Craig Murto

Craig Murto

Lewis Hamilton’s dream season in Formula One closed with a decisive win in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The win was the 11th this season for the five-time World Driving Champion, equaling the English driver’s total in 2014. Hamilton ended the season with a total of 408 points behind the wheel of his Mercedes.

Finishing second in the race and second in the final points tally with 320 was Sebastien Vettel. It must have been a disappointing season for Vettel, as he was on Hamilton’s heels prior to the summer break. At that point, Ferrari seemed to lose some of its performance consistency, although it demonstrated moments of brilliance late in the season.

One of those brilliant moments came when Kimi Raikkonen visited the top step of the podium. Third in the final points with a total of 251, Raikkonen leaves Ferrari for Sauber. His final race with Ferrari was a major disappointment as the car lost power after only 18 laps.

Valtteri Bottas finishes the F1 season fourth in points with 249 and ended his season dropping in the running order in a race in which a good finish would have allowed him to catch Raikkonen. Instead, Bottas wraps up the season without a single victory, and there is talk that he may not drive a Mercedes much longer.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finished fifth in the World Drivers Championship with a total of 247 points. He finished third at Abu Dhabi, after his usual spirited drive. Verstappen doesn’t make many friends at the racetrack, but I’m sure he’ll tell you that his job is to get the most out of the car, not make friends.

Sixth in the final driver standings is Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was catching Verstappen at the end of the Abu Dhabi race and quite nearly got on the podium in his last drive for Red Bull. Apparently unhappy with what appeared at times to be preferential treatment of his teammate, Ricciardo heads to Renault in 2019 as Red Bull switched to Honda power.

Nico Hulkenberg won the title of “best of the rest,” finishing seventh in the final standings. He earned 69 points in hi Renault in 2018 and certainly finished the year with a bang.

Battling with Romain Grosjean on the first lap, Hulkenberg found himself barrel rolling into a barrier, where his car came to rest upside-down. He appeared to be trapped in the car when it caught fire due to the new Halo bars that surround the cockpit, preventing a quick escape. This was one of the concerns of critics when the device was mandated as a safety feature this season. Hopefully, this will be addressed before it leads to an unnecessary tragedy. Perhaps a quick-release lever can be installed that allows the driver to remove the Halo. It appears that something needs to be done, though F1 officials claim the Halo did not prevent his escape or endanger him in any way.

The race was Fernando Alonso’s farewell to F1, and though it was nice to see him join Hamilton and Vettel on the cool-down lap and doing doughnuts on the front stretch after the race, it was sad to see his F1 career end with such a sour season. He may attempt the 2019 Indy 500, but other than that his racing future is uncertain. Also leaving McLaren is Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, who heads to Formula-E to try to resurrect his career.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about road trips, and I’m about to embark on the longest trips of my season so far.

First up will be the 51st Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, annually the most prestigious race nationwide for pavement Late Models. Of interest to local fans is that Mason Diaz, of Manassas, will attempt to make both the Snowball Derby and the preliminary Snowflake 100 in cars prepared by Mike Darne.

The following week is the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis, the largest motorsports trade show in the world.

Just as racers thank their crew, I have to thank Royal Auto Works in Front Royal for getting my car – now named “Deer Slayer” -- back on the road. These back-to-back road trips would not have been possible otherwise.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

Lewis Hamilton’s dream season in Formula One closed with a decisive win in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.