After many restarts due to the weather, Lewis Hamilton dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to take the title race all the way to the final race of the season.
The drama started 30 minutes before the race even started. On his sighting lap, Grosjean lost the car and went into the wall and was not able to start.
Due to treacherous conditions, the race started behind the safety car. After a few laps, the drivers got underway. Hamilton, the pole man, caught Rosberg napping slightly and built up a 2 second lead. Verstappen made a great move on Raikkonen for 3rd, while Massa and Gutierrez were put under investigation for overtaking before the safety car line. Massa was given a 5 second penalty for this.
Surprisingly, a few drivers, led by Magnussen, came into the pits early on for the intermediate tyres. This included both Williams and both McLaren’s. Vettel, in 5th, then aquaplaned and span. Facing the wrong way, he did brilliantly to avoid others and came in for the inters. That decision proved fatal for Ericsson, who shortly after this aquaplaned into the wall and brought out the safety car. Despite the Sauber man blocking the pit lane, Verstappen came in for inters. The pit lane was then closed, however Ricciardo came into the pits for inters anyway. He was slapped with a 5 second penalty.
Nasr, Ocon and Wehrlein stayed out on the wet tyres and there were sitting pretty in 8th, 10th and 11th.
We got underway once again on lap 20, but was stopped straight away. Crossing the finish line, Raikkonen aquaplaned and went into the wall. Luckily, no one hit him or it may have been a very serious incident. A red flag was immediately brought out to stop the race. Hamilton led from Rosberg, Verstappen and Hulkenburg. Palmer was sadly also out of the race after an incident with Kvyat.
The restart was once again behind the safety car. Hulkenburg, sadly, picked up a puncture and dropped to 15th. However, the race was that red flagged again on lap 29 without any proper racing commencing.
Finally we got underway again. Another good start for Hamilton meant he stayed ahead. A potentially crucial moment in the championship then happened. Verstappen who was looking very confident, made a nice move up the inside of the championship leader Rosberg. Ricciardo soon passed Sainz 6th, while Vettel quickly made his way back into the points following his earlier spin.
On the restart, the drivers were forced onto the extreme wet tyres. A few drivers including Button came in for the inters. Despite the prediction that the rain intensity was going to increase, both Red Bull’s entered the pits. This was not before Verstappen performed a miraculous save. Aquaplaning out of the final corner, he just avoided hitting the barrier and just stayed ahead of Rosberg.
Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race. At the front, however, Rosberg had a half spin but managed to save the car very well.
In his final home race, Felipe Massa crashed out of the race with about 20 laps to go. Fittingly, he was cheered by the crowd and embraced by team members in the pit line. It was a tremendous tribute for a great racer. The safety car was then deployed.
Despite being in 5th and 10th, the intermediate tyre gamble from Red Bull did not pay off. Both drivers came in under the safety car for the full wet tyres. They were now 11th and 13th respectively, with Ricciardo ahead. Ocon was doing an amazing job and was looking down for points. As was Nasr in 6th. Vettel was completing a great comeback in 5th and was eyeing a podium.
Once again, another good start from Hamilton allowed him to extend his lead. The fireworks, however, were about to explode lower down. An inspired Max Verstappen started to carve his way through the field. He made light work of Bottas who was on the inters and then made the crucial move when he passed his teammate Ricciardo. Next, the young Dutchman flew by Kvyat, Ocon, Nasr and Hulkenburg to move to 6th place. Next up was Vettel.
After the controversy of Mexico, Vettel was not going to give an inch. He forced Max out at turn 4, however got a piece of his own medicine at turn 16. Verstappen got passed into 4th. Completing his mesmerising charge up the field, Max stormed passed Perez to make the podium.
Down the order, Alonso, after spinning earlier, managed to make his way up to 10th. His teammate had a torrid day, running as the last man on the circuit in 16th. Gutierrez was a late non-finisher and made his angry feelings known to the world.
Out in front, it was a dominant drive from Lewis Hamilton. Having led every single lap, he took his 3rd win in a row to take the title fight to Abu Dhabi. The gap is down to 12 points with one race left. Rosberg, after the earlier Verstappen scare, did what he needed to do and come 2nd. He is now the big favourite to win his first world title.
The brilliant Verstappen rounded out the podium, followed by Perez and Vettel. The real story of the lower points was Nasr. Finishing 9th, he allowed Sauber to leapfrog Manor in the constructors, which is worth a lot of money. Ocon was very impressive but fell down the order late on and came home in 12th. He out-raced teammate Wehrlein who struggled home to 15th.
The title race goes to Abu Dhabi. But is there any way to stop Rosberg?
- Gutierrez (DNF)
- Massa (DNF)
- Palmer (DNF)
- Raikkonen (DNF)
- Ericsson (DNF)
- Grosjean (DNS)
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