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Lewis Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi GP battle with Fernando Alonso

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Abu Dhabi GP highlights (UK users only)

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at Yas Marina

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton returned to form to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel retired.

Hamilton was gifted the lead when Red Bull's world champion retired on the opening lap because of a puncture going through the second corner.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso pushed hard and tried to take the lead at the final pit stop but Hamilton was too strong.

McLaren's Jenson Button took third from Red Bull's Mark Webber while Paul di Resta was ninth for Force India.

Hamilton said on arrival in Abu Dhabi that winning the final two races here and in Brazil would help turn around a difficult season in which he has struggled on and off the track.

"He just turned it on here and looked like the old Lewis again," said BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - top three drivers

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - top three drivers

"There is nothing missing in his armoury but sometimes he seems emotionally like he's not in the race. But there were no tantrums. He just got in it and got on."

Hamilton has been in confident mood and full of enthusiasm for the Yas Marina circuit, where he lost out on victory at its inaugural 2009 race when he was forced to retire.

There was some irony, then, that Vettel, who won the two previous races here in the desert, retired to gift Hamilton the lead.

The double world champion spun at the second corner when his right rear wheel suddenly punctured and his Red Bull slid onto the grass.

He damaged the car further on his way back to the pits and looked furious when it dawned on him he was out of the race.

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"He had damage to the floor and the exhaust and part of the wishbone," explained BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz. "He couldn't carry on."

It was Vettel's first retirement since last year's Korean Grand Prix - more than a year ago - and ended his run as the only driver to finish every race so far in 2011.

"I don't know what happened," Vettel said. "We lost pressure all of a sudden out of the exit of Turn One. I don't why. There is nothing that I did differently to any of the other laps.

"We need to find out why, maybe I cut the kerb at a funny angle. It is tough, but I used the opportunity to learn a bit on the pit wall."

Vettel had snatched pole from Hamilton by just 0.141 seconds but the Englishman has been strong here all weekend and ran a controlled race to capture his third win of the season to match Button.

Hamilton dedicated the win to his mother Carmen, who was there to greet him with a hug when he got out of the car.

Alonso, who appeared to have made up with his former foe by complimenting him in the build-up to the race, pushed Hamilton hard in the final phase of the race.

When Hamilton pitted for the harder tyres with 16 laps to go, Alonso stayed out to try and build up his lead but came in four laps later.

World champion Sebastian Vettel

Vettel baffled by puncture

The Spaniard had not done enough and Hamilton resumed his lead to win by nearly nine seconds.

"I feel fantastic," Hamilton said. "It was one of my best races. To hold off one of the best drivers in the world is very tough to do.

"I'm just happy. This is great. It's early days but this is definitely the start of something. We've got another great race ahead of us in Brazil. I've just got to keep my mind on the game."

Alonso added: "It was a fantastic race for me as well. We fight most of the race three-five seconds distance to Lewis.

"We were close but we had some traffic in the pit entry behind a HRT and in the last stint they had a little bit more pace so it would have been difficult to win the race even if we had got into the lead. I'm happy with second."

Button finished third but had to battle Webber and Ferrari's Felipe Massa for position after losing his Kers power boost system for half the race.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "Jenson spent 20 laps without Kers. Then we re-set it and then it would fail and during that time he was trying to keep rhythm and pace and his brake balance was swinging wildly with the failure of Kers."

Webber had been running in third for much of the race but the Australian was switched to a three-stop strategy and ran until the final lap before making his obligatory stop for the harder 'medium' tyres, which put him back behind Button for the final podium place.

"Well obviously on the second stop, we fitted the option tyre again to cut the race into something different. It was worth a bit of a punt," Webber said.

"The two DRS (overtaking zones) were tricky. The first one was easy but the second wasn't so easy. The DRS was a bit of a gimme today.

"We had pretty good pace and I was close to Jenson Button at the end of the first stint. Then we had a bad first pit stop. We lost a lot of time. It put us on the back foot. We lost track position. That's where we lost the podium."

Massa gained one place to finish fifth ahead of Nico Rosberg, who bravely re-passed Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher after losing out to him at the start.

Adrian Sutil, who is under pressure for his seat at Force India, beat his team-mate Paul di Resta, who crossed the line in ninth after an unconventional one-stop strategy.

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi took the final points with 10th and veteran Rubens Barrichello fought hard in his Williams to take 12th after starting at the back of the grid.



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see also
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race results
03 Mar 11 |  Results
Hamilton says win marks new start
14 Nov 11 |  Formula One
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as it happened
13 Nov 11 |  Formula 1
Vettel grabs pole from Hamilton
12 Nov 11 |  Formula 1


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