Bottas grabs confidence-boosting victory in lifeless finale

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

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The 2017 F1 season deserved a better ending than this.

It was the year Mercedes finally had proper competition. For more than half the season the driver at the top of the points table wore red overalls instead of grey ones.

Then Sebastian Vettel’s title hopes collapsed. A championship battle which for so long looked certain to come down to the final race was over with two races to spare. Lewis Hamilton’s superb post-summer break run ensured that.

Yas Marina has only ever produced memorable races when the championship was still open. So it can’t have surprised anyone that this dead rubber race was instantly forgettable.

Bottas stays ahead this time

Bottas led, Magnussen spun at the start
First among those with a reason to remember this one was Valtteri Bottas. Whether he was back to his best or merely being flattered because his team mate was no longer giving it a hundred percent after sealing the title, Bottas had clinched his second consecutive pole position.

That counts for a lot at Yas Marina, where the run to turn one is a brief 300 metres and the braking zone is short, leaving little opportunity for position-swapping. Sure enough, he easily converted his pole position into the lead. This would have come as a great relief after he lost the initiative at the last race in Brazil.

At the end of lap one the whole top 12 was still in the same position they had started. Vettel was pursued by Daniel Ricciardo, then their team mates. Nico Hulkenberg had regained seventh places from Sergio Perez through the simple method of declining to go around turn 12, for which he would shortly be penalised five seconds.

Through the opening stint Hamilton sat around two seconds behind Bottas. By lap 16 it was becoming clear that a gap behind them was opening up which they could use to make their pit stops and rejoin in clear air. Bottas edged his lead out by a few tenths more than came in on lap 22.

Hamilton’s brief spell in the lead lasted three laps. He took four tenths out of Bottas on his team mate’s first full lap out of the pits, but the next time around Bottas was quicker in the middle sector and that meant it was time for Hamilton to come in. Despite a fractionally quicker pit stop, Hamilton rejoined back in second place.

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No way past

Hamilton could only follow his team mate
Tyre degradation was so low that further pit stops were not going to happen unless there was a Safety Car or VSC interruption. Hamilton therefore had to pass Bottas on the track.

Hulkenberg had demonstrated this wasn’t necessarily the case. Following his off-track pass of Perez he had pulled out enough of a gap over the Force India that he was able to serve his five-second penalty in the pits without losing his position.

Had there been a championship at stake perhaps Hamilton would have tried it. As a five-second penalty is the standard tariff for such a move, it’s surely only a matter of time before someone gives it a go.

As it was Hamilton couldn’t stay close enough to attempt a pass. And there was nothing to be gained from trying to stay out longer than his team mate – he tried that two years ago on Nico Rosberg.

On lap 30 Hamilton locked up and ran wide at turn 17, giving Bottas some breathing space again. On the 49th tour Bottas slipped up, running fractionally wide at the turn five chicane, bringing Hamilton within range. But again it was only temporary, and as he watched his team mate edge clear again Hamilton finally threw in the towel.

“Are you sure you’re supposed to be there?”

Ricciardo had another technical failure
Behind them Vettel had a lonely cruise to third place. He hadn’t been under threat from Ricciardo before the Red Bull driver dropped out on lap 21 with a hydraulic failure, the latest in a string of technical problems which ruined his end to the year.

Kimi Raikkonen saw off an attempt by Max Verstappen to undercut him at the first round of pit stops. Verstappen cursed a fumbled gear-change on his out-lap. He spent the rest of the race distance starting at the SF70-H, unable to attempt a pass even as Raikkonen backed off in the braking zones to save fuel.

Hulkenberg collected sixth ahead of a distinctly unimpressed Perez. Next came Esteban Ocon who, notwithstanding the occasional animosity between the Force India pair, had also got on the radio to report Hulkenberg’s corner-cutting at the start. He ran a long first stint in an attempt to do what few achieved on Sunday: Gain a position from a rival at Yas Marina.

One driver who succeeded was Fernando Alonso. He and Felipe Massa renewed their battle from Brazil but this time it was Alonso who triumphed over his retiring rival. He pounced on Massa after the Williams left the pits, and despite a 10kph straight-line speed deficit he stayed ahead to the flag.

Massa took the final point in his final race, and even followed the Mercedes drivers to the start/finish line where they were performing doughnuts. “Are you sure you’re supposed to be there?” asked Rob Smedley on the radio after Massa was congratulated by his son and wife.

Another driver who overcame the difficulties of passing at Yas Marina was Romain Grosjean. After a couple of failed attempts he stuck a move on Lance Stroll for 13th. Later in the race pulled off an improbable pass on Nico Hulkenberg to briefly re-take a place from the Renault at turn one, before he was inevitably re-passed in a DRS zone.

He took the chequered flag 50 seconds ahead of the next car, driven by Stoffel Vandoorne. The McLaren driver was carrying damage, yet despite his poor pace was able to keep a five-car train comprising Kevin Magnussen, Pascal Wehrlein, Brendon Hartley, Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson behind for 15 laps until the finish. Stroll followed a further eight seconds behind after a miserable race featuring no fewer than three pit stops.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was the only other driver who didn’t see the chequered flag after Renault failed to attached his front-left wheel correctly following his lap 32 pit stop.

New logo, same story

Bottas celebrated his third win
The chequered flag fell on the 2017 season with fireworks at Yas Marina. As usual, these were only of the literal kind.

But as Bottas admitted afterwards, his win was a well-timed end to a difficult second half of the season. It will allow him to head into the winter break with renewed confidence.

After the fanfare of the podium ceremony Formula One’s new owners took the opportunity to reveal a revised logo as part of a major overhaul of the sport’s branding for next year. It was immediately met with predictable derision from fans on social media.

The disappointing end to the season was a reminder the sport is in need of much deeper changes than a new logo.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “Bottas grabs confidence-boosting victory in lifeless finale”

  1. Well written article @Keith Collantine.

    1. lifeless finale

      The 2017 F1 season deserved a better ending than this

      Something tells me the author was less than excited by the race!

      1. It was better than many past Abu Dhabi gp’s, but we wanted a better race and we needed a better race, even if it had been like last years, an open championship, last years was even duller than this one.

  2. Bomb this track, and build a new one. They can afford it. As long as the new circuit isn’t designed in line with the new logo, we’ll be fine.

    1. +1.

      Or rename to Yawn Marina – Pretentious Circuit Of The Rich and Tacky.

      It’s like a dull street circuit, without the cachet of a historic city. And a testament to the statement: With enough time and money you can ruin any sport.

  3. Good parts: Grosjean did very well with his moves on Stroll; Hulk effectively cheated but was very cunning and did what he had to do with the weight of the team in his shoulders; Alonso did good on Massa; Hamilton pushed all race until the end; and Wehrlein showed why he should not be dumped out of F1.
    All in all I didn’t think it was lifeless although I was puzzled as to why Raikonnen seemed to be fuelled for half the race.

  4. The highlight of the race was the short 2-lap fight between Grosjean and Stroll.

    1. I don’t know… For me, the highlight was when a parasol was retrieved from the track during the Free Practice.

  5. well, color me surprised. It won’t change next year, and it won’t change the year after that…Didn’t some really smart person have a definition of insanity that practically said “watch a full calendar year of F1”? I mean, seriously. Coverage here in America is next to worthless, NBCSN (I know ESPN is taking over, but it won’t change much) spends nearly as much time blabbering on about outdated and irrelevant technical issues (bless Steve Matchett but he shows his outdated knowledge, especially when Will Buxton chimes in with far more relevant and insightful knowledge. Don’t get me started on the petrified in tree sap dinosaur of David Hobbs) as they do on commercials or cut scenes for later programming. (We know what is on later!! We have the guide!!!)

    TV presentation aside, the actual on track action is a complete and utter farce. Pirelli has slaughtered racing with these tires and now has a crayon box inspired line up. Did Crayola buy Pirelli? Sure feels like it…

    7 points is too big of a points gap between 1st and 2nd, let alone third.. If you want 3 or 4 drivers in the mix, at the end of the year in the current era, F1 will have to go to 10,9,8,7,etc… for the top ten. That’s the only way to keep the drivers race tight. Period. These guys can’t (or won’t) race on track, so if they are going to race in the standings or on certain tracks (as demonstrated by Ferrari’s prowess on smaller tracks, Merc’s on Silverstone style tracks), they can’t be separated by 7 points.

    The halo is here, the tires will be miserably bad, the cars can’t follow, DRS creates highway passes and NOTHING more. The drivers all drive to a certain time delta, managing tires or fuel or engines because some absolute MORON came up with the idea of 5 engines (4 next year).

    I hoped F1 would pull out of the nose dive but instead it has only further pushed the nose over and increased the speed. Let us not forget the insane ticket prices for these events.

    F1 barely exists in America. It’s dying in Europe, and on it’s last leg in Brazil. No amount of hyping up of Ferrari’s challenge or the rise of the Flying Dutchman can pull me back. I hoped Ross would be able to arrest the plummet but Liberty has clearly demonstrated it is in not better shape to manage F1 than the previous owners.

    Soon we’ll have reverse grids, Saturday races, lottery qualifying, pick a tiger by the toe, more Michael (or Bruce) Buffer intro’s to add to the “spectacle.”

    No. Motorsport is dead in the 21st century. Good and dead. At least football (soccer) is still worth watching.

    1. “some absolute MORON came up with the idea of 5 engines (4 next year)”. Sorry to make it worse but it will be 3 engines next year.

    2. The drivers all drive to a certain time delta, managing tires or fuel or engines because some absolute MORON came up with the idea of 5 engines (4 next year).

      3 next year, it was 4 this year.

    3. I was looking for live streaming online before the race started yesterday and stumbled onto our American cousin’s bill Affair of F1. I was horrified. No wonder F1 fans in the US come on here and wax lyrical about coverage here in the UK, annoying as we sometimes find it. Watching that coverage with adverts and all, now that is dedication.

  6. I do wonder if anyone involved in the design and creation of Yas Marina thinks “yes, we built a great racetrack there”, or whether the backslapping about the fact the track runs through the hotel and its spangly lights covers that off.

    It was so dull I was half hoping the logo reveal would be followed by a snap announcement of kneejers rule changes.

    1. Kneejerk even!

    2. I suspect they did. Read somewhere Tilke saying they wanted to make a “small” change to the track layout to improve it. Robert Mckay, maybe you can email him your suggestion. After all, money seems not to be a problem to our friends in the gulf.

  7. All the past winners of this race been world champions or went on to win world championship, now let’s see if Bottas can win F1 title.

  8. I started watching F1 a lot only in 2014 and I noticed that every time when LW already have won the WC, he stopped fighting properly and perhaps even did not win a single race when WC was already secured (not sure on that, did not check, but feels that way)
    In my opinion, Hamilton did not even try to take the win from Bottas and then praised him as much as he could to give him every chance he can to stay his teammate for as long as possible…

    1. Well it was mentioned by the commentator and I assume you mean LH.

      He puts everything in and his top level is above most everybody, let alone VB (very boring?)but even super heroes need to take their capes off and recharge

  9. Massa sure wasn’t supposed to park on the finish straight after the race but I thought it was a nice symbolic way to wave the F1 farewell.

    1. Expect he’ll get a 5 place grid penalty next year in Oz. ;-)

  10. I didn’t watch but this review tells me everything I need to know. I will look for a video of alonso’s pass on massa, but otherwise i’m pleased with my decision to go to a pub quiz instead. this would have been unthinkable even a couple of seasons ago.

    1. @frood19 – also Grosjean/Stroll and Wehrlein/Magnussen. Those were the three high points of the race.

  11. Best part of it wasn’t even the race, but the flypast of the 747(?) closely followed by the aerobatics team with two of them doing loops around the others. Enjoyed that, unlike the ‘race’ (F1 re-writes its meaning again).

    1. …and everyone joining in the tyre burns at the end, I felt like…YEAH….whooo….nah.

  12. I’m pretty sure Hamilton/Mercedes let Bottas win to boost his confidence for the coming 2018 season. Great result for Bottas though.

    1. Maybe bottas let Hamilton win 9 times to boost his confidence?))

  13. Their oil money is the only reason why this track is still on the calendar let alone the coveted finale race. If this track was selected on racibility or fan votes it wouldnt have seen it past 2010

  14. Bold prediction for 2018: BOT will beat HAM as both fall short of WDC glory.

  15. My tinfoil hat prediction for 2018: Bottas gets a car that is better suited for his driving style and has more experience with the team.Hamilton again struggles with the setup of his car and copies Bottas’ setup. Both score fairly equal points but in the end the team has to justify to the board of the directors at Mercedes why they are paying one guy 31 mil and the other guy 7 mil so Bottas forgets how to drive a F1 car and Hamilton sails to his 5th WDC. Hamilton offers Bottas his setup secrets and Bottas finds his speed again after the WDC is in the bag.

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