Lewis Hamilton surprised by Mercedes' Abu Dhabi pace advantage

Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton conveyed surprise at the pace advantage Mercedes held during Formula 1’s season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as he took a comfortable win.

Hamilton cruised away from pole position at the Yas Marina Circuit and opened a sizeable advantage over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen through the first stint of proceedings.

The six-time World Champion eventually finished almost 17 seconds clear of Verstappen, and 43 seconds in front of third-placed Charles Leclerc.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting to have the pace advantage to that extent,” said Hamilton.

“Our long-run pace was quite good and I was told that we might be a tenth or two ahead but then in the race, we had a bit more of an advantage in that respect.

“And once I got out in the clear I was able to manage my pace pretty well in that first stint and manage the tyres.

“I just had to go as long, basically, as Max was going. Then we got onto that next set of tyres and for this track the tyre was good.

“The Hard tyres are quite resilient to any abrasion and that. It goes a long, long way. I think it can do the whole race stint.

“I think towards the end of the race I was like ‘I want to have some… I’ve got to push and see if I can extract any more performance from the car’.”

Hamilton’s victory was his 11th of the season as he set a new season points record of 413.

“What an incredible stretch it’s been with this team,” he said.

“After winning the Constructors’ and the Drivers’ Championship I think it was really important for us as a team to continue to push.

“You know, we hadn’t got absolutely everything from the overall perfect package.

“So we were just trying to push the limits and push the boundaries and yeah, I think this is the perfect way to end the season, on the right foot.

“I think it was a great weekend in the sense that there was a Ferrari and a Red Bull and a Mercedes in the top three, obviously in the finishing order but also on the grid, and then a lot of young drivers behind me, making me feel young, which is great.

“I’m really just grateful to my team who have continued to push all year long and just have never lost sight of the objective.

“We’ve all had a common goal and inspired each other to continue to push and strive for perfection. So, incredibly grateful to everyone and I hope that everyone at Mercedes and our partners. I’m sure they are pretty happy.”