Lewis Hamilton has led the season closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from start to finish while also taking fastest lap. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc completed the podium, but were at no point fighting for the win.
The final Grand Prix of the season kicked off with pole sitter Hamilton launching away from the grid without coming under threat. The Mercedes driver had an impeccable start, but also behind him, there were few in the top ten who managed to gain a position.
Further back, Gasly tangled up with both Racing Point cars, costing him his front wing, and a subsequent very lengthy pitstop. One back out on track, he was more than one and a half minute behind the race leader. Gasly first touched Perez, but when he got bumped into the rear wheel from Stroll, he ended up ruining his front wing against Perez.
Verstappen in second had a good getaway, but then struggled to match the pace of the cars around in the early laps. Leclerc was happy to pass him into second while Vettel was more careful and stayed behind, despite also coming close to a pass.
Mercedes's Bottas meanwhile was busy at the back, trying not to damage his car against the slower competition. After starting from 20th, the Finn had moved up into 13th by lap 5. Another 5 laps later, Bottas broke into the points when Norris was the first to make a stop, dropping down into 17th.
On lap 13, Ricciardo stopped to take on hard tyres. Leclerc, Vettel and Albon followed next. For Leclerc, it was a good affair, as he dropped down only to third, enjoying a clear 10s of track ahead of him. Behind him, Hulkenberg was able to keep Bottas, Vettel and Albon behind, thanks to an obviously slippery car setup that allowed the German to reach high top speeds and fend off the cars behind him, helped by them not having DRS available due to a technical issue with the track's system.
When DRS got enabled again, Bottas flew past, up into 4th on lap 19. Vettel followed the next lap, after which Hulkenberg decided to pit, returning to the track in 11th, just behind Norris, but ahead of Sainz and Ricciardo, both within a second as well.
It was only on lap 25 that Verstappen pitted, with him too changing to hard tyres. Hamilton stopped the next lap and retained a 6 second advantage on Leclerc. Verstappen fell back to third again, 4.5s down on the Ferrari driver, and 13s ahead of Bottas. Vettel and Albon completed the top 6 at the halfway point.
The Dutch Red Bull driver was clearly more comfortable on that set of tyres, resulting in him quickly closing the gap to Leclerc, and passing him fairly easily on lap 31.
Meanwhile, Bottas pitted as well. When coming back out, he sharpened the fastest lap to close in on 5th placed Albon.
On lap 39, Leclerc and Vettel were both pitted. The Monegasque switched to softs, Vettel to medium. This was bad news for Albon, as he lost DRS from being behind Vettel, resulting in an easy opportunity for Bottas to take 4th again.
As strategy became important, and differences big between people on different strategies, Sainz pitted out of the close Renault and McLaren pack. Perez was rapidly closing into the four of them, and it may have looked appealing to the Spaniard to try something different, instead of following the train.
Ricciardo opted to do the same a bit later, but the hesitation put hm 5s behind Sainz, instead of one as it was before their second stops.
Towards the end of the race, thanks to the differing strategies, some battles unfolded that made the end of the race exciting. Lando Norris for instance had a hard time to fend off Perez, but in the very last lap, the Mexican found a way past to take 7th to the flag.
Sebastian Vettel on the other hand moved up into 5th by passing Albon, while Bottas had great pace in the end, but was one lap short of making an overtake on Lecler's Ferrari, meaning the Finn finished fourth.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||55||1:34:05.715||26|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||55||+16.772s||18|
|4||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||55||+44.379s||12|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||55||+69.205s||8|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||54||+1 lap||6|
|8||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||54||+1 lap||4|
|9||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||54||+1 lap||2|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||54||+1 lap||1|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||54||+1 lap||0|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||54||+1 lap||0|
|13||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||54||+1 lap||0|
|14||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||54||+1 lap||0|
|15||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||54||+1 lap||0|
|16||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||54||+1 lap||0|
|17||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||54||+1 lap||0|
|18||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||53||+2 laps||0|
|19||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||53||+2 laps||0|
|NC||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||45||DNF||0|