Six-time world champion signed off his successful season of Formula 1 racing with a lights-to-flag victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s eleventh victory of the year, his joint-best haul in a single campaign, was never in doubt as he comfortably led from pole position, aided by Leclerc getting ahead of Verstappen on the first lap.
Verstappen performed a long first stint then caught and forced his way past Leclerc to secure second and finish a career-best third in the drivers’ championship.
Poleman Hamilton streaked clear immediately at the start, as Leclerc used the slipstream to get ahead of Verstappen on the second of the two back straights.
The race remained stagnant until the two Ferraris pit on lap 12, with Leclerc far enough ahead of Sebastian Vettel not to hold up his teammate but Vettel subsequently losing time by a slow change of his left-rear tyre.
That meant Vettel rejoined behind Valtteri Bottas, who was running long after starting from the back of the grid, and Vettel lost time as the Mercedes struggled to clear the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg due to an issue that meant nobody was able to use the DRS through the first third of the race.
At the front, Hamilton and Verstappen ran extremely long on their medium tyres, with Verstappen stopping on lap 25 and Hamilton coming in a lap later.
Verstappen complained of “massive lag” when he rejoined and would continue to ask for a solution to the problem despite showing no lack of pace and slowly closing on Leclerc.
Red Bull told Verstappen it could not fix the issue, but that did not stop Verstappen using the DRS to attack at the end of the first back straight and squeeze by on the inside.
Leclerc tried to fight back with an aggressive, late-on-the-brakes pass on the outside at the end of the following straight, but Verstappen was able to rebuff the attempt.
With Vettel dropping back in fourth and eventually pitting, and neither Alex Albon or Bottas within a pitstop, Ferrari switched Leclerc to ‘Plan C’ and pit him for a second time to set the fastest lap – which he failed to earn.
That left Verstappen free to secure a comfortable second position, 16.7 seconds behind race winner Hamilton, who pumped in the fastest lap on his penultimate tour to clinch a bonus point.
Leclerc completed the podium, but his third position is in doubt as Ferrari faces a stewards’ inquiry into a “significant” pre-race fuel declaration discrepancy.
That means Bottas may yet be rewarded with a podium, having cleared Albon in the final third of the race to recover to fourth.
His progress from the back was slow early on because of the issue with the DRS, but strong pace thereafter eventually left him missing out on a podium to Leclerc by less than a second.
Vettel recovered some ground after his second stop by passing Albon for fifth with two laps to go.
Sergio Perez’s long first stint paved the way for a late charge to best-of-the-rest in seventh.
The Racing Point driver started 10th but a later stop than his midfield rivals allowed him to charge past five cars over the last 17 laps and pass the McLaren of Lando Norris on the final lap.
Daniil Kvyat finished ninth for Toro Rosso, beating its constructors’ championship rival Renault, but the Red Bull junior team’s two-point haul meant Renault still secured fifth position in the constructors’ championship.
Nico Hulkenberg looked set to sign off his three-year spell with Renault, and potentially his Formula 1 career, with a point for tenth but was passed by the McLaren of Carlos Sainz on the very last lap.
Sainz’s last-gasp move secured him sixth position in the drivers’ championship by just one point, ahead of Pierre Gasly.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in winning the season finale with a masterclass performance. Leading every lap in that beautiful Mercedes W10. This champions signed off their title success on a high. Kudos!
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h34m05.715s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 16.772s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 43.435s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 44.379s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m04.357s
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull-Honda 1m09.205s
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1 Lap
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1 Lap
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1 Lap
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1 Lap
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1 Lap
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 Lap
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 Lap
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1 Lap
15 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1 Lap
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1 Lap
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1 Lap
18 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 2 Laps
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 2 Laps
– Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes Retirement