“That was another masterclass,” according to Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer over the pit-to-car radio on the cooling down lap, as his driver secured an eleventh win of the year at the very last race of the season in the FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2019.
When the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver took the chequered flag after 55 laps, a spectacular fireworks display began, whereas on track, much of the fireworks came from those behind him. In truth, Hamilton never looked in trouble and never lost the lead. Clearly, clinching his sixth world title a few races ago has done nothing to dent his appetite for winning.
Max Verstappen had lost second place shortly after the start to Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s Charles Leclerc, but the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver regained the position on lap 32, with a spectacular dive down the inside at Turn 8. The Dutchman thus confirmed his third place in the championship, a career best.
While the top two finishers celebrated the end of the year, smoking their tyres with some crowd-pleasing doughnuts, Charles Leclerc drove straight to the Number 3 board, knowing that his team faced a meeting with the Stewards after the race, to investigate an anomaly in the fuel data that Ferrari had supplied to the FiA before the start. The Stewards decided that there was a breach of the International Sporting Code (Article 12.1.1.i) and determined that the team should be fined €50,000 for its inaccurate declaration but the results stood as declared.
His third place also looked in doubt on track right at the end, as he came under threat from Valtteri Bottas. Proving the clear superiority of the World Championship winning team this weekend, Hamilton’s team-mate charged from the very back of the grid, from where he started with power unit-related penalties to finish fourth. The Finn’s performance was all the more noteworthy because a technical problem meant that no drivers were able to use DRS until around lap 18.
Race positions remained fairly stable until Ferrari started the pit stops, bringing its two drivers in on the same lap, Leclerc ahead of Sebastian Vettel, the German being the only driver in the lead group who had started on the Soft tyres. But the German had a slow stop which dropped him behind Bottas and for a while the two of them scrapped for position. After his pit stop, Verstappen complained of a driveability issue, but it didn’t seem to affect his performance and he eventually came home just under 17 seconds behind Hamilton, the Englishman banging in the fastest race of the lap in the closing stages to take an extra point. This was Hamilton’s fourth win at this track.
Having lost time at his first pit stop when a wheel stuck, Sebastian Vettel managed to overtake Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon for fifth. Sergio Perez has always been good at tyre management and he built an excellent seventh place for SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team on the back of a long first stint. Eighth and tenth were the McLaren duo of Lando Norris, who has enjoyed an excellent rookie season and Carlos Sainz, who confirmed his position as best of the rest, being the highest placed driver in the championship from outside the top three teams. In between them in ninth place was tonight’s tyre master, as Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda’s Daniil Kvyat did 41 laps before pitting to come home ninth. It was not enough for his team to get ahead of Renault, who finish fifth in this year’s Constructor’s championship.
For a while it looked as though Nico Hulkenberg would finish in the points for the French team on what is his last – for the moment at least – Formula 1 drive. He was however rewarded with the people’s vote for Driver of the Day. The sport also says goodbye for now to Robert Kubica, the last driver to be classified, who is now leaving the ROKiT Williams team.
As usual, this Grand Prix attracts a large and enthusiastic crowd and this weekend was another sell-out with 60 thousand turning up, attracted by the spectacle of a race under floodlights, concerts and, for the very first time, an auction of fabulous collector cars that took place on Saturday night, when the Yas Marina starting grid was the scene for record breaking sales. Auction house RM Sotheby’s had brought together a wonderful array of important and historic cars. Some truly astounding sums of money were bid for some amazing cars, with a record-breaking US$6.8 million paid for a Pagani Zonda Aether. Of course, there had to be a Formula 1 angle at a Grand Prix and Michael Schumacher’s championship winning F2002 went for US$6.6 million.
In the final Formula 2 race of 2019, Luca Ghiotto finished the season as he started it - by winning the Sprint Race. The Italian’s fourth victory of the year, and fifth in F2, secured him third place in the Drivers’ Championship, ahead of Feature Race winner Sergio Sette Câmara, who finished third on track. Sandwiched between the two of them on the podium, 2020 Williams F1 driver Nicholas Latifi came home second, firing in the fastest lap in the process to become the F2 Vice-Champion.
Giuliano Alesi, son of former F1 race winner Jean, started from reverse grid pole, and the Ferrari Academy Driver got away strongly to keep the lead from the line as Ghiotto burst ahead of Latifi when the lights went out. Alesi’s strong start ultimately came at a cost. The Frenchman’s tyres couldn’t sustain his pace and he was eventually dragged backwards into Ghiotto’s path, who sent it down the inside of him to take the lead, before Latifi followed the Italian through for second.
Just like Saturday’s Feature Race, it was Sette Câmara who impressed the most. The in-form Brazilian started from eighth but worked his way through to third at the chequered flag for a double podium weekend. This secured the DAMS’ driver fourth place in the standings, and with it the necessary points for a Super Licence.
During the post-race press conference, Latifi paid tribute to the team he’s spent the past four seasons with, crediting DAMS with helping him develop both on and off the track. The Canadian will join fellow F2 graduates George Russell, Lando Norris, Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc in the Formula 1 paddock as he makes the step up to the pinnacle of motorsport next season.
And so, the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship comes to a close... It crowned a worthy Champion, Nyck de Vries, but it will also be remembered as the season that saw the late Anthoine Hubert claim two wins – something no other rookie achieved in 2019. The Frenchman will always be a part of the F2 family.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Facts & Figures
• Today’s win sees Lewis Hamilton establish yet another statistical record. The six times world champion has scored 413 points this season, the most ever. He held the previous record last year with 408. It’s the same situation for his team, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport scoring 739 points, 36 more than their 2015 record. Hamilton has also equalled the record, which was already his, for consecutive points finishes (33.)
• Max Verstappen is the 67th driver to finish in the top three in the Drivers’ World Championship. The Dutchman has had his best ever season thanks to this third place, which means he gets to attend the FIA Prizegiving Awards Gala that takes place in the Louvre, Paris on Friday 6 December. Michael Schumacher heads this particular list on 12, ahead of what has become a joint trio this year of Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton.
• The first ten in the Drivers’ classification feature no fewer than 10 different nationalities: Australia (Ricciardo), Finland (Bottas), France (Gasly) Germany (Vettel), Great Britain (Hamilton), Mexico (Perez), Monaco (Leclerc), Netherlands (Verstappen), Spain (Sainz), Thailand (Albon).
1st Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 55 1:34.05.715
2nd Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 55 +16.772
3rd Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 55 +43.435
4th Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 55 +44.379
5th Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 55 +64.357
6th Alexander Albon Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 55 +69.205
7th Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 54 +1 lap
8th Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 54 +1 lap
9th Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 54 +1 lap
10th Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Team 54 +1 lap
11th Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team 54 +1 lap
12th Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team 54 +1 lap
13th Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 54 +1 lap
14th Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 54 +1 lap
15th Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 54 +1 lap
16th Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 54 +1 lap
17th George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 54 +1 lap
From The Drivers
Lewis Hamilton, 1st
"What a way to end the season! As a team, as a whole, we've been very strong this weekend and Valtteri did a great job today as well. I'm just so grateful for everyone's continued hard work and dedication this year, we continue to raise the bar together. The support has been unbelievable, I'm completely overwhelmed, so a big, big thank you to everyone at the track but also back home who supports me. Team LH is such a cool, positive movement, I really appreciate it. This has probably been the biggest year of growth for us as a team, so I hope that that will put us in a good position for a new challenge next year. I've had some great races with Valtteri, Max and Charles this year and I anticipate that it will be even tougher competition in 2020. These guys will be working flat out to try and raise the bar, so I'm under no illusion that I will have to do the same this winter, but I wholeheartedly think I can. I feel fresh and just ready to keep going and I'm looking forward to another challenge next year."
Valtteri Bottas, 4th
"This is a nice way to end the season. It was a good race for me, I had a lot of fun out there overtaking the others. I don't think I could have extracted any more from the car today. It was pretty close in the end, but it wasn't quite enough to overtake Charles for a spot on the podium. The beginning was a bit unfortunate because DRS was disabled for a while which made charging through the field difficult. But I still managed to gain some place while also extending my stint on the Mediums which put me in a good position overall. This has been my best season so far, I'm in a much better position compared to last year, so I'm looking forward to attack again in 2020."
Max Verstappen, 2nd
“Of course I’m very happy to finish the season with a podium and to be third in the championship ahead of both Ferraris is also a good achievement. On this track today Mercedes and Lewis were just a bit too quick but as a Team we had a good strategy, good pit stops and the car was working really well so second place is a good result on this track. The pace was good and overall we were quite a bit faster than the other guys which is a nice feeling. Looking back my highlight of the season was Austria. To take the first victory for Honda in the V6 era was very emotional and as a Team to win at our home track again in front of so many Dutch fans was a great feeling. It’s been a good season and the Team never stopped pushing. Honda also made some great improvements so we can be very happy with our first season together. As a Team we want to move forward next year and fight for the title. We need to push flat out to close the gap but looking at the last few races we have made a positive step. It’s a great ending and now we just want to focus ahead and be even more competitive in 2020.”
Alex Albon, 6th
“The race didn’t turn out quite how we wanted but we will have a look at it. We pitted early to try and undercut Seb but it didn’t work and then we got stuck behind a train of traffic without DRS. That made for a long second stint and the tyres just didn’t last until the end and Seb cleared a lot of cars quicker than we probably expected. It’s one of those things but looking back over the season I can be happy. I know there’s some work to do and areas I have to improve but it’s my rookie year so that’s always going to be the case. I feel like the racing has been good, the pace still needs work, but that will come with experience. We’re testing next week so we’ll continue the hard work and come back stronger next year. It’s nice to spend the winter knowing where I’ll be racing next year so I can focus on the job in hand. I’m really enjoying working with the Team so I can’t wait for 2020.”
Sergio Perez, 7th
“The first part of my race was a bit messy. I got a big hit from Gasly into Turn 1, which meant that I lost a position to Magnussen. Because the DRS wasn’t enabled at the start, we lost a bit of time behind him, but I managed to overtake even without DRS. After a long first stint, we had to push hard to catch up to the midfield group. We had a very strong end to the race and my final lap overtake on Norris in Turn 11 was one of the best of my career. The six points we scored means that I have finished inside the top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship and I’m pleased we could do that. I cannot wait to start next season already.”
Lance Stroll, DNF
“I had contact on the first lap with Gasly and had to pit because of the damage to my front wing. After that, we were out of position, running down the order, and it was really hard to get back into contention. We explored the strategy options and I stopped twice, but when you lose so much time early on by changing the front wing, it’s difficult to recover. Unfortunately, we had a brake issue so we have to see what went wrong because I was struggling to stop the car. That’s why we retired. All in all, just a disappointing race.”
Carlos Sainz, 10th
“Very happy! The target this weekend was to finish P6 in the Drivers’ Championship and we made it happen! It wasn’t an easy race, with a lot of traffic in all the stints and having to start with the Soft [compound]. "We went for the two stops knowing it was going to put me in a delicate position to make it to the top 10, but also knowing it was my only chance. “I managed to catch Hulkenberg right at the end and pulled off an overtake, on the last lap, that I will not forget! I’m very happy with my season and extremely grateful to every single member of the team. Thank you!”
Lando Norris, 8th
“Pretty much a good race having made a decent start. I struggled a bit and made a mistake at the end of my Soft stint, then had a big lock-up, so had to box earlier than we wanted to. But in general I felt like I did a good job with my tyre management. “Good battling, good overtakes when I needed to do them. The only other mistake I made in the whole race was being overtaken at the end by Perez. In fairness, he did me fair and square but I’m gutted because that was a crucial overtake. “It’s been a long season and overall I’m happy. We made some really good improvements and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. As a team, we’ve done an excellent job and I’m already really look forward to next season. Thanks to the entire team for making my rookie F1 season so cool!”
Daniil Kvyat, 9th
“Today was a nice way to finish the season. That first stint on the Base tyre was probably the best stint of my life, I pushed like there was no tomorrow! Every lap I was quicker than the cars around me and I had a great feeling with the car. It worked out exactly as we had planned it, our strategy was fantastic and we had a good setup for the race. Maybe we sacrificed Qualifying a bit yesterday but we managed to put everything together today. I felt I left something on the table in the last couple of races, so I wanted to close the season with a really good race, to finish the year the way I did is a great feeling.”
Pierre Gasly, 18th
“I was really looking forward to the battle today. As Daniil was able to show, we had the pace and it could have been an exciting end to the season. Unfortunately, my race was over on the first lap when I got hit from behind and pushed into the car in front and my front wing broke. After the pit stop to replace it, I was one lap down and it is frustrating when you’re out there without being able to fight anyone, just hoping for a safety car. It’s a shame to end the last race of the season like this.”
Nico Hulkenberg, 12th
“We threw everything at it today and it was a shame not to score any points. The one-stop strategy was hard to pull off and my tyres were degrading too much at the end. Still, we had positive race pace and were very much in the fight until the end. It was a worthy final race for me with the team. I crossed the line with good feelings. It’s been three good years with them and we’ve grown very close like a family. I’m grateful and thankful towards them for all the highs and lows we’ve had together and I wish them every success for the future.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 11th
“It was quite a standard race for me today. We struggled a little on the hard tyre after the first stop, which was a shame, and at the end I tried to make up the ground on the faster tyre, but we just ran out of time. Although, looking at the bigger picture for us, it was a positive that we managed to secure fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, which was our goal coming into the weekend. We’re optimistic heading into the off-season and looking ahead for next season.”