The floodlights are well and truly lit for the final race of the 2019 season
Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2019, Sunday 1 December, 11.30am, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
It’s safe to say Mercedes have a soft spot for the Yas Marina Circuit – the team have won this race five years on the bounce and look likely to do so again this weekend, when you can see the whole race live.
But battles for pride and prize money still rage further down the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship standings. Combine that with a circuit that throws up countless overtaking opportunities and the fact that it’s the final race of another long, gruelling season, and there’s every chance ambitious punts, errors and drama will play big parts in Sunday’s race.
And as we (and many others) have mentioned time and time again this season, this could have been a tense title battle for newly crowned, six-time champ Lewis Hamilton. Alas, it wasn’t. The Ferraris couldn’t quite get their… erm, stuff together, meaning Hamilton and his Mercedes pals clinched another double.
That isn’t to say it wasn’t thrilling, though. Though that rip-roaring title battle never quite happened, there were plenty of moments of luck, brilliance and outright genius that made Hamilton’s sixth title triumph look like his easiest so far.
As such, we’ve travelled back in time (all the way to March 2019) to highlight the moments from the season that we feel helped Hamilton nab yet another title and allow him, in the words of Jürgen Klopp, to “talk about six… bay-bee…”
Though his second-place finish in Australia’s season opener was hardly a catastrophe, Hamilton was looking to bounce back in Bahrain. The Ferraris looked fast – really fast. But after an error from Vettel and a hugely unfortunate engine fault for leader Charles Leclerc, Hamilton cruised to a fortuitous first win of the season.
The title race was tight at this point. Hamilton had a six-point advantage over his teammate Bottas and, when the Finn took pole, a tense race looked to be in store… until Hamilton swept past Bottas at the first turn and kept him at arm’s length for the entirety of the Grand Prix.
We’re going to say it – we don’t think Monaco is an exciting race. It’s the showpiece, sure, but the tight track and non-existent overtaking opportunities often lead to a procession. The 2019 edition, though, was nerve-jangling. Hamilton, known more for speed than tyre management, nursed an ailing set of rubber to the finish in masterful fashion while holding off a notoriously punt-tastic Vettel. It was a genius drive – one worthy of his hero Ayrton Senna, for sure.
Though this race is remembered as another massively fortuitous win for Hamilton, the Montréal controversy overshadowed a fact that cannot be ignored. Hamilton, by far the faster driver at a circuit on which he excels, was catching Vettel. Sure, Vettel’s error (and the harsh, subsequent penalty) “handed” Hamilton the win, but it was one he was bound to grab for himself anyway had the penalty not meant he could coast to the finish.
Like an older brother laying waste to his younger sibling on FIFA, Hamilton’s domination in France was merciless; a statement of intent to the rest of the grid that this was his title to lose. The British Grand Prix was a more close-run thing. A fascinating battle between Hamilton and Bottas played out until a safety car allowed Hamilton to leapfrog the Finn and, to the delight of a partisan crowd, take his sixth win at Silverstone.
Cue the Jaws theme tune for this one. We’ve always known Hamilton is fast. This, though, was something else. Lagging 15 seconds behind Max Verstappen with 14 laps left, Hamilton “punched” his car into hyperdrive to reel in the Dutchman, eventually soaring past the Red Bull with four laps to go and effectively wrapping up the title in early August.
If there’s one thing Hamilton loves more than the taste of champagne, it’s a moan. A good old, quintessentially British, moan. Sure enough, when he was pitted on lap 23, Hamilton was quick to complain that his mechanics had pitted him too soon. His tyres wouldn’t last, he said, but last they did. Hamilton managed them for a whopping 48 laps to take the chequered flag. Impressive? Certainly. Genius? Undoubtedly.
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