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Gracias Fernando!


by George Phillips 11 months ago 12 comments

Gracias Fernando! - As if to summarise the championship this year, Sebastian Vettel was again forced to stare at the back of the Silver Arrow as it pulled away into the distance and Lewis Hamilton displayed another magnificently polished performance to take the final 1st of 2018.
As it happened both Mercedes managed to get away well alongside Charles Leclerc, who made a move on Daniel Ricciardo for 5th Place. Max Verstappen was unlucky, with a systems issue bogging him down and leaving him in 10th behind his sparring partner from Brazil, Esteban Ocon.
Before the first few corners could settle a battle between Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean, sent The Hulk barrel rolling his way into the barriers as he misjudged the position of the HAAS. Fortunately, despite the ugly-looking crash Hulkenberg emerged with no injuries, despite him "Hanging here like a Cow" whatever that means.
Hulks crash did prompt a safety car, after which Hamilton made a lightning start with the two Mercs leaving a healthy gap to the boys in red behind. Behind the front runners, Ocon and Verstappen were battling closely. I can't have been the only one worried about that one being that they both had a bit of a point to prove. Max won the battle, although the Force India put up a good fight, even if Max did give him a little love tap on his way through at Turn 7.
On lap 7 we saw the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen retire. An unfortunate end to his final race with Ferrari before he heads to Sauber for 2019. The stricken Ferrari prompted the VSC, allowing Hamilton to make an early pitstop for Supersoft Tyres. With the uncertainty of impending rain and 48 Laps to go, it looked like a bit of an error for Mercedes when Hamilton emerged from the pits in 5th Place.
There were plenty of battles all over the grid with the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson duking it out with the Toro Rosso before the Sauber bowed out of the final race for the Swede. Just ahead was a battle for P7 between Ocon and Sainz, with Sainz winning out for his last race with Renault.
By Lap 23, Daniel Ricciardo was leading the race. Opting to stretch his stint on the Ultrasoft Tyres after the rest had already pitted. With the threat of rain, it was looking like a good move. Until it didn't rain. Ricciardo finally pitted on lap 34 for Supersofts, returning to the track in 5th place, eight seconds off his teammate.
Up in P3, Vettel took advantage of a lock up from Bottas in Turns 5 and 6 to take P2 and set about the chase for Hamilton who was back in the lead. Another lock up from Bottas put him in the path of Verstappen, who certainly didn't need an invitation managed to break past the Finn a few laps later. Shortly followed by teammate Ricciardo, who also took advantage of the fading tyres of the Mercedes.
A few laps later, the strain of the season proved too much for the cars of Ocon and Gasly with the Force India throwing in the towel on the pit lane entry and the Toro Rosso parking up and leaving a trail of oil.
At the pointy end of the runners, Hamilton managed to bring it home with no issues. Vettel unable to challenge came away with the second spot, followed, but not troubled by, the Dutchman.
With Ricciardo finishing 4th and Bottas in 5th, that left Kimi in 3rd for the driver's championship. Sorry, Kimi, looks like you're going to Russia. It also meant that Bottas is the first Mercedes driver to obtain no wins in a season since 2012. Although arguably he was set to win in Russia. Poor Bottas, it still hurts to think about.
In the 1.5 "best of the rest", Carlos Sainz put in a cracking performance to bring Renault 4th in the Constructors Championship, their best placing since returning to F1 in 2016. After his fight with Daniel Ricciardo in the first few laps an early pitstop for Charles Leclerc, put him in traffic although he still gave a solid performance to come home in seventh for his last run with Sauber before he and Kimi swap seats.
It was an emotional end to the race for most of us. Although not quite able to put it into the points, it was a good send off for Mclaren's Fernando Alonso. Vettel and Hamilton gave him a police escort to the start and finish straight where the three gave us some spectacular spins. I know we're going to miss Nando next year, but I don't think this is the last we'll see of him in F1. Well, we can hope can't we?

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