Abu Dhabi: Five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was on cloud nine after he wrapped up the 2018 season by clinching an eventful season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by remaining in the box seat all the way through.
It was his 11th win of the year and the 73rd of his career and he is now just 18 behind Michael Schumacher’s record.
Hamilton was quick to hail the efforts put in by his arch-rival Sebastian Vettel, who finished in second spot and stayed on the tail of the Briton until the end of the race after starting third.
“It has been a real honour and privilege racing against Sebastian,” said Hamilton. “I have known him since the Formula 3 days and he has been an honest hard-working racer driver and has always raced his heart out.
“He did so much hard work all season and there was so much pressure on us all season. I know he will comeback strong.”
Hamilton celebrated his win by spinning some doughnuts amid cheers from the crowd.
This was Hamilton’s fourth win in Abu Dhabi and the third with Mercedes (2014 and 2016). His first win on the track in the capital had come way back in 2011 with McLaren.
Second-placed Vettel, who finished the season with four wins, accepted that he and his team had clearly fallen short in challenging the Mercedes the way they would have liked. However, vowed to keep the rivalry alive and come out hard in 2019.
“Hamilton is a champion and he deserves to be the champion,” the German said. “I tried everything until the last. Also today I really enjoyed and I [tried] catching him a little bit but I think he controlled the pace well. I would have liked to be a bit wheel-to-wheel. A long year and a lot of races. Our whole team will try to give him a harder run next year.”
Meanwhile Max Verstappen, who finished third, was involved in a minor scrape with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas before overtaking him.
Recalling that move he said: “He [Bottas] was defending continuously on the inside so I knew I couldn’t get there. I made sure I had a wide line to the corner and he would go wide as well and it would be perfect to go around. I think he didn’t see me on the left and drove into my wheel. I was very happy to get past in the end because it was very crucial with a lot of new tyres coming so I had to get past. I enjoyed that battle — to come from, I think P9, to finish here — as I had to remain really calm.”
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion who is walking away from Formula One after finishing on 11th spot on Sunday, was given a standing ovation by the fans.
“It has been a pleasure racing with these champions,” said Alonso, who is hanging his driving gloves after a 17-year-old career.
“I feel very privileged to have been here. Thanks for everything and thanks to Formula One, I will be always a fan of this job.”