Bottas Leads Hamilton Home In Abu Dhabi
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
Just a couple of weeks after the Brazilian Grand Prix Formula 1 reached its finale for this year in hot and sunny Abu Dhabi last weekend. Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team had already wrapped up the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship titles again well before the season-ending trip to the Middle East, but racing is racing and F1 drivers are by nature highly competitive animals even if the major prizes had already been awarded.
The 3.5 mile Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is an eye-catching multi-coloured venue, particularly under the floodlights after the sun has set, and it was Valtteri Bottas who emerged on top ahead of his Mercedes team-mate in the last race before the winter break.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had set the pace in the opening free practice session before Hamilton topped the timesheets in the remaining two opportunities to prepare for the main event.
Come Saturday’s qualifying hour it was soon apparent that the two Mercedes cars pedalled by Hamilton and Bottas were clearly quicker than the rest of the field and the Finn claimed pole position ahead of his more famous colleague. Ferrari have never started on the front row in Abu Dhabi and this year was no different as Vettel claimed third on the grid, but significantly over half a second slower than Bottas.
Red Bull’s ever smiling Australian Daniel Ricciardo completed the second row, with Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen making up the top six on the grid for the following day’s Grand Prix.
This race is a day/night affair and in theory the design of the circuit means it ought to produce brilliant racing, but all too often that is not the case and sadly after a highly entertaining season this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had its moments but certainly wasn’t a classic.
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As Bottas led from Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciardo further down the field there was a terrific scrap for 13th position between Williams’ young Canadian driver Lance Stroll and Haas’ Romain Grosjean, with the latter eventually getting the upper hand.
By lap 21 Valtteri had pulled a 2.3 second advantage over the chasing Lewis and the unlucky Danny Ric suffered his third retirement in the last four races due to a hydraulic problem. One tour later the leading Finn made his only pit stop, briefly promoting Hamilton to the lead before the British multiple champion made his own stop and rejoined back in second position.
From here to the chequered flag Hamilton stalked his team-mate, but was never quite close enough to attempt a pass. 20 seconds to their rear Vettel had a lonely race to third place and the final podium position, comfortably clear of his fourth placed team-mate Räikkönen.
Verstappen and Force India’s Sergio Perez completed the top six finishers and Williams’ Brazilian driver Felipe Massa deserves a special mention for finishing a creditable 10th in his last ever Formula 1 Grand Prix.
During the final podium ceremony of the season a new logo for Formula 1 was revealed, another small step along Liberty Media’s road to move the pinnacle of world motorsport into a new era. Many challenges lie ahead, particularly now the new owners are well beyond their initial honeymoon period, but there is so much to be optimistic about.
An end of season F1 test is to follow this week at the Abu Dhabi circuit. Sauber has yet to announce its driver line-up for next year and Williams is still to fill one of its race seats, with the latter evaluating the former Sauber BMW and Renault driver Robert Kubica again as well as Russian F2 ace Sergey Sirotkin. 32 year old Pole Kubica was severely injured in a rally crash in 2011 whilst driving for Renault in F1, but has fought his way back to being in contention for a potentially dramatic return.
Meanwhile, everyone is already very much looking ahead to make sure they are fully prepared for the start of the 2018 Formula 1 season in Melbourne, Australia come March 23rd next year. Bring it on......
2017 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Results
1 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1hr34m14.063s
2 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +3.899s
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +19.330s
4 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +45.386s
5 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +46.269s
6 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) +1m25.713s
7 Sergio Perez (Force India) +1m32.062s
8 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1m38.911s
9 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Lapped
10 Felipe Massa (Williams) Lapped
11 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
13 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
14 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) Lapped
15 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Lapped
16 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) Lapped
17 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
18 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
19 Carlos Sainz (Renault) Retired
20 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) Retired
2017 Formula 1 Drivers' Championship
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 363
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 317
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 305
4 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) 205
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 200
6 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 168
7 Sergio Perez (Force India) 100
8 Esteban Ocon (Force India) 87
9 Carlos Sainz (Renault) 54
10 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) 43
11 Felipe Massa (Williams) 43
12 Lance Stroll (Williams) 40
13 Romain Grosjean (Haas) 28
14 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 19
15 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 17
16 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) 13
17 Jolyon Palmer (Renault) 8
18 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) 5
19 Daniel Kvyat (Toro Rosso) 5
20 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) 0
21 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) 0
22 Antionio Giovinazzi (Sauber) 0
23 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) 0
24 Jenson Button (McLaren) 0
25 Paul di Resta (Williams) 0
2017 Formula 1 Constructors' Championship
1 Mercedes 668
2 Ferrari 522
3 Red Bull 368
4 Force India 187
5 Williams 83
6 Renault 57
7 Toro Rosso 53
8 Haas 47
9 McLaren 30
10 Sauber 5
Bottas Leads Hamilton Home In Abu Dhabi, 26th November 2017, 19:36 PM