The 2017 F1 season has reached its conclusion, in rather tame fashion, with a reminder that Mercedes remain the team to beat. They took a comfortable 1-2 finish for only the fourth time in 2017 (a mark perhaps, of how the gap has closed), with the twist that Valtteri Bottas emerged the winner. He qualified on pole, led every lap and took the fastest lap too, thus earning the grand slam.
He had teammate Lewis Hamilton close behind for much of the race, though the nature of the track (especially the final sector) meant Hamilton was only rarely able to get to within a second when the DRS zones were in play – he had been hoping Bottas would make a mistake, but one of the defining characteristics of the Finn is his grace under pressure. Bottas proved to be unflappable.
Sebastian Vettel was some 20 seconds behind and very much adrift. He had gotten pretty clear of his own teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, to end up having a lonely race. Raikkonen had the Red Bull of Max Verstappen for company, but as with the Bottas/Hamilton battle, Verstappen wasn’t able to get close enough and would have to settle for fifth. It would have been sixth, but Daniel Ricciardo’s season ended with a hydraulics failure in his own Red Bull whilst running fourth, something that also allowed Raikkonen to overhaul him in the standings.
The only other spark in an other mundane race was an error by the Renault pit crew, who failed to secure Carlos Sainz’ front left tyre, leading to him having to retire. His teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, finished sixth, a result that proved enough to lift Renault to sixth in the constructor’s championship, representing several million pounds of extra prize money. Renault were therefore the chief winners of Sunday’s race.
Beyond that, there’s nothing to report. Abu Dhabi provides a picturesque venue but not great racing, especially when the key battles have already been decided. Hamilton said afterward that as a track it needs to change, something other drivers have previously suggested.
One other thing – this was the last race to feature truly open cockpits. Next year the halo system will be introduced, in order to provide an extra measure of head protection. How this will influence the designs of the cars remains to be seen, but Abu Dhabi represents – for now at least – the end of an era.
At some stage in the near future, I’ll be reviewing the entire season. I hope you enjoy!