World champion Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory from pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, capping another stellar season with an 11th win and 84th overall.
The six-time Formula One champion is now only seven wins behind seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91, which he could realistically overtake next season.
After he made a clean start from a record-extending 88th career pole, Hamilton was untroubled as he won on the Yas Marina circuit for the fifth time — four with Mercedes and once when driving for McLaren in 2011.
He finished about 17 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in a race bereft of overtaking, except for Verstappen’s clean move on Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on Lap 33.
Leclerc was third for a 10th podium in a strong first season with Ferrari, which included an F1-leading seven poles — two more than Hamilton and Bottas — and two wins. However, Leclerc was summoned for a post-race investigation because there was a difference between the amount of fuel in the car as declared by the team and the amount actually inside the car.
Leclerc only just held off Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who climbed 16 places to fourth after starting last. Sebastian Vettel started fourth and finished fifth in a disappointing end to a season where the four-time F1 champion has won only one race.
Hamilton made a clean start, but Verstappen was overtaken by Leclerc and just held off Vettel behind him on the first lap, which saw Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso sandwiched between both Racing Point cars and forced to pit for a new front wing.
After just 10 of 55 laps on the desert circuit, Hamilton had pulled five seconds clear of Leclerc.
Ferrari pitted both drivers for new tires on the 13th lap, but while Leclerc’s tire switch was relatively good, Vettel’s took several seconds too long because the mechanics struggled to fit his front left tire on.
It was the latest basic mistake from Ferrari in yet another season marred by errors following similar blunders in the past two seasons.
Ferrari replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto as team principal, but Binotto has not managed to stem the flow of mistakes.
Hamilton pitted about halfway through the race and such was his on-track advantage that he still came out six seconds clear of Leclerc, while Verstappen was in third place and complaining about engine, braking and throttle issues.
Still, the audacious Dutchman then found some extra speed to overtake Leclerc and held the Monegasque driver off as he tried to overtake him back down the right.
Ferrari pitted both drivers simultaneously again on Lap 39, and this time the tire changes were both fairly smooth.
Leclerc finished a massive 43 seconds behind Hamilton but had built up just enough of a lead to hold off Bottas by .9 seconds.