Formula 1

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Max Verstappen claims record-extending 15th win as Lewis Hamilton loses record

Lewis Hamilton’s unique record of winning in each season of his career was consigned to history when a broken gearbox terminated his participation in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

As Max Verstappen capped a year of imperious control with his 15th victory, Hamilton lost his shifts while running fifth with three laps remaining, having hit the kerbs early on.  

The Briton’s speed plummeted and he was back in the garage before the post-race fireworks illuminated the clear, dark sky. 

Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a mechanical failure

Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a mechanical failure

He picked up the issue early on after having to leave the track when battling with Carlos Sainz

He picked up the issue early on after having to leave the track when battling with Carlos Sainz

Max Verstappen led from start to finish to win yet another race at Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Max Verstappen led from start to finish to win yet another race at Abu Dhabi on Sunday

And thus closed a world championship that outlived its usefulness once Verstappen, who was booed here, had defended his title successfully in Japan six weeks and four races ago.

For Hamilton, it was another day to try to forget in his annus horribilis that ended with him sixth in the championship table, his lowest ever, and 35 points behind Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

‘I am very pleased it is over and done with,’ said the seven-time world champion with a sigh of resignation.

‘I kept up hope until the last race that I had a chance. I gave it everything but ultimately the last race was like the whole season. It summed it up.’

After George Russell notched Mercedes’ first win of 2022 in Brazil last week, hopes were high that they could roll that success into a car that can make a real scrap of it with Red Bull and Ferrari when the circus returns in Bahrain next March.

Hamilton's car bounced violently as he jumped over the curbs on the opening lap of the race

Hamilton’s car bounced violently as he jumped over the curbs on the opening lap of the race

George Russell, who finished fourth, finished the championship 35 points ahead of Hamilton

George Russell, who finished fourth, finished the championship 35 points ahead of Hamilton

But this was a reality check. Hamilton qualified fifth; Russell sixth. Team principal Toto Wolff called that ‘toilet’. And in the race, they were again clearly the third best team, a season-long affliction that allowed Ferrari, rather than them, to claim second place in the manufacturers’ championship.

Hamilton’s fate was, it apparently seems, sealed on the first lap. He and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz tangled on Turn 6. Hamilton climbed over the sausage kerbs. The car bounced violently on its suspension. The stewards investigated.

Sainz was cleared of forcing Hamilton off. The Briton, though, was deemed to have gained an advantage and told to cede the place back. He did so. He then quickly zoomed past Sainz, only for the Spaniard – who finished fourth – to overtake him in an avenging move moments later.

Hamilton complained of damage – a broken floor, he thought. If so, you didn’t need to be Columbo to work out why. Then, much later, he came on the radio to say his shifts had gone, and that was that.

Russell finished in fifth place. He drove well enough, passing Hamilton on the ninth lap, but he suffered a slow pit stop, and an unsafe release that cost him a five-second penalty. 

Charles Leclerc drove a fantastic race to finish second in the world championship table

Charles Leclerc drove a fantastic race to finish second in the world championship table

Leclerc pitted just once and left Sergio Perez needing to chase him - the Mexican couldn't

Leclerc pitted just once and left Sergio Perez needing to chase him – the Mexican couldn’t

The Norfolk-born racer has bided his time maturely in his first season with the Silver Arrows. His reward is finishing Hamilton’s numerical superior by the margin of one race win plus another 10 points. 

It may be a different equation when there is a prize for them to fight over, for that challenge is apt to turn Hamilton into a greyhound chasing an electric rabbit, but Russell’s advantage is a mighty impressive feather to wear in his crash helmet.

Russell’s pride was understandable and deserved, as he said: ‘Nine times out of 10 if you finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton you are probably going to be a world champion.

‘In a season like this when the car is not performing we have all had our own difficulties and I have no doubt he will be back to his normal levels next year if the car is capable of a championship win.

‘He had a difficult start to the season. Things didn’t go smoothly for him, and they were going a bit more smoothly for me, but that form swung around. Looking back, the luck probably balanced out.’ 

Sebastian Vettel bowed out of the competition with a 10th place, claiming his final point

Sebastian Vettel bowed out of the competition with a 10th place, claiming his final point

The four-time world champion is calling it a day after a career in the sport spanning 15 years

The four-time world champion is calling it a day after a career in the sport spanning 15 years 

There was the runner-up place in the drivers’ championship to be decided here in the desert across these final 58 laps, with Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc going head to head for the honour, having arrived here tied on 290 points.

Leclerc, who started third and finished second, secured the consolation prize. Perez, who started second and finished third after two stops to Leclerc’s one, was left disappointed.

Sebastian Vettel, retiring aged 35 with four world championships and 53 wins to his name, endured an annoying valedictory race, being left in a strategic no-man’s-land. He finished in 10th place on his weekend of long goodbyes, one point to take with him on his exit.

Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll was an notable absentee from the well-attended walk/run of the track that was organised on Saturday evening as Vettel’s farewell. The Canadian was instead sipping red wine at what a team spokesman described as an ‘important business meeting’.

Fine, but strange scheduling.  

Relive Sportsmail’s live blog as the Formula One campaign continues at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 


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