Hamilton triumphs in Abu Dhabi as world champion Vettel spins out

    Lewis Hamilton's victory in Abu Dhabi was only his third in the 2011 Formula One season.

    Story highlights

    • Lewis Hamilton wins only his third grand prix of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi
    • World champion Sebastian Vettel retires on first lap of the race after a puncture
    • Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is second with Hamilton's McLaren teammate Jenson Button third
    • Vettel's lead in the drivers' championship reduced to 119 points from Button in second
    Lewis Hamilton won his first Formula One grand prix in almost four months as world champion Sebastian Vettel spun out of the race in Abu Dhabi during the opening lap.
    McLaren's British driver took full advantage of Vettel's slip up -- the first time the 2010 and 2011 title holder has retired from a race since the Korean Grand Prix last year.
    Hamilton fended off the challenge of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari while Jenson Button clung onto third in the face of fierce competition initially from Red Bull's Mark Webber and then from Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa.
    Vettel, who secured the 2011 crown last month, had his lead at the top of the drivers' championship cut to 119 points by Button, who sits on 255. Hamilton stays fifth on 227 points but closed on Alonso in third (245) and Webber (233).
    It marked Hamilton's third victory in what has been a difficult season for the 2008 world champion, who admitted before the race that personal problems had contributed to his below-par campaign.
    "I feel fantastic," Hamilton said in a post-race press conference. "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."
    Starting second on the grid, Hamilton watched Vettel beat him into the first corner but at the second a puncture to the German's back right tire sent him spinning off the track.
    Vettel trundled round the circuit and made it back to the pit lane but Red Bull's mechanics decreed the damage too severe for him to rejoin the battle.
    After the race he told reporters: "I don't know what happened. 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."
    In his absence Hamilton maintained a two-second gap over Alonso for most of the race, while Webber and Button's battle saw them swap third and fourth place regularly.
    Alonso did hold the lead for four laps after Hamilton's second pit stop but he couldn't build up enough of a cushion to rejoin the race ahead of his former McLaren teammate.
    The Spaniard said: "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."