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Hamilton’s November reign in Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit.


Abu Dhabi: A crash at the start, the loss of a Ferrari and it was five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton living up to his pre-race promise and signing off the season in style to keep the Mercedes dominance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — the 21st and final race on the 2018 F1 calendar at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday.

Chasing a none too easy 11th win this year with an expected challenge from the Red Bulls and Ferraris, the 33-year-old Hamilton was at his very best, finishing nearly two-and-a-half seconds clear of an ever-improving Ferrari of cherished foe Sebastian Vettel even as the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen followed in third and fourth.


Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas — without a single win this season — continued with his spate of bad finishes after being temporarily in the lead in those early moments to finish in fifth, but ahead of Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc in sixth and seventh.

The two Mercedes led by Hamilton and Bottas got off to a swift start from the front grid.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 25, 2018, in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AFP

But there was early drama as Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg became the first casualty after he clipped Romain Grosjean’s front left wheel. The watching crowd let out a collective gasp of shock and disbelief as he flipped his car twice and went airborne into the barrier on Turn 9. The 31-year-old German was trapped inside and could be heard crying out: “I’m hanging here like a cow. Get me out, there’s fire, there’s fire.”

The safety car was deployed but Hamilton was soon back in business followed by Bottas. Next it was Kimi Raikkonen’s turn to make the wrong headlines as his Ferrari came to a grinding halt at the start-finish line due to power failure, throwing the fight open for third overall in the drivers’ standings between Bottas and Verstappen.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum with Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, at the final round of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday. Image Credit: WAM

Going into the final event the race had been open in the overall drivers’ standings as Bottas (237 points) and Verstappen (234) were both in the running to overhaul Raikkonen (251) for third.

Hulkenberg, meanwhile, was checked by the on-site medical centre and discharged after being kept under observation for a while. By the 11th lap, Hamilton was among the early ones from the top five opting to pit for the supersofts handing the lead to his teammate Bottas. Vettel started challenging Bottas for the top spot followed by the two Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Verstappen.

And by the time Bottas pitted for his first change, Ricciardo took over and started flying off into the distance chased down, with Hamilton more than six seconds off the pace. Bottas kept on his teammate’s tail a further two seconds down, while Vettel and Verstappen tried to keep up.

Sebastian Vettel making Doughnuts during the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Midway through the race the rains began to fall lightly, but Australian Ricciardo continued his push while keeping the Mercedes off his tail until he finally pitted midway on the 29th lap, ceding the lead to Hamilton. Vettel continued improving with the fastest lap of 1:43.017 and, with 20 laps remaining it was the familiar sight of Hamilton’s Mercedes followed by the red of Vettel’s Ferrari.

Though less than three seconds behind, Bottas committed two crucial mistakes — the first one allowing Vettel to get past and then Verstappen nudged him clear on the 39th lap to fall down the pecking order.

Fernando Alonso acknowledges the crowd after his final F1 race at Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Hamilton improved his Abu Dhabi record to two wins from four pole positions. He had earlier started from the front of the grid in 2009, 2012 and in 2016 — the only year the Brit managed to convert pole into a win. On both the other occasions he even failed to finish with a brake problem ending his 2009 race after 20 laps, while a fuel pressure problem had resulted in stoppage after 19 laps in 2012.

Running in the final race of his career, Fernando Alonso finished in 11th and just outside the points to bring down the curtains to a great career in F1.

Image Credit: Gulf News
Image Credit: Gulf News

Hamilton shares the honours after crowning glory

Mercedes champion praises rival Vettel following Abu Dhabi triumph

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso making Doughnuts after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was on cloud nine after he wrapped up the 2018 season by clinching an eventful season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by remaining in the box seat all the way through.

It was his 11th win of the year and the 73rd of his career and he is now just 18 behind Michael Schumacher’s record.

Hamilton was quick to hail the efforts put in by his arch-rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished in second spot and stayed on the tail of the Briton until the end of the race after starting third.

“It has been a real honour and privilege racing against Sebastian,” said Hamilton. “I have known him since the Formula 3 days and he has been an honest hard-working racer driver and has always raced his heart out.

“He did so much hard work all season and there was so much pressure on us all season. I know he will comeback strong.”

Hamilton celebrated his win by spinning some doughnuts amid cheers from the crowd.

This was Hamilton’s fourth win in Abu Dhabi and the third with Mercedes (2014 and 2016). His first win on the track in the capital had come way back in 2011 with McLaren.

Second-placed Vettel, who finished the season with four wins, accepted that he and his team had clearly fallen short in challenging the Mercedes the way they would have liked. However, vowed to keep the rivalry alive and come out hard in 2019.

“Hamilton is a champion and he deserves to be the champion,” the German said. “I tried everything until the last. Also today I really enjoyed and I [tried] catching him a little bit but I think he controlled the pace well. I would have liked to be a bit wheel-to-wheel. A long year and a lot of races. Our whole team will try to give him a harder run next year.”

Meanwhile Max Verstappen, who finished third, was involved in a minor scrape with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas before overtaking him.

Recalling that move he said: “He [Bottas] was defending continuously on the inside so I knew I couldn’t get there. I made sure I had a wide line to the corner and he would go wide as well and it would be perfect to go around. I think he didn’t see me on the left and drove into my wheel. I was very happy to get past in the end because it was very crucial with a lot of new tyres coming so I had to get past. I enjoyed that battle — to come from, I think P9, to finish here — as I had to remain really calm.”

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion who is walking away from Formula One after finishing on 11th spot on Sunday, was given a standing ovation by the fans.

“It has been a pleasure racing with these champions,” said Alonso, who is hanging his driving gloves after a 17-year-old career.

“I feel very privileged to have been here. Thanks for everything and thanks to Formula One, I will be always a fan of this job.”

Montoya wants F1 to say welcome to Miami

Ex-Williams, McLaren driver keen to see more spectator-friendly places identified by FIA

Juan Pablo Montoya Image Credit: Twitter

Abu Dhabi: Former Williams and McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya hopes the FIA irons things out to go ahead with a proposed race in Miami as soon as possible.

The 43-year-old Colombian, who was a F1 driver with Williams and McLaren between 2001 and 2006, is still in motorsport with his latest exploit being his win at the 2017 Race of Champions for Team Colombia. A former seven-time race winner in F1 along with 30 podium finishes in 94 starts, Montoya is also competing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the USA.

The brand-new track at Miami was expected to join the F1 calendar in 2019, but F1 has recently decreed that there are no plans for a race there at least until 2020. The reason given was that negotiations had taken too long to get the race on the 2019 calendar. Current F1 drivers have been also divided about the new track with five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton expressing doubts about the provisional layout, while also offering to help designers improve it.

The US city had released a map in mid-May outlining a proposed route for the street circuit, using an area previously incorporated into Miami’s IMSA, CART and Formula E circuits.

“They are trying to get a race in Miami and I think that would be a good thing happening for our sport,” Montoya told Gulf News.

F1, which has races in Austin, Texas and Montreal in addition to Mexico City, has said it wants to grow the series in the USA. “However, that said, they also have to also look at other more popular places around the world so that our sport of F1 can reach out. For the time-being it is Miami and I think it would be nice for everyone,” he observed.

For the third time in history, the Formula 1 World Championship will be contested over a record number of 21 Grands Prix, equalling the races held in 2016 and 2018. Eleven of the 21 races will take place in Europe, five in Asia, four in the Americas and one in Australia. The 2019 season will begin on March 17 with the Australian Grand Prix and finish on December 1 with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Next season will also mark an outstanding achievement in the history of the sport as it celebrates the 1000th Grand Prix since its inception in 1950. The race, which will host this milestone will be the Chinese Grand Prix on April 14. Vietnam has also approached the FIA to host a race on a street circuit in Hanoi in 2020.

“Formula 1 is headed in a good direction. I think it has become approachable to people and to fans. That is important as our sport reaches out and gets a bigger audience engaged. I think we are in a good place at the moment,” Montoya related.

“Of course, there are a lot of people who are going to say ‘Ahh, they are ruining it, t’s different now, etc.’. Maybe F1 is a little bit different now, but it’s been all for the better of our sport. I think the racing now is relaxed a bit and it’s a lot nicer than when I was in it. That said, I am OK with it as I am happy where I am,” he added.

Haas protest over Force India rejected by FIA

FIA stewards ruled that Force India had not broken rules

Haas F1’s Danish driver Kevin Magnussen steers his car during the third practice session at the Yas Marina circuit on November 24, 2018, in Abu Dhabi, ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: The argument by Haas F1 Team that Racing Point Force India F1 are not eligible to an entry into the world championship has been rejected by the FIA.

The decision was conveyed late on Saturday through a hearing consisting of top officials from both teams in a teleconference with Pierre Ketterer, FIA Head of Governance, Integrity and Regulatory Affairs and the F1 Stewards.

Haas had claimed that Force India — which collapsed in July following the legal and financial difficulties surrounding former co-owners Vijay Mallya and Subrata Roy — was bought by a new owner Lawrence Stroll.

Haas contended that the new team was not a constructor.

This meant it was impossible to complete a sale in time for Force India to race at the Belgium Grand Prix following the summer break. So the old team folded up and Stroll bought the assets while the FIA granted them an entry as a new team.

The buyout was expected to help Force India to utilise their resources and subsequently their performance in a much better way.

The move will also give Lance Stroll, son of the new owner, a better chance at securing a podium finish in F1 following his move to the new team next season from Williams.

At the end of a lengthy meeting, the FIA stewards ruled that Force India had not broken rules that forbid teams from using parts designed by other competitors because the old entity could not be considered a competitor, as it had ceased to exist.

They also said there was no restriction in the rules on using parts from a former or excluded team.

Even though the request from Haas has been rejected, the decision could have financial consequences because it now confirms that Force India is a new team.

If Force India is reclassified by F1, they would lose more than $30m (Dh110 million) of prize money next year, and Haas could potentially gain $60 million which they were not previously entitled to. Haas are yet to comment whether the team will take the process any further.

One of the persons aware of the entire situation informed Gulf News that the jury had taken a “holistic and structured” view of the protest while listening to both sides. As per Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Article 9.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, Haas can appeal the decision within the applicable time limits. “Eventually, Haas has the right to appeal the decision, and we expect the team to do in the near future,” he said.

Time and again Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer has said financial issues have slowed down the progress of new parts for the team, making it difficult to progress in the development race.

Russell basking in F2 glory as he looks towards F1

Briton relishing his chance to take on the big boys

George Russell Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Britain’s George Russell will be joining Lewis Hamilton at the 2019 grid as the top rookie after winning the Formula 2 Championship’s feature race on Saturday.

With the title already sealed, Russell finished his final engagements with F2 with a fourth-place finish on Sunday. Charouz Racing System‘s Antonio Fuoco rounded off the season finale with victory in the Sprint race.

Russell, who will be racing for Williams next year, had a significant 41-point advantage over his nearest rival Alexander Albon on race 1. And with only 44 points still available in total, the title was his as soon as the race set off and Albon’s car stalled on Saturday’s race one.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief to be honest,” said Russell. “It’s been a very long and tough year for myself and ART, and we’ve worked really hard and probably from Baku we’ve been one of the quickest on track every single time.”

Russell revealed that the championship has done a world of good for him and his team ART as they were going through testing times before he came on-board.

“They’ve had two difficult years in F2/GP2,” he said. “We’ve had two years together, because I was with them last year in GP3, and it’s been a real journey working with each other, and you probably saw the emotion at the podium from the mechanics and engineers: they’re absolutely buzzing.”

Russell has now matched Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc’s achievement of winning back-to-back titles in GP3 and F2 before making it to the Formula One. The 20-year-old, who has already tested for Force India in 2017 and also tested for Mercedes as their reserve driver this season, revealed he has gained plenty of experience from his two-year stint in F2.

“It certainly taught me is that there’s no negative race, because any poor race you have, you learn something from it and take it forward,” he said. “I think that’s something looking back that I’m glad that our first race in Bahrain was so poor, because we had bad race pace, the car wasn’t good.

“I was driving the wrong way to get the most out of the tyres, and we came away from that race learning so much that we put into good use in the following races. So if it’s a good or a bad weekend, there’s always something to take out of it.”

Russell also equalled Leclerc and Stoffel Vandoorne’s joint record of seven wins in a season.

One race the Briton wanted to put behind him from the entire season’s action was the Baku Race 1 which he lost after he had gained the edge.

“We were comfortably in the lead when the safety car came out and we had a bit of an incident with Nyck de Vries at the restart and I lost the win and finished 12th,” he said. “But I started Race 2 from there and came through to win, so that was redemption for the previous day.”

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