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Hamilton wraps up the season in style


OK, we admit it.

We have never been fans of the Yas Marina circuit, or indeed the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Perhaps it is the fact that this seemingly soulless location has bought the rights to host the season finale year after year, rather than allowing the sport to 'sign off' at one of the more traditional tracks.

Perhaps it's the bling, the style over substance or indeed memories of 2010 when Fernando Alonso spent lap after tedious lap behind Vitaly Petrov.

However, fact is the drivers do appear to like it, and while more and more appear to be following Ross Brawn's example in acting like PR men for the sport, if Lewis Hamilton thinks the circuit is "amazing", then who are we to argue?

Then again, doesn't he say that of every circuit?

Today's race has the prospect of either being a Brazil-style thriller or a Le Castellet bore, we have our doubts as to which it will be.

As if the prospect of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen starting side-by-side on a street track wasn't enough, throw in a frustrated Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, who is on an entirely different tyre strategy, and you have the recipe for a stunning opening lap... or an unmitigated disaster.

And talking of frustration, there's Valtteri Bottas starting from the back of the grid following two engine changes, and with a new super-duper unit that only has to last the one race the Finn can throw caution to the wind.

Then there's Alex Albon, still smarting from becoming the latest F1 driver to be robbed in Sao Paulo, now keen to wrap up his rookie season with a podium.

And as if that wasn't enough we have Renault seeking to hold off Toro Rosso - soon to be Alpha Tauri - for fifth in the team standings, while Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly battle for 'best of the rest' in the Drivers' Championship.

Up and down the grid there will be drivers and teams with points to prove and wrongs to right, while some might simply see today as an opportunity to boost their profile in the forthcoming Netflix documentary.

So, we will do our best to reserve judgement on Yas Marina, let's hope it doesn't let us down.

The optimal strategy for the race is a one-stopper, but there are several variations on this theme as the pit stop window is quite wide.

There are two one-stop strategies that work almost equally well: softs for seven to 14 laps, combined with hards for 41 to 48 laps. Alternatively, mediums for 10 to 18 laps, combined with hards for 37 to 45 laps.

It's then going to be down to the individual race circumstances for each driver to decide when is the best time to stop.

What's slower is a one-stopper using the softs for 18 to 22 laps followed by the mediums for 33 to 37 laps. That requires a bit too much pace management (to keep the softs alive) to be consistently fast, so expect the hard to be a key ingredient for any one-stopper.

A two-stopper is about as fast on paper, but it's not going to be a favoured tactic due to the problem of getting through traffic on a track where it's not particularly easy to overtake. But if anyone wanted to try it, the best way would be to do two soft stints for seven to 10 laps each, plus a hard stint of 35 to 41 laps. In the end, a two-stopper using any combination of the tyres available would theoretically result in a broadly similar overall race time, if the stops are made at the right moment.

The pitlane opens, and for the last time this year the drivers head out.

Even as the cars head out there is drama, as the FIA reveals it is checking Leclerc. The FIA technical delegate, Jo Bauer reveals that, in terms of the fuel declaration of the Ferrari, which was checked before it left the pit-lane, there was a significant difference between the declaration of the team and the amount of fuel inside the car. As this is not in compliance with the rules the matter is to be investigated after the race.

As the drivers assemble for the national anthem, the air temperature is 27.4 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32.1 degrees. However, as the sun continues to fall in the sky, so too will the temperatures.

Asked about the situation with Leclerc, Christian Horner says the key word in the statement is "significant". In other words, the car is either legal or it is not. Consequently, no matter how impressive his performance today, the Monegasque could face a "significant" penalty, even disqualification.

Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Albon, Perez, Gasly, Stroll, Magnussen, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Bottas all start on mediums. Vettel, Norris, Ricciardo, Sainz, Hulkenberg and Giovinazzi are on softs, while Kvyat, Russell and Kubica are on hards.

They head off on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms, a Mercedes on pole for the sixth successive year. However, will the German take a sixth successive victory here today?

They're away. Hamilton and Verstappen both get away well, the Dutchman slotting in behind the Mercedes in order to hold off the Ferraris.

Gasly runs wide in Turn 1 following a nudge from Stroll, the Frenchman loses his front wing as he slightly spins following the initial contact and subsequently clouts the rear of Perez' car.

Having initially had a look at Vettel, Albon is now under pressure from the McLaren pair, while Leclerc sweeps past Verstappen to take second on the back straight.

Soon after, Vettel makes a move on the Red Bull driver, but the Dutchman keeps the four-time champion in his place.

Norris passes his McLaren teammate, the pair touching in the course of the move.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Vettel, Albon, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Hulkenberg. Bottas is up to 15th.

Gasly pits at the end of lap 1, the Frenchman taking on a new nose, having been 'deprived' of his original. It's a long stop as the team has a problem removing the old nose.

The stewards have noted the incident involving the Racing Points and Gasly.

As Bottas passes countryman Raikkonen for 14th, the stewards deem that no investigation is necessary of the first lap incident.

Due to a technical issue, DRS is currently disabled for everyone.

Just three laps into the race, Gasly is about to be lapped by the race leader.

Bottas passes Stroll for 13th, as the Canadian reports that his car is "undriveable" following that first lap clash with Gasly.

Told about then technical issue with the DRS, Perez replies: "Ah, great!"

Stroll pits at the end of lap 5.

Verstappen reports strange messages on his dash relating to his engine, including "no RPM". Meanwhile, without DRS, Bottas passes Giovinazzi, and Perez passes Magnussen for 10th.

After 6 laps, Hamilton leads Leclerc by 4s with Vettel a further 2s behind and 1.9s ahead of Verstappen.

Leclerc is told he will be going for "Plan A".

Check out our Sunday gallery from Yas Marina, here.


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1. Posted by Nortim, 02/12/2019 9:10

"The top 3 guys on the podium were the top 3 drivers of the season!"

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2. Posted by Greg, 01/12/2019 17:11

"Best part of the race was when they did not have the use of DRS. Still overall a good race in the midfield. "

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