Valtteri Bottas can add ‘beat four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton’ to his CV after taking the victory at Yas Marina for the final victory of the 2017 Formula 1 season.
Bottas led from lights to flag although was challenged by Hamilton on occasion after the pitstops, when the two Mercedes drivers had to negotiate traffic around the technical Abu Dhabi circuit. Hamilton was within DRS range halfway through the race and on fresher rubber, having pitter four laps later than Bottas in an attempt to do the over-cut.
Mercedes were prompted to bring Bottas in for his one and only stop a quarter of the way through after Daniel Ricciardo caused a yellow flag in the first sector, when he parked his Red Bull RB13 up for the third time in four races with hydraulic problems. Fearing a Safety Car Mercedes reacted to Ferrari bringing Sebastian Vettel in the previous lap, although it turned out not to be the case and resulted in the inter-team battle.
Hamilton pitted and emerged with just a 1.7 second gap from Bottas, but when the pair had to negotiate traffic the Fin made a mistake heading into the first chicane before the back straight and allowed Hamilton to use his DRS. Fearing a re-pass in the next DRS zone – as seen in the support races – Hamilton consolidated his position before having another go down the next straight into Turn 12, but Bottas was just able to cover him despite Hamilton being much later on the brakes.
After another brief spell where Bottas was able to respond to Hamilton’s increasingly rapid pace, the pair were close again with just a handful of laps left. Hamilton applied the pressure but Bottas managed to maintain the stalemate between the two by driving a much better final sector, eventually finishing 3.8 seconds from Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel claimed the final podium place in third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, the pair having rather lonely races dictated mostly by the fuel saving they had to do in the middle stint. Raikkonen was under threat from Max Verstappen who finished fifth on occasion, however the Red Bull driver was also limited by fuel milage.
The team pitted Verstappen before both Ferrari drivers in an attempt to undercut, but the Force India of Sergio Perez held Verstappen up on his out-lap which allowed Raikkonen to comfortably get ahead when he eventually came in for his set of Super Softs. From there Red Bull tried to get close to the Ferrari’s, but even with the lapped traffic Raikkonen was able to manage the gap as Vettel led a comfortable final stint to take the final podium place.
Nico Hulkenberg was best of the rest in the Renault, securing the teams sixth position in the constructors championship. The team were on edge after Carlos Sainz retired when he made his only pit stop 32 laps into the race, and he was released with the front left not properly attached. He had to pull off the circuit on safety grounds, which meant it was imperative that Hulkenberg finished the race without a problem.
Both Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly were having difficult races mind, eventually finishing outside the top ten after struggling with tyre grip towards the end. The only problem for Renault was a five-second time penalty that Hulkenberg earned for passing Sergio Perez off the track at the start of the race, but even after serving the penalty and having a slow pit stop Hulkenberg emerged from the pits ahead of the Force India and managed the gap until the end.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa revisited their scrap from Brazil, only this time it was for ninth place as the McLaren driver started behind the Williams on the grid. In the opening stint Alonso was right on the gearbox of Massa and took advantage of the undercut in order to force Williams into pitting Massa, but with their trademark fast pit stops Williams got Massa out ahead of Alonso with just a few car lengths to spare.
The fiesty Spaniard wasn’t about to let him go that easily though, and through the first few corners Alonso forced the issue on Massa and managed to make an aggressive move into the first DRS zone to take ninth. Further back Romain Grosjean finished in 11th after a brief duel with Lance Stroll at the start of the race, the other Williams driver eventually finishing the race having done three pit stops due to only having one set of Super Soft tyres available.
Pascal Wehrlein finished 14th for the third consecutive time, although it looked like it might be 13th at one stage when McLaren were reporting issues with Stoffel Vandoorne’s car. With Kevin Magnussen ahead – who recovered well from a first lap spin – the pair were separated by just 0.5 seconds at the finish line, to top off the final race McLaren will be partnered with Honda after a troubled three years. Gasly finished ahead of Marcus Ericsson, with Stroll ultimately finishing in 18th and last for the final race of the season.