It was meant to be the duel in the desert between the Mercedes men to decide the 2014 Formula One Drivers World Championship but mechanical issues ruined Rosberg’s race, forcing the German to finish outside the points whilst Hamilton took his 11th victory of the season.
Going into the race, Hamilton had shown the better race pace in practice but it was Nico Rosberg who secured pole position in qualifying. That said, the man on pole had only ever won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on one occasion before 2014.
For the grid, Grosjean found himself at the back but knew he would have to serve a drive through penalty in the opening three laps. Maldonado would then join his French team-mate after stalling on the grid for the formation lap. A formation lap that did not include either Red Bulls after the two were excluded form qualifying and started the race from the pit lane.
And when the five red lights went out, the desert duel was underway with Rosberg leading the field away.
But Rosberg lost that lead before the two Mercedes even made it to the first corner after Lewis had a superb start to fire his Silver Arrow of the line far faster than Nico and into the lead with the German spinning his wheels.
By the time the two Mercedes drivers had made their way passed the first corner Hamilton had edged out a strong lead and by the end of the first lap that lead was up to 1.2 seconds. As for Bottas he had slipped down to eight after a slow get away from the grid.
Across the opening lap, the midfield remained bunched up and began to trip over each other when they got to the end of the first sector. A handful of drivers, including Sergio Perez, found themselves out on the run offs at the chicane whilst Kevin Magnussen and Adrian Sutil made minor contact.
Magnussen and Sutil were able to continue with the race despite the McLaren driver claiming to have front right suspension damage. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean served his drive through penalty for engine component changes.
Soon enough, the field began to stretch out and the supersoft tyres began to degrade forcing drivers into the pits. First up came Fernando Alonso on lap six.
The Spaniard, in his final race for Ferrari, had just overtook his current team-mate Kimi Raikkonen before radioing in to request a pit stop to change onto the prime soft tyres.
Alonso’s stop engaged the pit stop window for the rest of the field as more and more drivers took to their pits, but Hamilton set about extending his lead out in front.
However, those who stopped for new tyres found themselves stuck in traffic with Alonso having to work his way ahead of Will Stevens in his F1 debut. All this was playing into the hands of Bottas following his poor start and was exemplified by his engineer on the radio.
As well as helping Bottas find his way back towards the front, the traffic opened up a window for Hamilton to slot into and on lap 10, the race leader pitted. With Lewis in the pits, Rosberg regained the lead for one lap before the German pitted himself.
Whilst Hamilton set about his out lap, the stewards brought out the penalty gun with Hulkenberg in the cross heads. The Force India driver was served a five-second stop/go penalty after the stewards deemed he had forced Magnussen off the track on the opening lap before the turn seven hairpin.
When Rosberg rejoined the track, he found himself in third with Hamilton in front and Massa in the lead, but the scrap of the lap was between ex-Toro Rosso team-mates Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie in the faster Red Bull was aiming to pick off his team-mate at turn 11, but Vergne fought back to maintain position. For the meantime at least, as Ricciardo found himself breezing ahead at turn eight on the following lap.
Despite Rosberg carrying the better pace and setting new fastest laps following both Mercedes pit stops, Nico was unable to dent Hamilton’s lead which stayed on the borderline of 2 and a half seconds for the following laps.
Elsewhere Ricciardo was being told Bottas was behind him and, despite the Finn not being “in our race” according to Daniel’s engineer, he was told not to make it easy for him. Whilst Vettel warns his rear tyres were starting to off and was swiftly granted a new set of soft tyres. However Seb’s stop was a slow 4.3seconds after he struggled to get going after the team made slight tweaks to his front wing.
After 24 laps, both Mercedes continued to push flat out but the gap had extended to over three seconds. Knowing he needed to catch up with Hamilton, Nico tried breaking late at turn 17 but it resulted in a lock up and the gap extended.
But that was the least of Nico’s worries as over the next lap, his ERS failed meaning he was down on 150 horsepower and fell to over 10 seconds behind Lewis, with Massa rapidly closing in.
Nico began to lose more and more time to his title rival as every corner ticked by and after two laps Massa was sitting on his gearbox looking for a way into second place. And at turn 5 after the 1 kilometre straight, Massa breezed passed Rosberg, dropping the title chaser into third place.
Over the next few laps Rosberg dropped further and further away from Hamilton and Massa, with the Brazilian closing in on the race leader as the Brit took it easy to check he had no problems on board.
But for Maldonado his race was over as he went out in flames, literally. Smoke billowed from the exhaust before his car was ablaze, leaving the Venezuelan out of the final race of the year.
Whilst marshals worked on moving Pastor’s car to a safe location, Button was feeling the danger of Alonso breathing down his neck. The two went side by side down the straight, with the Brit leaving it later to brake and hold position. But at the end of the next straight Alonso found his way ahead when Button left it too late to stop. Now he had his team-mate breathing down his neck, but Magnussen dove into the pits.
Out in front, Hamilton continued to take it easy with Massa closing in before the drivers champion-elect pitted for more soft tyres. When he rejoined the track he found himself behind Rosberg but walked past his team-mate moments later.
Rosberg continued to tumble down the order as the laps ticked by with Bottas and Ricciardo breezing ahead. By now it had also become clear that Rosberg had completely lost ERS power as well as loosing the hybrid power and suffering turbo lag. To push Nico further down the order, he pitted for the second time and found himself in seventh behind both Force India’s.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo continued to fly in his Red Bull in pursuit of Bottas. But there would be no scrap for the time being as the Finn pitted. There would also be no scrap for the time being between Massa and Hamilton with the Brazilian in the lead as Felipe pitted on lap 44 of 55 for the supersoft tyres.
Mercedes wanted to turn the engine mode on Hamilton’s car up in order to counter Massa’s pace, but Hamilton told them not to as he was enjoying the set up and proved that with another fastest lap.
Once Massa came out of the pits with 10 laps to go, he set about closing in on Hamilton and his first win since Brazil 2008, the day Hamilton won his first drivers title. For this he set fastest lap after fastest lap and was raking Lewis in hand over fist.
Another driver making a late switch for supersoft tyres was Sebastian Vettel. The German started the race in the pit lane but came out of the pits this time in tenth place and had Alonso in sight. The man he will be replacing at Ferrari, but right now he wanted to replace him in ninth place, which he did on lap 49. Before overtaking Rosberg a few laps later to regain eight.
By now their was just four laps remaining of Formula One Grand Prix’s in 2014, with Hamilton continuing to lead with Massa continuing to close in. Unfortunately for Lewis, traffic was slowing his momentum and Massa was closing in more than he could counter.
But the win was no longer important for Lewis as Nico fell out of the points and down the order with his problems becoming far to severe, forcing him into coasting around the circuit. But Mercedes still wanted Lewis to take the win and end the season in style as it would also be the teams 16th of the year and the most one team has ever won in a year.
Soon enough the team were telling Nico his problems were even so severe they wanted to retire the car with a couple of laps to go. Calmly Nico replied over the radio his desire to see out the remainder of the race and within moments the German was lapped by Lewis before moving to the side to allow Massa through.
With that Lewis entered the final lap of the race with Massa a few seconds back and unable to challenge for the win leaving Lewis to take the chequered flag for his 11th win of the year, Mercedes 16th of the year, but more importantly Lewis’ second Formula One World Drivers Championship.
Massa took the chequered flag 2.5 seconds back from Hamilton with his team-mate a further 26 seconds down the road for third. Jenson secured fifth place and celebrated with doughnuts, potentially signalling the end of his Formula One career.
In Vettel’s final race for Red Bull he could only manage eight place, whilst Ricciardo secured fourth. But for Vettel, he was at least able to beat the man he will be replacing at Ferrari. Even if Alonso was in night place.
After being lapped on the penultimate lap, Rosberg was forced into settling for 14th place. With Nico out of the points, Lewis picking up the win and double points, Lewis took the championship by 67 points.
A couple of other notes to take from Hamilton securing the Formula One Drivers Championship are that British racing drivers have taken the title in Formula One, GP2, GP3 and the World Endurance Championship in 2014. As well as that, Lewis has become the first British driver to secure two Formula One championships since Sir Jackie Stewart in 1971.
|2||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||55||+2.5 secs||4||36|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||55||+28.8 secs||3||30|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||+37.2 secs||20||24|
|5||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+60.3 secs||6||20|
|6||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||55||+62.1 secs||12||16|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||55||+71.0 secs||11||12|
|8||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||+72.0 secs||19||8|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||55||+85.8 secs||8||4|
|10||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||55||+87.8 secs||7||2|
|11||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+90.3 secs||9|
|12||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||55||+91.9 secs||10|
|13||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||54||+1 Lap||18|
|14||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||54||+1 Lap||1|
|15||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||54||+1 Lap||14|
|16||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||54||+1 Lap||13|
|17||46||Will Stevens||Caterham-Renault||54||+1 Lap||17|
|Ret||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||42||+13 Laps||16|
|Ret||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||26||+29 Laps||15|
|Ret||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||14||+41 Laps||5|