Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for his third Formula One victory of 2011, as world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to finish a race for the first time this season.
Hamilton, 26, finished ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso yesterday, with Jenson Button in the other McLaren taking third. Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was fourth.
“I feel fantastic, I really feel this was one of my best races,” Hamilton said at the post-race press conference. “It’s early days but this is definitely the start of something.”
Vettel, who two days ago won a record-tying 14th pole position in a season, spun off the track on the opening lap with a puncture. He retired from the race because of suspension damage after limping back to the pit lane.
The German, who claimed the title with four races to go, told the British Broadcasting Corp. he was unsure what caused the puncture in yesterday’s penultimate race of the season.
“At the exit of the first corner everything seemed fine,” Vettel said. “But when I turned in I tried to catch the car but I couldn’t do it anymore and I spun off.”
Hamilton, the 2008 series champion, led after Vettel’s early exit, with Alonso passing Button to take second.
Button and Webber competed for much of the race. Button eventually finished ahead of his rival after Webber was forced to take a mandatory pit stop on the 54th of 55 laps because both available tire compounds must be used in every race.
Webber’s chances of a podium position had also been hit by a slow pit stop on lap 17.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa spun off on the 49th lap but was able to finish fifth ahead of Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, with Force India pair Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi taking the other points- scoring positions.
Hamilton eventually beat Alonso by about 8.5 seconds to end a run of seven races without a victory for the Briton.
“Way to go, mega job as always guys,” Hamilton said on team radio after crossing the line.
Button’s third-place finish means he is guaranteed to end the season ahead of his countryman and teammate in the drivers’ standings. Vettel has 374 points, Button 255, with Alonso on 245, Webber on 233 and Hamilton 227. A win earns 25 points.
The season concludes in Brazil on Nov. 27.
--Editor: Mike Harrison
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