Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: latest updates on race day

Mercedes golden boy Lewis Hamilton won a thrilling Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates on track during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 25, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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GP3 race: 12:10pm
Formula 2 race: 1:35pm
Formula 1 race: 5:10pm
Performance: Guns N' Roses

  • Lewis Hamilton started on pole position today after winning qualifying
  • Abu Dhabi's first wet race took place, as rain battered the rest of Abu Dhabi
  • Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg retired early after his car flipped in an early clash

The pinnacle of the tenth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race weekend and the last Formula One race of the year is finally here.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton stormed through qualifying on Saturday, setting a lap record of 1 minute, 34.794 seconds, closely followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas.

In a thrilling race, Hamilton fought his way back from fifth place after being forced to pull into the pits early.

Special report: A duel in the desert: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


18:55 Hamilton wins

World champion Lewis Hamilton has won the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for a record fourth time.

The Mercedes-GP driver followed up his successes in 2011, 2014 and 2016 with a composed drive as he crossed the line first ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen.

There had been early drama when Nico Hulkenberg's  Renault somersaulted off the track after a collision with Romain Grosjean's Haas on the first lap.

The German was unhurt but was briefly stuck in the car as it landed on top of the tyre barriers, before marshals overturned the car.

That produced the first safety car period at Yas Marina Circuit since 2012, but Hamilton quickly pulled a lead when the action restarted on Lap 4.

Hamilton, who had sealed his fifth title in Mexico in October, dropped to fifth after an early pit stop under Virtual Safety Car conditions on Lap 7 after Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari had stopped.

He regained the lead after his rivals all made their stops and he would go on to control the race and triumph for the 73rd time in his career.

Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton's teammate, had run second behind him for much of the race, but he slowed with what appeared to be brake issues.

He was passed by Vettel, before light contact with Verstappen dropped him to fourth. He was later overtaken by the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo as the Finn eventually finished fifth.


18:45 Five laps to go Hamilton, holds on

Lewis Hamilton is pacing himself nicely to the victory.

He is still five seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel and an 11th win of 2018, equalling the most victories he has ever had in one season, is almost on him with just five laps to go.

Further back, both Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly and Force India's Esteban Ocon have stopped with mechanical problems.


Warning from after-race concert organisers to arrive early

Those going to the Guns N’ Rose concert tonight should waste no time in making their way from the circuit to the du Arena, the organisers say.

Organisers Flash Entertainment’s social media accounts have urged F1 ticket holders to collect their complimentary General Admission wristbands from information points at Du Arena Circuit before 8pm and head towards Entrance 2.

Flash Entertainment's advice comes after Friday night's crowd trouble at the du Arena.


18:40 Can Hamilton make his tyres last?

Ten laps to go and it is now a case of if Lewis Hamilton can make his tyres last to the finish, writes our Sports Editor Graham Caygill from Yas Marina Circuit.

The Mercedes-GP driver stopped early in the race, under Virtual Safety Car conditions, and he is being chased by Sebastian Vettel, who is on much fresher rubber.

The gap is still 5.1 seconds, but Vettel may be conserving his tyres for a late charge in his Ferrari.

You cannot discount the two Red Bull Racing cars either.

Max Verstappen is seven seconds behind Hamilton, with Daniel Ricciardo a further two behind.


The best pictures of racing action


18:30 Verstappen and Bottas make contact as they jostle for the podium

The Max Verstappen contingent of fans in the Marina Grandstand at Yas Marina Circuit will have enjoyed that.

The Dutchman is up to third after a rather forceful pass on Valtteri Bottas's Mercedes-GP.

The two make contact going through Turn 13, and the stewards may well look at the move.

Bottas appears to be in trouble as he has twice run wide and it could be brake issues.

Verstappen's Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo has also passed Bottas and he is now fourth.

At the front, the gap is down to 5.8 seconds, with 15 laps to go, as Lewis Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel.

The two have spent all season duelling for the tyres and it is only fitting the pair close the year duking it out again.


18:20 Hamilton back on top as race tightens

Lewis Hamilton is back in front in his Mercedes-GP and looking on track to clinch a record fourth win in Abu Dhabi.

Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull Racing's hope of heavy rain failed to appear and the Australian finally pitted on Lap 33 and is down to fifth.

But we could now have another fight on our hands. Sebastian Vettel has passed Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas for second and he is only seven seconds behind Hamilton.

With 20 laps to go all to play for.


Haas driver Romain Grosjean is made aware he will face no further action for an early crash that put Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg out of the race.


18:15 At Lap 30 the race tightens

The will it or won't factor of the rain, and if it will become so heavy that the drivers need to go on wet tyres, is making this a thriller, writes our Sports Editor Graham Caygill from the Yas Marina Circuit.

Daniel Ricciardo is still holding on in front on old tyres in his Red Bull Racing car.

He is 2.7 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Valtteri Bottas a further six seconds back.

If it rains heavily then Ricciardo can win. If it doesn't he is looking at fifth place and it is Hamilton looking set for a fourth win in Abu Dhabi.


18:05 Rain for the first time at the tenth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The rain has arrived as leader Daniel Ricciardo starts on Lap 25. It is visible on the TV cameras on the main straight.

It does not appear to be heavy enough, at this stage to cause a wave of tyre changes to the wet compounds but it does cause Sergey Sirotkin to run wide at Turn 21 and lose a place to Brendon Hartley.

Ricciardo's only chance of winning is that the rain intensifies. He is the only one of the top five not to have pitted and he will fall to fifth when he makes his mandatory stop, unless everyone else had to pit for wet tyres if the rain really does arrive in a heavy fashion.

World champion Lewis Hamilton is still second, five seconds behind Ricciardo.

Further back, Marcus Ericsson is the third retirement of the race, the Sauber man stopping with a mechanical problem.

Very heavy rain and lightning has been reported between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, indicating Guns N' Roses may well open with November Rain.


18:00 At lap 20, we have a third leader

We have our third different leader of the Grand Prix as we start lap 20, with 35 to go.

It is now Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo who leads by six seconds from Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull's appear to be risking Ricciardo's overall race position for now on the fact that rain is nearby.

He was running fourth before the pit window opened but he will now drop to at least fifth when he does pit.

But if the rain hits the track before he pits he could end up retaining the lead as everyone else behind him, who has already pitted, will need to come in for wet tyres.

So to recap it is Ricciardo, Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen as your top five.


17:50 Shy celebs slither in late

DJ Snake arrived at the Yas Circuit Marina late in the day. Saeed Saeed / The National
DJ Snake arrived at the Yas Circuit Marina late in the day. Saeed Saeed / The National

Despite being one of the biggest spinners in the world, DJ Snake is never fond of big crowds, Saeed Saeed reports. Hence his decision to wear shades in all hours and arrive at the Yas Marina Circuit a few minutes after the race began.

As planned, he was greeted with a virtually empty paddock, as everyone’s eyes were on the screen riveted by Renault’s driver Nico Hülkenberg spectacular crash.


17:45 Hamilton trails teammate, Vettel and Red Bull duo

The action has calmed down after the early drama but this is an intriguing period of the race.

The top four of Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and the two Red Bull Racing cars of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are covered by 5.7 seconds but the quartet are looking after their tyres to prolong them to get them further into the race before they stop.

Lewis Hamilton is fifth, having stopped early, and he is only 9.3 seconds behind Bottas and will regain the lead when everyone stops ahead of him.

But, if the rain, that is reportedly nearby, arrives soon, Hamilton may lose his advantage if everyone has to pit for wet tyres at the same time.


17:35 Rain looks increasingly likely

It is now raining in parts of Abu Dhabi...could it come to Yas Marina Circuit?


17:30 Raikkonen leaves the race - and career at Ferrari - early

We have our second retirement of the race and it is an early end to Kimi Raikkonen's time at Ferrari.

The 2007 world champion, who was running fourth, slows and stops on the start-finish straight and is out of the race.

He complained about a loss of power and then suddenly pulled to a standstill.

Raikkonen is leaving Ferrari after the race in Yas Marina Circuit and joining Sauber for 2019.

We now have a shake up at the front as Lewis Hamilton has pitted from the lead under the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period for Raikkonen's car to be removed.

He has rejoined in fifth and teammate Valtteri Bottas now leads.

Seven laps in and this has been a thriller so far.



17:25 Race restarts following Renault crash

The cars are now circulating slowly behind the safety car while Hulkenberg's damaged Renault is removed from the side of the track.

A frightening incident but fortunately the German appears to have escaped injury.

The stewards have confirmed there will be no punishment for Grosjean, which is fair as it did appear to be a racing incident with Hulkenberg and Grosjean both competing for the same bit of track.

We are back to return to racing at the end of Lap 3 with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel.


17:20 Early crash flips Renault driver Hulkenberg

Huge crash on the opening lap brings out the safety car.

Nico Hulkenberg's Renault is flipped over on the entrance of Turn 9 and he ends up perched on the tyre wall and it needs help from the marshals to get the car overturned so he can get out.

Hulkenberg thankfully appears to be unhurt.

The incident comes after contact with Romain Grosjean's Haas.

At the front it was a processional start with Lewis Hamilton converting pole into the lead ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen had the worst start, other then Hulkenberg as he fell to ninth.


Al Fursan fly over Yas Marina Circuit before the start of the Grand Prix


17:10 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix begins with possible rain

The race has now begun and we have an unexpected factor now to consider.

There is a genuine threat of rain for the race. Formula One officials have rated the possibility at 40 per cent and drivers, including Valtteri Bottas, have been warned by their engineers there is a real chance of some wet weather arriving.

There has never been a drop of rain in the previous nine stagings of the race at Yas Marina Circuit and this could be a fascinating development if it happens.

The cars are set up for dry conditions and none of the 20 drivers will have ever raced in the wet here if it does happen.

Add in windy conditions and plenty of dust flying about and we could be in for a wild evening.


16:40 Tension builds ahead of race start

So, here we are. 30 minutes to the race start and the Formula One action is about to begin, our Sports Editor Graham Caygill writes.

The drivers have left the pits to do installation laps and do last minute set up checks before they head to the grid.

All drivers must be in their positions by 4.45pm otherwise they will be forced to start from the pit lane.

Lewis Hamilton starts from pole position and if he leads at the end of the first lap when the action begins at 5.10pm then he will be in a strong position.

You have to go back to 2012 for the last time the leader at the end of the first full circuit of the race has not gone on to win.

Earlier in the day, we had the support races. Both the Formula 2 and GP3 titles were already decided on Saturday with George Russell (Formula 2) and Anthonie Hubert (GP3) the respective champions.

Nikita Mazepin won the GP3 finale earlier today, while Antonio Fuoco held off Lando Norris, who will drive for McLaren in F1 in 2019, in the Formula 2 race.


Famous faces and UAE leaders descend on Abu Dhabi for F1 season finale

Dozens of famous faces and UAE leaders have flocked to Abu Dhabi to enjoy the racing and buzzing social scene.

Will Smith, Bella Hadid and Geri Halliwell have all been spotted around Yas Circuit Marina.

UAE Minister of States for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted a picture from the main grandstand, saying "Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race kicks off now. It’s an Emirati tourist and sports season filled with events and activities.


Could Max Verstappen's tyre strategy pay off?

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen believes an alternative tyre strategy will give him the chance to challenge Mercedes-GP and Ferrari for victory today, Adam Workman and Graham Caygill report.

The 21-year-old Dutchman will start in sixth place at Yas Marina Circuit, having been unhappy with his set-up in qualifying.

But he starts on the hypersoft, the softest of the three compounds Pirelli have brought to the UAE.

Mercedes and Ferrari, as well as Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who starts fifth, are all on the medium ultrasoft tyre.

While Verstappen's tyres should, in theory, degrade faster, he believes the fact he is doing something different gives him the chance to push for a third win in 2018, following victories in Austria and Mexico.


Will Smith offers to step in for Hamilton


Valtteri Bottas to leave 'no stone unturned' in pursuit of Grand Prix victory

Valtteri Bottas is confident he can beat Lewis Hamilton in today's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix despite being beaten to pole position by his Mercedes-GP teammate.

The Finn has yet to win in 2018, with Sunday his last chance to prevail this season, and he vowed he would give it his all when the race gets underway at 5.10pm.

"I'll try not to leave any stone unturned for the win," said Bottas, whose last win came in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago. "I will try to find a way. I will give it all I have and I believe there will be opportunities."

Read more


Crowds gather to watch the race at Yas Marina’s Abu Dhabi Hill

Fans have travelled from across the world to support their favourite team. Casey Hodges / Seven Media.
Fans have travelled from across the world to support their favourite team. Casey Hodges / Seven Media.

As the green lights draw nearer on the Abu Dhabi F1 race this afternoon, fans have begun to take their positions at the Abu Dhabi Hill.

In addition to affordable rates and family atmosphere, tickets for the section has been routinely sold out due to offering elevated vantage points of the Yas Marina Circuit, in addition to good views of turns 4,5,6,7, the north hairpin and the longest straight of any Formula 1 circuit.


Guns N' Roses gear up for final night performance with chance of November rain

Guns N' Roses are getting ready for their headline performance on Sunday, posting a Gif of a skeleton driving an F1 car around the Yas Circuit Arena.

It looks like the band could be set for a particularly apt rendition of November Rain, as a storm is forcast for the evening.

It would be the first ever case of rain during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, promising a dramatic end to the F1 season.


Race talking points: Mercedes's duel and why Verstappen still has a podium chance

Mercedes duel: There was little to choose between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in qualifying on Saturday, 0.162 seconds to be precise, as the world champion's lap record of 1 minute, 34.794 seconds took pole.

Verstappen's charge: Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen starts in sixth but he may well be the man to watch in the opening laps.

Leclerc's comeback: Given he damaged his car, with his rear wing falling off after he crashed at Turn 19 in final practice, eighth in qualifying for Sauber was a terrific effort from Charles Leclerc.

End of an era: Twelve of the 20 drivers lining up at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday will be in different surroundings, either in F1 or in another form of motorsport next season.

Read the full article here.


Watch: Inside a lap around Yas Marina Circuit


Sam Smith shakes off heartbreak

In the penultimate after-race concert, Oscar-winner Sam Smith enchanted du Arena, Rupert Hawsley writes.

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., November 24, 2018.  
Sam Smith
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  AC
Reporter:  Saeed Saeed
Sam Smith plays at the du Arena in Abu Dhabi. Sam Smith Victor Besa / The National

It is easy to be cruel about Sam Smith. His teary ballads and earnest lyrics lack the grit to really move you. This is music so sentimental and sugary, it can leave you feeling a bit sick. But it is, perhaps, this inoffensiveness that ensures Smith's enduring mass appeal. Two top-five albums since 2016 and a 100-date worldwide tour prove that, sometimes, all we really want is an enormous comfort blanket draped around us.

And while Smith certainly delivered this often enough during his performance at the du Arena, he also brought an unexpected - and irresistible - sense of joy. Where once Smith was a shy, almost awkward, performer, here in Abu Dhabi he loosened his shoulders, let his hips go and belted out his choruses - all the while imploring the crowd to do the same.

Heartbreak? It's just a state of mind, you see.

Read the full review here


From Bella Hadid to Steve Harvey: all the celebrities spotted at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Whether they're friends of Lewis Hamilton, Formula One fanatics or soaking in summer sun, plenty of celebrities have decended on the UAE for the Grand Prix.

Some lucky visitors have been able to steal a selfie with one of the super stars, like Ana Hill who managed to snap a photograph with actor and singer Will Smith at the Paddock Club.

Lewis Hamilton's team later posted a picture to Twitter quoting the theme song to Bad Boys, in which Will Smith starred.



Read more:

Marcus Ericsson: F1 exit after UAE leads to 'exciting' new chapter with IndyCar

Read back: How the rest of the weekend unfolded

From Bella Hadid to Steve Harvey: all the celebrities spotted at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


Hamilton on pole after setting lap record

Lewis Hamilton put himself on track to win the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for a record fourth time as he took pole position for Sunday's race.

The world champion took top spot in qualifying on Saturday with a lap record of 1 minute, 34.794 seconds.

Mercedes-GP teammate Valtteri Bottas was second quickest to give the German marque their fifth successive lockout of the front row this season.

Lewis Hamilton, centre, after taking pole position in qualifying. Graham Caygill / The National
Lewis Hamilton, centre, after taking pole position in qualifying. Graham Caygill / The National

The Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were third and fourth, with Daniel Ricciardo out-qualifying his Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen.

Kimi Raikkonen is interviewed after qualifying. Adam Workman / The National
Kimi Raikkonen is interviewed after qualifying. Adam Workman / The National


Watch: Love in the air


Verstappen defends kerbing

Max Verstappen has defended the kerbing on one of the corners at Yas Marina Circuit that caused minor damage to his Red Bull Racing car during practice ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman ran wide over the kerbing on the exit of Turn 20 on the 21-corner track during Friday's second practice session and suffered minor damage to his floorboard.

GP3 race: 12:10pm
Formula 2 race: 1:35pm
Formula 1 race: 5:10pm
Performance: Guns N' Roses