It's not over until it's over - 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Review
That's it folks! The end of a season, and the end of a decade. Next time we go racing, we will be in the 2020s...
Lewis Hamilton won a dominant race as he climbs into his Mercedes W10 for the last time, with Max Verstappen finishing nearly 17 seconds behind him. Charles Leclerc finished 3rd, but the possibility of getting a penalty from the FIA due to a fuel mistake.
There have been many interesting moments in the last 55 laps, so let's recap:
The 6 time-world champion of Lewis Hamilton lined up on pole for the first time since Germany; and that is where he stayed for the entire race. After a strong getaway, the Brit was untouchable throught the race.
Verstappen had a quicker reaction time to Hamilton, but didn't quite get the getaway he needed and had to defend from a fighty Charles Leclerc. The Red Bull didn't seem to get the temperarture into his tyres and stood no chance against Leclerc on the straight. Charles moved up to P2, and Verstappen kept managing his pace until his first pitstop.
Vettel and Albon were both in no-man's land for the start of the race; but it was Valtteri Bottas who was flying around the track. The Finn started from the back due to a power unit change, and fought his way up to 10th by Lap 10. By Lap 22, Valtteri was in P4 following the pitstops of a few rivals.
There was some early race contact between the two Racing Point cars, as well as Pierre Gasly. Pierre was tapped by the front right of Stroll, which half-spun him into Perez and broke his whole wing. Gasly was running around at the back for a long time, and Stroll was forced to retire halfway through the race due to a 'unbearable front right'.
The race really settled down following the opening laps, with the main talking point being the technical error that prevented drivers from using DRS for the first third of the race. The Mclaren's were also quite racey
The Ferraris were the first of the front runners to pit. The Italian team opted for the 'double stack', with Charles coming in before Seb. Leclerc's stop was relatively quick, but Vettel suffered from a slow, 6.9 second stop as a result. Charles Leclerc said in his post race interview - "It was very tricky. We stopped quite early to try and force the others to pit; but Lewis was too quick and we couldn't cover it."
Verstappen pitted a few laps later, but then suffered from a throttle problem. The Dutch driver claimed that his car had a 'handbrake-like effect' on the radio. However, he was still able to pass Leclerc for P2 again at the second chicane on fresher tyres.
Hamilton went even longer on his tyres, expressing his concern that he might not get his new tyres up to temperature if a safety car were to happen. Bottas also pitted from P4, and dropped down behind some of the midfield drivers. He soon made his way back up, passing Vettel after his second stop. Leclerc also made a second stop to cover off Bottas as he passed Albon, and the hunt was on.
Bottas set his car to 'Engine Mode 2', which is the qualifying mode on the Mercedes engine. Valtteri was able to do this due to having a fresh power unit and having nothing to lose.
The midfield soon changed as Carlos Sainz pits from P9 in order to try and get the one point he needed to claim sixth in the championship. Sainz and Gasly were tied on points coming into the season finale - but with the Lap 1 contact putting Gasly out of the equation, Sainz had to finish 10th or better.
Sainz came out of the pits in P14, and made his way up to P11 after Daniel Ricciardo did him the favour of pitting to try and pass Carlos and his teammate. The move on Nico Hulkenberg ended up happening at Turn 11 on the final lap of the race - securing P6 in the drivers' championship. Congratulations Carlos!
Lando Norris and Sergio Perez had an excellent battle for the 'best-of-the-rest' position of P7, with Norris defending very hard on worn tyres. Norris did some great defending, but was affected by a Williams at the second chicane; causing him to be passed into the third chicane. Perez did a great job to pile the pressure onto the McLaren driver in the final stages of the race.
Valtteri Bottas finished in P4, just under a second behind Leclerc at the final corner, to conclude the last race of the season. Leclerc (at the time of writing) is currently discussing with the stewards about an incorrect fuel measurement, which could promote Bottas to P3.
And that concludes the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the 2019 season. This has personally been one of my favourite seasons in a long time, and I can't wait for action to begin in March! That being said, it will be nice to take a little break, so the drivers can come back stronger on 15th March.
I would rate that race an 8.5 out of 10 in terms of a score - only a safety car could have made it more interesting. Bottas was personally my driver of the day, but it was very sweet of the F1 community to vote Nico Hulkenberg as the driver of the day in what could potentially be his last race in his 170+ race career.
This also concludes my F1 2019 Season Review series in terms of races. A full season review will be on its way soon - so stay tuned!
Thank you for reading! The results can be found in the image below. If you would like to see more from me, click here to see my profile. Why not check out my recent post 'Congratulations, McLaren' by clicking here?
Today's race results. Image: BBC Sports.