The Finn secured his third win of the season in the final race
World champion Lewis Hamilton fell short in his quest to end his title-winning campaign on top after Valtteri Bottas won the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Bottas led virtually every lap under the thousands of floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit to record his first victory since Austria in July and his third of the campaign.
Hamilton tried his very best to find a way past his Mercedes team-mate, but Bottas held firm to take the chequered flag nearly four seconds clear, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel a distant third.
Hamilton cemented his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats in Mexico last month by joining an elite band of drivers to have won the world championship on more than three occasions.
The 32-year-old Briton vowed to end the season with a bang, but after finishing ninth in Mexico, recovering from last to fourth a fortnight ago in Brazil, and a second-placed finish here, he will start the defence of his championship off the back of a three-race winless streak.
Bottas surrendered his lead to Vettel at the opening corner at Interlagos earlier this month, but he made no such mistake in the desert.
Supported by his wife Emilia – a former Finnish Olympic swimmer – and ex-Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, Bottas blasted out of the starting blocks and fended off Hamilton on the short drag to the left-handed opening turn, with Vettel slotting in behind. Hamilton maintained a two-second gap to Bottas as the dominant Mercedes duo left Vettel in their shade.
Hamilton briefly led as Bottas pitted but when the Englishman stopped for fresh rubber on lap 24, the former Williams driver moved back into the lead.
Hamilton sensed an opportunity, and began to draw his team-mate in, before running off the track at turn 17 in a puff of tyre smoke. Hamilton’s mistake drew a wry smile from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
With six laps to go, it was Bottas’s turn to make an error when he got out of shape through turns four and five which saw Hamilton move to within half a second of his team-mate. But the newly-crowned four-time champion failed to make a move, and Bottas took the spoils.
In a race which is unlikely to live long in the memory, Daniel Ricciardo retired on lap 21 following a hydraulic failure – costing him fourth place in the championship, with Kimi Raikkonen the beneficiary – while Carlos Sainz also failed to reach the flag after his front-left tyre fell off following a pit-stop gaffe by his Renault team.
Raikkonen crossed the line in fourth place, 45 seconds down on Bottas, with Max Verstappen fifth. Fernando Alonso finished ninth for McLaren, one place ahead of his former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, who took a single point in his 269th and last grand prix before retiring.
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