Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas' steely driving to win race brings 2017 season to anti-climatic end

Abu Dhabi is supposed to be Formula 1’s final flourish, where the sport bows out for the year amid a heady mix of fireworks on and off the track. Unfortunately, the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was an anti-climax — if anything, it underlined everything that is wrong with this era of the sport.

Abu Dhabi is a visually appealing circuit, but it's not great for racing. After the top drivers all got off to a textbook perfect start, the race was a ceremonial procession at best, only enlivened by the lip-smacking prospect of a Valtteri Bottas vs Lewis Hamilton showdown on track, which ultimately never happened. The anti-climatic end was ironic, considering the amount of money that the circuit invests to be the last race of the season. Maybe they should invest some of that money to change the circuit’s characteristics.

Bottas owned the weekend all through — he notched up an admirable pole position after edging out Hamilton by two-tenths and then recorded a ‘lights-to-flag’ victory, bagging his first Grand Slam along the way. He soaked up all the pressure that Hamilton threw his way and drove with nerves of steel.

 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas steely driving to win race brings 2017 season to anti-climatic end

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas celebrates with the trophy after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel look on. Reuters

This was Bottas’ third win of the year and he also clinched two back-to-back poles (Brazil and Abu Dhabi). Given how tepid the second half of his season has otherwise been, it will give him some comfort to know that he can beat a four-time World Champion (Hamilton) in a straight fight. Bottas had a point to prove and he did so with gusto. He showed he is worthy of being re-signed by Mercedes in 2018.

Hamilton said that he wanted to finish the season strongly, but could only manage a P2 in his Mercedes to sign off his championship-winning season. Interestingly, Hamilton’s record shows that he’s never won a race or scored pole in a season after winning the Drivers’ Championship, and 2017 was no different. However, Hamilton managed to create yet another record — equalling Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher in being the only drivers to have scored points in every race in a world championship-winning year.

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari signed off the race as they have been all season — second best. Vettel finished 19 seconds behind the leader, which was a far cry from the speed and optimism with which the Scuderia started the 2017 season.

While Vettel sealed his second place in the championship, Kimi Raikkonen managed to snatch fourth place from Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian retired with a hydraulic failure. It was a disappointing twist of fate for Ricciardo, who had an otherwise great season including eight podium finishes. We have spoken a lot about Max Verstappen’s misfortunes this season, but Ricciardo (five) has had more car retirements than Verstappen (four) this year. Interestingly, the RB13 cars had a mixed season — true to their name, they notched up 13 podiums and 13 DNFs (Did Not Finish).

The battle for sixth in the Constructors’ Championship was tight going into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas separated by a handful of points. Ultimately, Renault ruled supreme with Nico Hulkenberg’s P6 allowing them to overtake Toro Rosso and seal sixth place in the Constructor’s battle, which means rewards in cash and pride for the team. Renault will be heaving with relief because they almost lost their charge to sixth after Hulkenberg’s opening lap time penalty and a pit error that forced Carlos Sainz into retirement.

In the past month, a lot of mudslinging has ensued between Renault and Toro Rosso (who happens to also be their customer team) with Toro Rosso accusing Renault of withholding parts and information from them in order to improve their own championship chances. Toro Rosso moves over to Honda power next season, and we guess it’s safe to say that there’s no love lost between these two warring factions.

Force India saw the season out on a high with a typical double-points finish (we do not expect any lesser from the team now). Unfortunately, this means that the team’s entry fees for 2018 only increase, but the bragging rights make that worth it.

Sergio Perez finished in P7 while Esteban Ocon took P8 in the Drivers’ Championship. It remains to be seen how they keep their pace in 2018 and rise to the high benchmark that they have set for themselves. However, we expect a resurgent McLaren and Renault to make it a tough fight for fourth place (best of the rest), if they don’t end up competing with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes for the top-three.

The 2017 Abu Dhabi also saw two emotional farewells — firstly of course to Felipe Massa, the man who has spent 15 years on the grid as a racer and a well-loved personality. Obrigado Felipe, we will miss you! Secondly, to the iconic Formula 1 logo that has been the face of the sport for decades as it was replaced by a snazzy new logo, inspired to resemble two cars racing to the finish line. Here’s hoping that Formula 1 in the years to come find a real way to make this come true, and we see some memorable races that go down to the line. Incidentally, Abu Dhabi was also the last race without the halo.

Speaking of goodbyes, McLaren and Honda officially separated ways as their troubled partnership finally drew to an end. Fernando Alonso brought his car home in P9 to claim points (for the third consecutive race) and end the season with a glimmer of hope for what lies ahead. Also, with Ferrari expected to up their involvement in Sauber for 2018, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have also been the last race for the likes of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

While the season has ended, we will bring to you interesting stories and news from the world of Formula 1 throughout the winter season.

Updated Date: Nov 27, 2017 11:35:56 IST