Abu Dhabi: Lewis Hamilton showed signs of his old self as he stormed to victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, after Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel retired on the first lap.
Vettel's Red Bull picked up a right rear puncture and spun off at Turn Two. The German driver made it back to the pits, but was forced to retire for the first time this season.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, took over the lead from Vettel and finished 8.4 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso for his third win of the season.
Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button was third, followed by Red Bull driver Mark Webber at the Yas Marina Circuit.
"Mega job — mega job, guys — as usual," Hamilton said over the team radio as he crossed the finish line. "I want to dedicate this win to my mum. Happy birthday and thanks for coming out here."
Hamilton did a brief jig on his car in front of the crowd before jumping over a barrier and hugging his mother.
It was a solid return to form for Hamilton, whose season has been overshadowed by several costly penalties, a running feud with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa and off-track distractions. Last year, Hamilton dropped his father, Anthony Hamilton, as manager and last month confirmed he broke up with longtime girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger of the pop group The Pussycat Dolls.
"I feel fantastic. I think it was one of my best races," Hamilton said. "To hold off one of the best drivers in the world is something that is very tough to do. Obviously, the team did a fantastic job with pit stops. I'm very happy to be back up here."
Alonso said he was pleased with his race, despite failing to mount a credible challenge to Hamilton. Alonso closed to within 1.6 seconds in the early stages but Hamilton managed to extend the gap to 3.3 seconds at the midway point. Alonso then briefly took the lead when Hamilton pitted with 14 laps to go, but Hamilton regained the lead three laps later when Alonso pitted. The Spaniard never posed a serious threat after that.
"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," Alonso said. "In the last stop we were two seconds later than the McLarens. But there was a bit of traffic and I'm not sure that even with the faster stop we could have overtaken."
Despite Vettel's retirement, Red Bull was on course to secure a podium finish with Webber holding on to third place coming into the final lap. But the Australian had yet to make his obligatory pit stop for the harder tires, which handed third place to Button and ended a streak of 19 races that Red Bull had finished on the podium.