Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas wins season-ending race as champion Lewis Hamilton finishes second

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.

“It is a really important win for me following a difficult start to the second half of the year,” Bottas, who has been outclassed by Hamilton for much of the season, said.

“I couldn’t be happier to end the season like this. Congratulations to Lewis on winning the title, and congrats to Sebastian for finishing second in the championship.

“I was really managing the pace and that way the race. It was a nice feeling. I had one lock-up, but otherwise no issues.”

Hamilton added: “A big, big congratulations to Valtteri. He did an amazing job to hold me off. I gave it everything on every single lap, but it is very hard to overtake here.”

Vettel, who secured this year’s runners-up spot, said: “I had a good start, but had nowhere to go. After three or four laps, I couldn’t go any faster and they pulled away and from there it was pretty lonely.

“Congrats to Valtteri, I am very happy for him, and congrats again to Lewis. He deserved to win the championship. I hate to say it but he was the better man. We will do our bit over the winter and hopefully come back stronger.”