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A fitting farewell to F1 2019

Written by Sport

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton completed a weekend, a year and indeed, a decade in which he dominated by comfortably winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a race he dominated from start to finish.

Hamilton qualified in pole position – his first since the German Grand Prix- with teammate Valteri Bottas in second to complete a Mercedes lockout of the front row. However, Bottas started in 20th after taking a grid penalty for changing his engine – meaning Red Bull’s Max Verstappen started second with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in third. Although difficult, Leclerc could still have finished third in the drivers championship ahead of Verstappen at the end of the race if things went his way.

The race started off with incident as Racing Point’s Lance Stroll turned into Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly at turn one and lopped the entire front wing off of the Frenchman’s car – forcing an early and extremely slow pitstop. Kevin Magnussen in the Haas had a fantastic start as he jumped five positions from 14th to 9th as did Bottas who jumped from 20th to 14th in one lap. Leclerc had also jumped Verstappen for second early on but the Dutchman eventually reovertook the Monagesque driver and never looked back.

Strategies in midfield were thrown into chaos and teams forced to think on their feet as the Drag Reduction System (DRS) was unavailable to them for the first 18 laps due to a technical glitch. This made Bottas’ job harder and it also contributed to Nico Hulkenburg running for 18 laps on soft tyres when he likely would have pitted earlier to change had it been otherwise.

All the while, Hamilton consistently built up a lead at the front. Despite issues with his engine, Verstappen was consistently faster than Leclerc’s Ferrari – especially in the second sector of the track- and he too built a substantial gap by the end.

Ferrari struggled through the race with many issues including an extremely slow first pitstop for Sebastian Vettel and a general lack of pace compared to their rivals. Leclerc did in the end finish third and Vettel finished fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon (who could barely defend on his worn tyres against Vettel’s fresh set two laps from the end) but they were well off-pace.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez claimed best of the rest, finishing seventh after using all his experience to consistently cut through the field late in the race on fresher tyres and capping it by going past McLaren’s Lando Norris on the final lap. Norris’ teammate Carlos Sainz ended the year on a high as he finished 10th in the race – brilliantly divebombing Nico Hulkenburg in a frantic last lap – to take a solitary point and with that, sixth in the Drivers’ Championship.

Hulkenburg was voted the Driver of the Day despite not gaining any points as a tribute to a man who would not be in Formula One next year, having failed to find a seat. He could still come back in the future but for now, the German has raced his last in an F1 car. Williams’ Robert Kubica however, is one driver who has definitely raced his last race in Formula One with the Pole retiring at the end of this season. He will be replaced by Canadian Formula 2 driver Nicholas Latifi.

Hamilton and his Mercedes team dominated the 2010s winning six constructors titles and six Drivers’ titles (five for Hamilton and one for Nico Rosberg) and Red Bull won 4 drivers’ (Sebastian Vettel) and 4 constructors titles making this the first decade where Ferrari has not won anything in F1 history – and the Abu Dhabi GP where Hamilton’s Mercedes finished a comfortable first from pole, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull an easy second and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc being a distant third was the perfect reflection of the 2010s in Formula One.

Last modified: 10th December 2019

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