Hamilton Wins In Abu Dhabi
Fortune finally smiled on Lewis Hamilton on Sunday when he won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel's luck finally ran out.
The McLaren driver was on hand to make the most of the spin Vettel suffered exiting the very first corner of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Vettel suffered a right rear puncture and was forced to retire for the first time this season. That means the world champion's attempts to match Michael Schumacher's record of 13 victories in a single season are now at an end.
Hamilton's victory was his third of 2011 but much-needed in the context of a difficult season for the 26-year-old, who has been criticised for the number of collisions he has been involved in this year.
The 2008 world champion took the chequered flag comfortably ahead of Ferrari's Fernnado Alonso, with Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button claiming the final podium place.
Red Bull's Mark Webber finished fourth ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa, with Mercedes GP's Nico Rosberg sixth ahead of team-mate Schumacher.
Force India pair Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta finished eighth and ninth respectively, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi claiming the final world championship point.
Vettel's retirement - his first since last year's Korean GP - means we will never know whether McLaren had the pace to beat the champion in a straight fight.
Although the German had set a record-equalling 14th pole position on Saturday, McLaren had been confident of their race pace but still needed fast starts from their drivers.
It initially seemed as though Vettel would deliver another masterclass as he confidently led into turn one.
But he was soon pitched into a spin and after the field had sped past, Vettel hobbled back to the pits, his car having sustained damage to its right rear corner.
Hamilton therefore found himself leading a McLaren one-two, but only briefly as Alonso, who had already passed Webber through turn two, then dived past Button around the outside of turn 11 and into second place.
Button also briefly lost third to Webber on lap four before taking the place back - the moves coming in the track's DRS zones on the long back straight and the run to turn 11.
The McLaren driver then managed to pull out of DRS range while Hamilton too pulled clear of Alonso - the gap at 2.6s by lap nine.
Just prior to the first pit-stop window, though, Button reported a mechanical problem - soon revealed as a KERS failure - and Webber closed up once more.
Lap 15 saw the pair side-by-side through turns 11 to 14, with Button holding on. Hamilton and Alonso pitted in tandem two laps later.
Quick work by McLaren's pit turned Button around after he followed his team-mate in, however Webber's stop was sluggish by comparison and he lost fourth place to Massa.
By lap 21, Hamilton was 3s clear of Alonso - the gap being stretched as far as five-plus seconds during the second stint as tyre management and traffic came increasingly into play.
Meanwhile the KERS-less Button was slowly falling back into the clutches of Massa, with Webber also closing on the Ferrari.
The trio slowly bunched up and Webber got ahead of Massa on lap 30 before the Ferrari took the place back - again under braking at turn 11.
Their squabble enabled Button to pull away but he was also helped after regaining the use of his car's KERS power boost.
Button followed Webber into the pits for a second time on lap 36. While the McLaren was switched from option (Pirelli soft) to prime (hard) tyres, Red Bull bucked the trend and put Webber back out on options and he immediately became the pacesetter in sixth place.
He needed to be, though, as he would now require another stop. Hamilton pitted again on lap 41 to hand Alonso the lead while Webber - who had also jumped Massa - then passed Button for fourth.
Alonso stopped on lap 44 but his 'in laps' on worn options were not quick enough for him to jump Hamilton and retain the lead.
Webber then passed the third-placed Rosberg on lap 45, the Mercedes driver running a long second stint before dropping back behind Button and Massa when he pitted three laps later.
Massa - who Webber was effectively racing - then blotted his copybook with a spin, guaranteeing the Red Bull driver fourth place when he pitted for a third time on the final lap.
By that stage, Hamilton was 8.4s clear of Alonso, a gap he maintained to the chequered flag.
The winner now matches Button's tally of three race wins this season; however, even with his latest success, Hamilton cannot now beat his team-mate in the standings.
Button stands second in the drivers' championship and holds a 28-point lead over Hamilton in fifth.