Abu Dhabi marked the finale to what has been a thrilling Formula One season, we have had 5 different race winners and two 4-time champions battle it out in their quest for a 5th world title. Both the drivers and constructors had already been sealed prior to Abu Dhabi with Hamilton and Mercedes the victors respectively.
The big news going into the weekend was that Robert Kubica would make his return to Formula One after 8 years following his rally crash permanently damaging his right arm. Kubica participated in FP1 along with usual stand-ins Norris and Giovinazzi who will also be joining the grid next season.
After practice McLaren weren’t expecting to make it out of Q1 but Fernando Alonso pulled out another brilliant lap to reach Q2 in his final F1 race, teammate Vandoorne would be out-qualified for the 26th time in as many races by Alonso. Both Williams and Toro Rosso’s would join Vandoorne after an engine issue meant Pierre Gasly could not complete his final flying lap.
Alonso wouldn’t be able to push the McLaren any further though and would qualify 15th, joining him in the knockout zone would be Marcus Ericsson, Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz.
Things looked close between Ferrari and Mercedes and it wouldn’t be easy to predict who would take pole, in the first set of flying laps Hamilton headed Vettel by 0.05’s of a second. Hamilton would eventually secure a 1-2 for a Mercedes with Bottas beating Vettel on his final flying lap making it 5 years in a row in Abu Dhabi for an all-Mercedes front row.
Off the start Max Verstappen would get a poor start and drop a few places while the top 5 would retain their positions, Charles Leclerc would pass Ricciardo though for P5 into turn 10. The biggest shock would be the turn 9 incident between Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean, Nico would find his car flip into the air and land on the halo. Hulkenberg wouldn’t be able to climb out of the car due to the halo and the car had to be flipped over before he could escape. The stewards would deem it a racing incident but it would be of no consolation to Hulkenberg who looked set for a big points score, this incident would bring out the safety car.
Racing would then resume at the beginning of lap 5 but a few laps later Kimi Raikkonen’s car would grind to a halt and would park on the start finish straight bringing out a VSC. Hamilton, Grosjean and Leclerc would all make their one and only stop seeing the potential for a lot of gains from this strategy. Max Verstappen would once again find him self battling Esteban Ocon but this time it was for position, after a few attempts and issues with his Renault engine Verstappen would pass the Force India and set out after his teammate.
Bottas, Vettel and Verstappen would then make their one and only stops a few laps later but would find themselves around 9 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton who benefitted from pitting under the VSC. This left Daniel Ricciardo to lead his final race for Red Bull pending his pitstop, he managed his pace well and carried his stint to just under the lap way mark hoping that he would have much to gain from having significantly fresher tyres. Vettel then made his move on Bottas for 2nd place and quickly pulled away, Bottas would continue to struggle and after making a few major lock-ups he would be passed by both Red Bulls.
After engine failures for both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly; Alonso would find himself 11th and on the cusp of points on his final race, with nothing to lose Alonso would comically abuse track limits to gain time on Magnussen but would eventually incur 15 seconds worth on penalties. Lewis Hamilton would eventually take his 4th win in Abu Dhabi to round of a perfect season, here is how the rest of the top ten finished:
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari
- Max Verstappen – Red Bull- Tag Heuer
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – Tag Heuer
- Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes
- Carlos Sainz – Renault
- Charles Leclerc – Sauber – Ferrari
- Sergio Perez – Force India – Mercedes
- Romain Grosjean – Haas – Ferrari
- Kevin Magnussen – Haas – Ferrari
Farewell to a Legend:
Alonso made his final F1 start (for now) in Abu Dhabi, he wasn’t fighting for the victory nor did he score a point but as always he gave 110%. Alonso will go down as one of the greatest the sport has ever seen, two championships is no small feat but it goes to show how highly rated he is when everyone calls this a disaster. Alonso could have challenged for Schumacher’s records but he never had the car to do so but what he did do was win races he shouldn’t have and almost win championships when the car wasn’t fit to win a race and that is a true mark of a champion. Alonso will be missed but he may return if he manages to win in Indy next year to take the triple-crown.
Final thoughts on 2018:
The “Fight for Five” unfortunately didn’t go down to the wire but it was a thrilling season with many ups and downs, the championship momentum would swing between Vettel and Hamilton all season long and it gives us hope for 2019.
We have seen many stars rise and teams fall, we have seen brilliant race victories and their has been plenty of controversy but 2018 has been good for F1 and it has seen many records set and broken but more importantly it sets us up for an exciting 2019 season.
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