F1 Debrief: Will Smith doesn't slow Hamilton, Hulkenberg flips out

Good morning. Welcome to the morning after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton put the seal on his fifth world championship with his 11th win of the season, despite the distraction of having Will Smith attempting to steal his car, while Nico Hulkenberg was flipped out by Romain Grosjean. So let’s look at the stories behind the headlines…

F1 Debrief: Will Smith doesn't slow Hamilton, Hulkenberg flips out

Hamilton dominates in spite of Will Smith distraction

Will Smith takes a selfie with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 on the way to the drivers' parade

Will Smith takes a selfie with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 on the way to the drivers' parade

Photo by: Andy Hone / LAT Images

Sunday’s race was a stroll for early-pitter Hamilton, once the long-running Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo had made his pitstop. Despite admitting that Hollywood star Will Smith had distracted him from his regular pre-race preparations, Hamilton’s victory was never in doubt as his Mercedes showed none of the tyre overheating that had previously caused problems.

Read the full race report:

Here was moment when Smith faked a ‘kidnap’ of Hamilton, who was taped to a chair, so he could drive his Mercedes F1 car in the race!

 

There was also a deviation from the usual podium protocol, as Hamilton went topless to spray his champagne after the race.

He explained that he did so to showcase the tattoo he has of his ‘Still I Rise’ motto at the top of his back, but admitted: “It didn't go as I thought it would go.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podium with the champagne

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podium with the champagne

Photo by: Manuel Goria / Sutton Images

Hulkenberg’s frightening flip

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18 upside down after crashing

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18 upside down after crashing

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Sutton Images

Nico Hulkenberg’s season ended earlier than he’d hoped for when he was flipped over on the opening lap when he hit the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

Hulkenberg claimed he “couldn’t see” Grosjean, whose car sent the Renault Formula 1 driver into his spectacular airborne accident. The duo were fighting over seventh place as they approached the Turn 8/9 chicane at the end of the Yas Marina circuit’s main straight.

He said: “Racing Romain into Turn 8 – we both locked up, I went wide, he went even wider so I thought he ran off the track and I had Turn 9 to myself that’s why I went for the apex.

“But obviously he was still there and wheels made contact and the rest we’ve seen – just a couple of flips, which obviously look spectacular but nothing really dramatic.”

No extraction problem with halo, says Whiting

Medics and marshals assist Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18 who crashed and rolled on lap one

Medics and marshals assist Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18 who crashed and rolled on lap one

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Sutton Images

Afterwards, FIA race director Charlie Whiting said Hulkenberg's halo did not compromise the driver's extraction from his inverted car.

The length of time it took for Hulkenberg to emerge from the wreckage led some observers to suggest that the halo had made it harder for him to get out. But Whiting stressed that Hulkenberg actually had more space because of the way the halo supports the whole cockpit.

He also explained: “When you have an accident like that the radio from the car is automatically routed to race control so we get immediate information.

“Drivers normally say 'I'm OK' or 'I'm fine,' and we relay that to the doctors on their way to the scene. Then they can take their time to get the car righted and let him get out.”

Bottas says poor race summed up season

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14 sparks and battle

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14 sparks and battle

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Sutton Images

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas says his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix mirrored his 2018 Formula 1 season as a whole, as it started off promisingly before “everything turned to s**t”.

Bottas had been on course for a runner-up finish before a series of lock-ups caused him to slip back down the field, and he finished fifth.

He said: “The team could find on the rear right brake some vibration and some issue, so sometimes the front brakes had to work harder than the rear brakes to compensate and that meant there were sudden lock-ups.

“Same thing happened when I went straight [at Turn 8] and Verstappen got close. So we still need to investigate what was exactly the issue with the brakes.”

After the race, team principal Toto Wolff confirmed Bottas's F1 race engineer Tony Ross will switch to Mercedes' Formula E programme now that the 2018 season has concluded.

Alonso fails to cheat the system

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33, performs donuts on the grid at the end of the race

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33, performs donuts on the grid at the end of the race

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

FIA race director Charlie Whiting believes the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix stewards were “surprised” by Fernando Alonso cutting the track three times in quick succession in the race.

Alonso was making his last planned F1 appearance, and while trying to catch Kevin Magnussen for 10th place, Alonso cut the track in Turns 8 and 9 on three occasions.

“It was the end of the race, and I don’t think it would have been very nice to give someone like Fernando a black flag in his last race, do you?” said Whiting. “I don’t think the black flag was ever discussed.”

More Alonso insight:

Red Bull duo frustrated as Ricciardo signs off

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14 leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14 leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14

Photo by: Joe Portlock / LAT Images

Renault-bound Ricciardo says his alternative strategy that allowed him to lead part of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix left him "out of reach" in the lead battle at the end.

The Red Bull driver led 17 laps during the middle phase of the race, as he stayed out longer than the other frontrunning cars.

He said: “I would have loved a podium. I can't be ecstatic with fourth, to be honest. I was a bit lonely the last few laps. I couldn't really do much more.”

Teammate Max Verstappen did make the podium, but was left to rue a terrible start due to an engine mode issue, and ended the race with a “horrible” lack of vision due to oil from Pierre Gasly's failing Honda engine.

The Red Bull driver, whose team switches from Renault to Honda power for next year, was behind his 2019 teammate Gasly's Toro Rosso as it started to smoke late in the race.

“I already went through all my tear-offs and there was so much oil on my visor it was like driving through fog, it was horrible,” he said. “I was [trying to wipe it with his glove] but it made it worse so I just stayed off it.”

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