ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Sebastian Vettel failed to make it past the second turn in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so Lewis Hamilton took his place — as leader and eventual winner, pulling away from the field in Vettel-like fashion.
Vettel spun out of control while leading as the first lap began. The right rear tire on his Red Bull Racing machine deflated abruptly, and after he limped to the pit area, mechanics determined that damage to the car's suspension relegated Vettel to his first DNF (did not finish) of the season.
Meanwhile, Hamilton, who was outpaced in pole qualifying, immediately sped past the spinning Vettel and pulled away from Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
Hamilton finished more than 8 seconds in front of Alonso, with Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes teammate Jenson Button 3rd.
Vettel clinched his second straight Formula 1 driving championship four races ago with a 3rd-place finish behind Button and Alonso in the Japanese Grand Prix. However, he did not lose any motivation to win, and had strung two more victories — his 10th and 11th of the season — since clinching.
He was bidding to tie Michael Schumacher's record for number of victories in a season by winning the last two races of the year, but his retirement Sunday means Schumacher's record is safe for now.
Hamilton won for the third time this season, scoring only his sixth podium finish in a problem-plagued season. Several times in recent races, he has had on-track run-ins with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.
Red Bull's Mark Webber was 3rd until the final lap, but had to pit at the last minute because he had not used the alternate tire. Drivers are required to use both sets of tires in each race. The late pit stop enabled Button to move up to 3rd.