Lewis Hamilton played the starring role in the final act of the 2019 Formula 1 season as the campaign drew to a close at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

While the race failed to live up to the excitement of Brazil, and will probably not live long in the memory, there were a number of scores settled at the Yas Marina finale, with Hamilton ending a supreme year in dominant fashion. 

Here are some of the main talking points from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton remains the class of field 

Like he has been for much of the V6 hybrid era, Hamilton was untouchable in 2019 and in Abu Dhabi as he finished his latest title-winning campaign in perfect fashion, taking his 11th victory of the season in his 250th grand prix start. 

Hamilton’s performance en route to his 84th career win was commanding throughout, as he stormed to a pole position that never looked in doubt to end his three-month wait to top qualifying, with his most recent pole coming at July’s German Grand Prix. 

On Sunday, he got an ideal launch to maintain position over Max Verstappen into Turn 1, before sprinting clear into a lead he would never relinquish as he utterly dominated proceedings with masterful ease. Setting the fastest lap of the race in the closing laps on ageing Hard tyres underlined his superiority at the front. 

“I’m proud and just super-grateful for this incredible team, to all at Mercedes who continued to push this year,” he said after the race.

“Who would have thought at the end of the year that we would have this strength in a race? 

“And even though we had the championship won, I just really wanted to keep my head down, and try to see if we could learn and extend and extract more from this beautiful car - it’s a piece of art.” 

Hamilton did just that and ends the season - and the decade - as the driver to beat in F1. 2019 will go down in history as the year Hamilton edged closer to Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven-world titles, but it also marked the Briton’s strongest season of his career statistically. 

He finished a whopping 87 points clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who enjoyed his own personal best campaign, and rounded off 2019 with the most points ever scored in a single season: 413. 

Hamilton has won a remarkable 62 of the 121 grand prix in the hybrid era and will take that form into the next decade as he looks to create further history with both Schumacher’s wins (91) and titles (seven) in sight.

A closer fight to come in 2020?

But Hamilton’s bid to equal Schumacher in 2020 may prove a harder task if the form book of the last few months is anything to go by. 

Ferrari’s resurgence since the summer break briefly halted what was looking to be a year of complete Mercedes domination when the Scuderia claimed six poles on the bounce and won three consecutive races in Belgium, Italy and Singapore

While Mercedes was still able to churn out a path to victory in Russia, Japan and Mexico despite not starting on pole, and won all but one of the final six races, there have been signs that the all-conquering German manufacturer might not have it all its own way next year. 

Red Bull’s form also came on strong as the season progressed, with Verstappen standing out in particular. Verstappen added to his maiden F1 pole in Hungary by topping qualifying in Mexico (until a penalty) and again in Brazil, highlighting the impressive gains made by Honda this year. 

Red Bull proved a match for Mercedes and Ferrari at the final rounds of the campaign as the Dutchman claimed a brilliant victory at Interlagos, having twice passed Hamilton on track. 

With stable regulations in place for 2020, we can hope the pecking order will only continue to shrink and lead to increased competition. The prospect of a three-way title battle between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull’s drivers is a mouth-watering one.

Sainz is best of the rest 

Carlos Sainz’s final lap heroics and last-gasp overtake on Nico Hulkenberg to claim the final point on offer in Abu Dhabi with 10th cemented his position as the highest-placed drivers outside of the top three teams. 

The McLaren driver pipped Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly to sixth position in the drivers’ championship by a single point, but in truth, Sainz has been one of the standout performers across the season and fully merits the tagline of ‘best of the rest’ that he earned in 2019. 

Consistency has been key to Sainz winning the duel for sixth, having missed out on points on only four occasions since he finally got off the mark in Baku following a run of early reliability issues. 

Notable highlights came with stellar drives to fifth place in Germany and Hungary, while the Spaniard’s first year with a revitalised McLaren was capped off with his maiden podium in Brazil after a post-race penalty for Hamilton promoted him up to third. 

Following the season finale in the UAE, Sainz praised McLaren’s environment and team atmosphere as being crucial to him unleashing more of his potential. 

“I’m in a much more comfortable environment right now,” Sainz explained. 

“A more comfortable atmosphere and the certainty of a nice future with McLaren gave me that extra tranquillity just to show my skills a bit better without that extra having to do everything at the moment.  

“That has helped me to put together some nice races, some nice overtaking moves that before we maybe didn’t see from myself, and that last bit of confidence that I unlocked this year has definitely given me the opportunity to do also the overtaking that you saw [in Abu Dhabi].”

Renault holds P5 as Hulk bows out 

Renault rounded out a largely disappointing campaign by clinching fifth place in the constructors’ championship in Abu Dhabi, despite failing to score. 

The French manufacturer had hoped to build on its fourth-place finish from 2018 and further reduce the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, but its pre-season positivity was soon dampened as 2019 got into full swing.

A poor run of early reliability problems put Renault on the back foot and as chief rivals McLaren grew stronger, the Enstone-based squad’s performance largely continued to tail off, barring a season’s best result of fourth and fifth at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza

With McLaren securing fourth spot in Brazil, Renault’s attention turned to looking over its shoulder in a bid to keep the improving Toro Rosso behind. Ninth place for Daniil Kvyat was not enough as Renault ended the year just six points clear of the Faenza outfit and 54 adrift of McLaren.

It wasn’t the swansong performance Nico Hulkenberg had in mind on his final race outing for Renault before being replaced by Esteban Ocon for next season. 

The German, who has been left without a drive on the 2020 grid, dropped out of the points late on and could only manage 12th place behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo

Renault paid tribute to the “instrumental” role Hulkenberg has played in his three years with the team, as he bowed out of F1, for the time being at least.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...