Lewis Hamilton

Bottas supreme in season opener

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Valtteri Bottas claimed a surprise victory in Australia, with Mercedes showing unexpected post-testing pace, while Max Verstappen edged out the Ferraris to round out the podium.

Despite claiming pole position, Lewis Hamilton made a poor start and fell to P2, before sustaining some damage to his floor that affected his overall pace. After an early pitstop from Ferrari, Hamilton was brought in to cover off a potential under-cut, but with a long second stint ahead of him the potential to challenge for the win quickly faded.

Ferrari seemed to be caught off-guard by Mercedes’ pace, mostly scrapping with each other more than those around them. At the first turn, Leclerc found himself on the outside of Vettel and ran wide, before recovering in the middle phase of the race to be on his teammate’s tail. After asking the team whether he should attack or hold position, he was instructed to fall back. This brings into question Ferrari’s claim that the two are “free to race”, considering team orders were imposed without the championship, or even a race victory, at stake.

Red Bull rounded out the podium with a strong showing from Max Verstappen, delivering Honda’s first F1 podium in 11 years. Pierre Gasly however disappointed during qualifying, being eliminated in Q1, and struggled to make his way through the midfield. Following a pitstop for Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, it looked like Gasly might jump into the points after emerging ahead of the junior team driver. But a determined Kvyat reclaimed P10 and held off Gasly to claim the final points paying position, justify his reinstatement but causing headaches for Gasly.

Haas showed that their performance during testing was genuine, easily out-pacing their nearest rival Renault. Despite a retirement for Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen delivered a strong haul of points.

Daniel Ricciardo in particular suffered from the home-race curse on debut for Renault. After being forced onto the grass at the start and bouncing over uneven ground, he emerged without a front wing. Pitting for a new nose left him at the rear of the field with almost no hope of points.

Despite the indignation upon it’s introduction, the battle for the Fastest Lap bonus point proved noteworthy. Max Verstappen claimed the Fastest Lap in the late phase of the race as he closed the gap to Hamilton ahead of him, but Bottas snatched the accolade with a blistering lap that denied all challengers any chance.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner admitted that they were considering pitting Gasly as a sacrifice in the attempt to deny the Mercedes drivers the bonus point. By claiming the Fastest Lap, Gasly would not have been eligible for the point as he didn’t finish within the top 10, but it would have robbed the front-runners. Ferrari also had a chance to pit Leclerc (and if they wanted to also Vettel) to try to claim the extra point, but decided against it, a decision they are reviewing post-race.

In what Bottas called his “best race ever”, he leaves with the odd stat of having the greatest points lead in F1 history over the next driver after round 1. Interestingly, 26 points isn’t the greatest number awarded in a race, that honour going to Lewis Hamilton who claimed all 50 points on offer when double points were available in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the 2014 season.

Abu Dhabi power rankings

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With Formula 1 season 2018 in the bag we take one last look up and down the grid to cherry pick those who impressed and those who fell short. Here’s our power rankings from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Moving on up

Carlos Sainz left behind him the disappointment on his Q2 exit from qualifying on Saturday to launch his Renault into the P6 and deep into the points positions. He’s leaving Renault on the high, and with a question mark over the performance of McLaren now and into the future, it might be a while before we seeing him troubling the scorers again.

Lewis Hamilton rounded out the year in a way that he never has before: winning races after claiming the championship. Not just that, his points haul for the season blasted through the 400 point barrier, making him the first driver ever to do so. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t show the same enthusiasm performing his official duties as he does with his mates behind the scenes.

Charles Leclerc has cemented his reputation as “best of the rest” many times this season, despite only finishing in P7 four times. Another solid performance from the man who soon after had his first spin in a Ferrari during testing as a prelude to the big show.

Backsliding

Romain Grosjean made quite an impact in Abu Dhabi, right into the side of Nico Hulkenberg. Although it generated one of the main talking points from the race, it’s just another example of Grosjean lacking what it takes to be a consistent performer at the highest level, even if the German admitted he played a small part in the contact.

Valtteri Bottas qualified on the front row only to tumble backwards to finish in P5. By his own admission he couldn’t wait for the season to end, and it’s no wonder. Despite being in the fastest (i.e. championship winning) team, to finish fifth in the drivers’ championship behind his teammate, both Ferraris and one of the Red Bull drivers is poor. With Ocon being kept on the leash for next year, the heat is on the Finn throughout next season.

Kimi Raikkonen finished his tenure at Ferrari not with a bang but a whimper, with the prospect of testing for Sauber only days after the race on his mind, even he must have felt that the F1 gods were trying to send the Iceman a message.

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Hamilton controls British GP, Verstappen and Rosberg battle for 2nd

It was an untroubled run to the flag for Lewis Hamilton who claimed his fourth victory at Silverstone, and his fourth for the year.

Nico Rosberg finished second but was investigated by the Stewards for a potential radio infringement. In the final laps of the race Rosberg was instructed to avoid 7th gear, and competitors were predictably miffed that their driver was given instructions for improving the performance of his car.

Max Verstappen was not far behind Rosberg, with Ricciardo holding on to P4 and Red Bull continuing their surge toward overtaking Ferrari and looks set to do so in the next few races.

Although Hamilton scampered off into the distance after the race began, Rosberg again looked troubled by his car in the wet echoing the issues he had in Monaco. After switching to Intermediate tyres Verstappen pushed and overtook Rosberg, holding on to P2 for the early phase of the race. Rosberg would eventually reclaim P2 but the victory was never on the cards as Lewis controlled the pace comfortably.

Both Force India drivers finished in the points, pulling toward Williams in the championship who failed to claim any points. Similarly Kimi Raikkonen was able to lock down P5 for Ferrari, their silver-lining after Vettel struggled in the mid-field after being handed a penalty for changing his gearbox before the race and leaving the track a number of times in slippery conditions.

Finding themselves out of positions, Massa fought on the outside of Vettel who tried to close the door on his opponent but lost traction and both cars slide off the road. Despite the similarities to Rosberg's defending move in Austria last race, Vettel was handed a five-second penalty.

The British crowd certainly hadn't forgiven not forgotten about the incident between the Mercedes drivers last race, booing Rosberg when he emerged on the podium and again during his interview. Mark Webber, who conducted the interviews, tried to calm the crowd and encourage a positive spirit, but it's clear that they were there to see a Hamilton victory and he certainly delivered.

Update: Rosberg was deemed to have been aided by the team and had ten seconds added to his race time, dropping him to P3 and reducing his championship lead to just one point.

Familiar front row ahead of promising British GP

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Lewis Hamilton will sit in pole position for his home race tomorrow ahead of Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen. 

After running wide on his first flying lap in Q3, that was wiped by the stewards, Hamilton got the job done on his final lap (despite leaving the track at a section the stewards aren't monitoring as closely). 

It gives Lewis a slight advantage over Rosberg, although we can certainly expect to see them running very close for most of the race which will test the team's new "Rules of Engagement", which many suspect involves leaving each other space on the track rather than squeezing their opponents off-track on the exit of corners. 

Rosberg was asked to visit the stewards after qualifying to explain a particularly slow lap during qualifying but escaped penalty as penalties for slow laps only apply to in-laps or reconnaissance laps, and Nico was simply in between flying laps.

Verstappen in P3 also had one of his flying lap times nullified but still managed to finish one position ahead of teammate Ricciardo for the first time.

At Ferrari, newly re-signed driver Kimi Raikkonen put in a faster time than Vettel with the men in red claiming P5 and P6, although a gearbox change will see Vettel start from outside the top ten. 

Hamilton unchallenged in Canada, Ferrari stumble yet again

Lewis Hamilton claimed his second win of the season and closed his championship deficit to only nine points ahead of Sebastian Vettel and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Race starts remain the only chink in Mercedes' armour after another slow launch from the race winner put Vettel in a potential race-winning position in the early stages.

"I really don't understand what's going on at the starts," said Hamilton, "I just let the clutch out and it didn't go nowhere."

After pitting early, Ferrari committed Vettel and Raikkonen to stopping at least twice however Hamilton was able to make his softs last 45 laps and, although they were scrubbed to within an inch of their life, allowed him to maintain enough pace to ward off a charging Vettel.

As the circumstances became clear to Vettel he tried to push and scrap for lap time which led to a series of lock-ups at crucial moments that eradicated his advantage.

It demonstrates once again that you just can't beat Mercedes by sacrificing track position and although many expected the challenge to come from Ferrari and Red Bull, Williams showed that two stopping was the best strategy here and reached the podium in the fourth fastest car on the grid.

Rosberg lost out to Hamilton when the two bumped wheels heading in to the first corner. Recovering from P10 Nico picked off car after car before battling with Max Verstappen for P4 while managing his fuel consumption having been given multiple warnings from the team.