Lewis Hamilton secured his third win of the 2011 season in Abu Dhabi. He was followed across the finish line by Fernando Alonso in second place and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button in third. Fourth was Mark Webber, who was the only driver in the top teams to opt for a three-stop strategy. Felipe Massa finished in fifth place in front of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
At the start, Sebastian Vettel fended off the challenge from Hamilton, but on the second corner, Vettel somehow sustained damage to his right rear tyre. The Red Bull man completed the first lap on three wheels and a rim. When he got back the pits, it was apparent that he had damaged his suspension and that he would be unable to resume the race. This spelt the end of an incredible series for the German – his first retirement in 19 outings.
Hamilton now led the field, pursued by Alonso who had nailed Button early on. The McLaren driver was unable to hold on for long in third place as Webber closed in and used his DRS to sail past. The Englishman immediately repaid the compliment in the second DRS zone. Fifth to seventh places were meanwhile being contested by Massa, Rosberg and Schumacher.
Button's KERS temporarily packed in as he and Webber continued to tussle for the remaining podium spot. At one point, they touched wheels as Webber seemed to be almost past, but Button eased back ahead.
On lap 16, Massa was the first of the top drivers to call in for a change of tyres. Hamilton and Alonso then pitted simultaneously. The McLaren boys performed a perfect pit stop while the Ferrari crew seemed to struggle. One lap later, Button completed his first stint. Webber's stop on lap 18 lasted a full nine seconds. The Australian fell back to fifth, which made him the big loser on the first round of pit stops.
Sebastien Buemi's race was over on lap 19 as a result of damage to the hydraulic system. Jerome d'Ambrosio had retired one lap before with a brake problem.
At the front, Hamilton increased his lead over Alonso to 3.6 seconds, while Button, Massa and Webber were scrapping for third place. Webber attacked and passed the Ferrari driver, who retaliated in the following DRS zone. Rosberg, Sutil and Schumacher were running sixth to eighth, and it stayed that way right to the end of the race.
On lap 37 Webber, opened the second series of pit stops. The Red Bull driver opted for the soft tyres again, which would oblige him to make a third stop just before the end. Button made his second stop on the same lap. Lewis Hamilton pitted for the last time on lap 41. Alonso stayed out for another three laps, but the gamble failed to pay off as he emerged behind ultimate race winner Hamilton.