ABU DHABI, UAE, November 14- A delighted Lewis Hamilton produced a near-flawless performance on Sunday and then dedicated his spectacular victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to his mother on her birthday.
Hamilton, recovered from the worst lows of a rollercoaster year, took full advantage of the early retirement of double world champion Sebastian Vettel to win with comfortable aplomb.
Driving his McLaren with measured assurance and great speed, the 26-year-old Englishman dominated from the second corner of the opening lap to the finish as he claimed his third win of a troubled season and 17th of his career.
Afterwards, he dedicated his victory to his mother Carmen who had flown to Abu Dhabi to support her son and celebrate her birthday.
It was his first win in eight races and Vettel’s first absence from the points this year. It was the first time in 19 races that a Red Bull driver had not been on the podium.
“It’s my mum’s birthday this weekend,” he said. “And it’s great to be able to win while she is here. I feel fantastic. It’s one of my best races. I said that to myself as I slowed down.
“Being able to hold one of the best drivers in the world (Fernando Alonso) is something that is tough to do. I was looking after tyres and managing the gap. The team did a great job with the stops.”
Hamilton started second, but took the lead within a few hundred metres when 24-year-old German Vettel’s Red Bull suffered a puncture to his right-rear tyre and forced him to swerve off the Yas Marina circuit.
Vettel said: “At the exit of the first corner, everything seemed fine, but when I turned in I tried to catch the car, but I couldn’t do it any more and I spun off.
“On the way back I damaged the suspension badly. I don’t know what happened. We lost pressure all of a sudden out of the exit of Turn One. I don’t why…”
It also banished his self-confessed misery at feeling trapped “in a dark place” after splitting with his long-term girlfriend and fiancée Nicole Scherzinger last month.
Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso came home second for Ferrari, wiping away some of the memories of a nightmare race in 2010 when his title challenge was wrecked by strategic mistakes.
Alonso said: “It was fantastic for me. I had a very good start and the first lap fighting with Jenson. Then we found ourselves second and we were three to five seconds behind Lewis.
Briton Jenson Button in the second McLaren fought through to finish third ahead of Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber and fifth-placed Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.
German Nico Rosberg led compatriot and Mercedes team-mate seven-time champion Michael Schumacher home in sixth and seventh places with another German Adrian Sutil finishing eighth ahead of his Force India team-mate rookie Briton Paul Di Resta.
“A mega-job, mega, as always,” said Hamilton on team radio at the end. “I want to dedicate this one to my mum on her birthday and it is great having her here this weekend. Thanks for coming out here.”
Starting from a record-equalling 14th pole position of the season, Vettel made a clean start when the lights went out and pulled clear of Hamilton and into the lead. The field behind him rushed unscathed into racing order behind him.
Having won both previous Grands Prix held at the Yas Marina circuit, it looked like business as usual for the 24-year-old German, but only for a few hundred metres as a puncture pitched him out of control and off the circuit as he turned into Turn Two.
The right rear tyre of Vettel’s Red Bull machine deflated rapidly and, although he was able to recover and nurse the car back to the pits, it signalled the end and his first retirement in more than a year since the Korean Grand Prix of 2010.
McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh said: “I am thrilled for the team, for Lewis, for everyone. We knew we could win the race, Fernando is a phenomenal competitor but Lewis controlled the race and controlled the gap.”