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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton wins 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

It was the Mercedes-GP driver's fourth victory at Yas Marina Circuit and his 11th win of the season

World champion Lewis Hamilton won the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for a record fourth time on Sunday, paying tribute to his Mercedes-GP team for their "correct" strategy.

Hamilton had led the early stages but was a surprise early visitor to the pits on Lap 6 during Virtual Safety Car (VSC) conditions after Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari had stopped with a mechanical failure.

That dropped him to fifth, and although he regained the lead on Lap 33 after Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull Racing car was the last of the front runners to pit, he was forced to run a long 49-lap stint on the hard tyres to the finish.

He held off a late surge from Sebastian Vettel to finish second, the winning margin 2.5 seconds in the end, and the Briton admitted he did have initial concerns about the early pit stop.

"My engineers, they always talk about stopping super early and they are well too chilled behind the pit wall," he said. "I was like 'yeah I've got a long way to go and this tyre doesn't feel too good right now'. But it lasted long and once again they again calculated and [were] correct."

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There had been early drama when Nico Hulkenberg's Renault somersaulted off the track after a collision with Romain Grosjean's Haas on the first lap.

The German was unhurt but was briefly stuck upside down in the car as it landed on top of the tyre barriers. Fire could be seen from the rear of the car before marshals were quickly in the scen to douse the flames and overturn the car.

That produced the first safety car period at Yas Marina Circuit since 2012, but Hamilton, who had started on pole, quickly pulled away when the action restarted on Lap 4.

Max Verstappen finished on the podium for the first time in Abu Dhabi as he recovered to finish third, ahead of teammate Ricciardo.

Red Bull gambled on heavy rain arriving at Yas Marina by keeping Ricciardo out for a long stint. While some rain drops did hit the track it was not enough to cause the drivers to pit for wet tyres.

Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton's teammate, had run second behind him at the start and then after the pit stops, but he slowed with what appeared to be brake issues.

Ramon Penas / The National
Ramon Penas / The National

He was passed by Vettel before light contact with Verstappen dropped him to fourth. The Finn was later overtaken by Ricciardo to eventually finish fifth.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso, in his final race before retiring from F1, finished 11th in his McLaren, a lap down.