Valtteri Bottas took the third victory of his Formula 1 career by leading home a Mercedes one-two in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Starting from pole, Bottas led comfortably throughout and was largely unchallenged by Lewis Hamilton despite his teammate seeming quicker at many stages throughout the race. Hamilton closed in at the end of the long straights on numerous occasions but never attacked as Mercedes ended the season that yielded its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship with maximum points at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Having been within a second of Bottas for much of the second half of the race, Hamilton finally crossed the line four seconds adrift of his teammate after backing off at the end. Sebastian Vettel came home third for Ferrari but was nearly 20 seconds adrift of the race winner as Ferrari had no response to the Mercedes pace on Sunday evening.
Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth to jump Daniel Ricciardo for fourth in the drivers’ championship after the Red Bull driver retired with a hydraulic issue, with Max Verstappen crossing the line just 0.8s behind the Ferrari in fifth place.
One of the more significant results was Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth place, which allowed Renault to leapfrog Toro Rosso for sixth in the constructors’ championship at the final race of the season. Hulkenberg was the only Renault to finish after teammate Carlos Sainz retired with a loose wheel, but neither Toro Rosso or Haas driver – the other teams capable of finishing sixth – finished in the top 10.
Sergio Perez was seventh ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon, with Fernando Alonso beating Felipe Massa to ninth place on the Brazilian’s final F1 race start.
In a largely processional race, the top six all held station from their starting positions when the lights went out, with Bottas leading Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Verstappen. While Verstappen put pressure on the second Ferrari, the rest of the top six quickly spread out.
In the battle for seventh – the minimum result Renault needed to have a chance of jumping Toro Rosso – Hulkenberg was overtaken by Perez on the opening lap and then cut Turn 12 when trying to regain the position, resulting in a five-second time penalty. However, Hulkenberg had enough pace to negate the penalty before his one and only pit stop, with a slow tire change still not costing him track position.
The highlight of the first half of the race was a close fight between Lance Stroll and Romain Grosjean, with the Haas driver twice overtaking the Williams into Turn 8 but then losing out in the second DRS zone. On the third occasion Grosjean got the job done with a good move around the outside of Turn 11, but the gap to Massa in 10th proved too big to close and the Frenchman ended up 7.9s adrift of the points.
Ricciardo had looked comfortable in fourth place before he ran slightly wide out of Turn 19 when chasing Vettel and brushed the barrier, leading to an immediate pit stop. After a slow stop, Ricciardo pulled off the track at Turn 5 two laps later, with Red Bull telling him it was due to a hydraulic problem.
A couple of laps later, Massa pit from what had been ninth place but Alonso immediately took advantage of the Williams’ cold tires to overtake on the run to Turn 8, with the McLaren able to pull enough of a gap to not be under pressure for the rest of the race. With a fairly significant gap to Ocon ahead, Alonso asked if he could do anything to help teammate Stoffel Vandoorne try to score a point from 12th place but was informed he could only bring the car home for what is his third consecutive point-scoring finish.
With Sainz also in the mix with Alonso and Massa, his threat was removed immediately after his only pit stop as Renault failed to attach his left-front tire properly, causing the Spaniard to stop at the same spot as Ricciardo having almost crashed in the tunnel exiting the pit lane.
Fortunately for Renault, the error did not prove too costly with Hulkenberg securing sixth place in the constructors’ championship for the team ahead of Toro Rosso in seventh and Haas in eighth. In the drivers’ standings, Vettel secured the runner-up position while Hulkenberg also jumps up to 10th ahead of Massa on countback by virtue of having secured more sixth places then the Brazilian.
|1. Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:34.14.063|
|2. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+3.899|
|3. Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+19.330|
|4. Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+45.386|
|5. Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+46.269|
|6. Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+85.713|
|7. Sergio Perez||Force India||+92.062|
|8. Esteban Ocon||Force India||+98.911|
|9. Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+1 lap|
|10. Felipe Massa||Williams||+1 lap|
|11. Romain Grosjean||Haas||+1 lap|
|12. Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||+1 lap|
|13. Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1 lap|
|14. Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber||+1 lap|
|15. Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|16. Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|17. Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 lap|
|18. Lance Stroll||Williams||+1 lap|
|Did Not Finish|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
DRIVERS’ FINAL STANDINGS:
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull||200|
|6||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull||168|
|7||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India||100|
|8||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Force India||87|
|19||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso||5|
|21||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Toro Rosso||0|
|23||Brendon Hartley||NZL||Toro Rosso||0|
|25||Paul di Resta||GBR||Williams||0|
CONSTRUCTORS’ FINAL STANDINGS:
|1||Mercedes-Benz AMG Petronas||668|
|3||Red Bull Racing||368|
|5||Williams Martini Racing||83|
|6||Renault Sport F1||57|
|7||Scuderia Toro Rosso||53|
|8||Haas F1 Team||47|
|10||Sauber F1 Team||5|