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
6. Alexander Albon, Red Bull
7, Sergio Perez, Racing Point
8. Lando Norris, McLaren
9. Daniil Kvat, Toro Rosso
10. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
Hamilton’s ‘Grand Slam’ finish
Although Hamilton has won more than half the races in F1’s record-equalling 21-race campaign, the battle for supremacy has generally been tougher than it has looked – particularly since the summer break, with Ferrari and latterly Red Bull coming on strong.
But Abu Dhabi proved just as much as a stronghold for Mercedes as it has done at any point of the hybrid-engine era, with Hamilton untouchable when it mattered all weekend.
By claiming pole, winning the race by leading every lap, and claiming the bonus point for fastest lap, Hamilton completed a rare Grand Slam weekend – the sixth of his career.
“I’m proud definitely but just super grateful for this incredible team,” said Hamilton. “To all at Mercedes who have continued to push this year. Who would have thought at the end of the year we would have this strength in the race?
“Even though we had the championship won we just wanted to keep our head down and to see if we can learn and extract more from this beautiful car. It’s a piece of art.”
The anticipated Hamilton vs Verstappen duel never materialised on this occasion, particularly after the Red Bull dropped behind Leclerc on the first lap and had to bide his time to get back ahead.
“Just Mercedes and Lewis were a bit too quick,” said Verstappen. “But as a whole it has been a positive season and to be P3 in the championship is a nice ending.”