Abu Dhabi GP: 7 things you need to know after the final race of 2018
So that’s all folks, the 2018 F1 season has come to a close after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was, unlike most of the rest of the races this year, not a thriller, but here’s how they finished, and everything you need to know after the final chequered flag of the year.
1. Hamilton signs off in typical style
We may one day look back at this period as the very peak of Lewis Hamilton’s career. Since the summer break, the guy has been simply unstoppable, and has taken pole after pole, win after win, and of course the championship.
He finished off the year in the same style, with another pole and victory. That is now win number 73 for the Brit, putting him just 18 behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time race wins record, and given that he’s taken 11 this year, if he keeps that rate up, he’ll take the record out-right before the end of 2020.
Not sure about his shirt-off celebration on the podium, mind…
2. A glimpse of 2019?
But Lewis won’t have it all his own way in 2019, and the podium in Abu Dhabi was perhaps a glimpse into the title battle for next season: Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen were the top three today, and if Honda can give Red Bull a decent power unit, hopefully these three will be fighting it out tooth and nail for next year’s title. And what a prospect that is...
3. Max’s move
While we’re on Verstappen, we must mention his move on Valtteri Bottas to take third position on lap 38. He lined his car up perfectly heading into turn 11, then muscled alongside the Mercedes through 12 and 13 to take the place.
As Mark Webber said afterwards: “Nobody has done that *ever* at this track. Ever.”
It was yet another seriously impressive move from a guy who is itching to get into a genuine title fight.
4. Hulk smashed
There was a horrible moment on the very first lap of this race when Nico Hulkenberg had a huge crash.
The Renault driver had started from tenth on the grid and was battling in midfield on lap one of the race when he tangled with Haas's Romain Grosjean and was flipped into a terrifying barrel-roll.
His car turned over several times before coming to a stop upside down in the barrier.
There was relief all round when the German came on the radio to confirm he was unhurt – but he was unable to get himself out of the car.
"I’m hanging here like a cow," he said. "Get me out. There’s fire."
The marshals were soon on the scene and righted the car, before Hulkenberg climbed out, while Race Control deployed the safety car.
He was given the all-clear by the medical staff which was a huge relief all round.
5. Adios Alonso
Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso was running his last(?) race in F1 this weekend and was pushing as hard as he has in every Grand Prix he has contested since his debut with Minardi back in 2001.
He couldn’t quite drag his recalcitrant McLaren into the points (not helped by a five-second time penalty he was given in the last few laps for cutting part of the track), but he did get a small reward when the fans voted him as the official driver of the day.
There was also a wonderful moment after the flag had fallen when Hamilton and Vettel lined their cars up on either side of Alonso’s and gave him a guard of honour on the slowing down lap, before the three of them pulled onto the main straight and finished up the season with a series of donuts in front of the fans.
So farewell Fernando, good luck in the Triple Crown hunt, and who knows, perhaps we haven’t seen the last of him in F1…?
6. Kimi’s Ferrari farewell falters
Another great champ bowing out from his current team (though not F1) is Kimi Raikkonen.
The 2007 champion nabbed a great win back in Austin, which was a great moment for the veteran Finn. Sadly, his final race for the Scuderia did not go to plan and he was out on lap seven with a car problem.
A sad end, but at least we’ll still get to see the Kimster at Sauber next year.
7. And what of the other goodbyes?
Marcus Ericsson was also denied a final F1 flag finish as his Sauber gave up on lap 24. He’s off to IndyCar next season.
Esteban Ocon’s last Force India appearance ended in a plume of smoke in the pitlane on lap 44. He’s without a drive next year but will surely be back in a race seat in 2020.
Sergey Sirotkin, leaving Williams after this race, was the last classified runner in 15th, just behind Stoffel Vandoorne, who is off to Formula E.
So, that’s it for 2018. Last call at the bar, the last curtain call. We’ll be back for F1 2019 in Australia next March, see you then…