Friday 15 December 2017 / 03:03 PM

MERCEDES CLOSE SEASON WITH 1-2 FINISH IN ABU DHABI

The Formula 1 season came to a meek and dull close at Yas Marina with yet another Mercedes 1-2 finish and very little on-track action to speak of.

The race result was very disappointing because all the signs in Practice and Qualifying indicated that a lot of teams were very evenly matched. Free Practice 1 saw Sebastian Vettel run the fastest time, with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen barely slower. The session was largely incident free until the track temperature dropped and Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi all had spins but managed to keep their cars intact. Poor old Brendon Hartley again had issues with his troublesome car, requiring a new power unit and thus receiving a ten-grid place penalty for the race.

FP2 saw Hamilton with the best time, ahead of Vettel and a much improved Daniel Ricciardo, whose team mate Verstappen began struggling with set-up issues again. Grosjean went off the track again before suffering from an electrical problem, while Stoffel Vandoorne and Hartley both left the track but managed to continue.

Free Practice 3 proved some insight into how the race might run, as both Silver Arrows topped the times, Hamilton a quarter of a second faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas. Both Ferrari’s came next, followed by both Red Bulls and both McLarens. Vandoorne’s half spin was the only incident of the session, other than an errant umbrella making its way onto the track.

Qualifying saw Bottas lift his game even further, just edging Hamilton in Q1 while only the Ferrari cars could get close enough. Both Toro Rosso cars and Sauber cars failed to advance, joined by Grosjean. Hamilton was quickest in FP2, but Bottas was right on his tail as the Mercedes cars pulled away from the field. In the end it was Bottas who claimed pole position from Hamilton, with Vettel and Ricciardo securing the second row. Raikkonen and Verstappen came next while the retiring Felipe Massa qualified in tenth.

Bottas made a good start to maintain the top place leading into turn 1 with Hamilton right on his tail. Vettel was slowly dropping further back from the Silver Arrows while Ricciardo survived several passing lunges from Raikkonen to maintain fourth place. Verstappen then pressure Raikkonen but couldn’t find a way past the Finn veteran.

The biggest talking point of the race came when Hulkenberg went off the track during the esses and came back on having overtaken Sergio Perez. Hulkenberg was hit with a 5 second time penalty as opposed to handing the place back and despite a clumsy pit stop, he was able to finish the race with Perez never getting in front of him.

On Lap 19 Ricciardo’s car hydraulics suffered a small problem which saw him clip the wall. He pitted after amid fears he had a puncture and on lap 21 retired for the third time in his last four races, which ultimately saw him drop from fourth to fifth on the drivers championship.

On Lap 33 Carlos Sainz’s Renault pitted but the front left tyre was not properly secured and as he was in the pit exit, the wheel dislodged and his car retired as soon as it got onto the track.

A battle between the two veterans and former team mates Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso proved entertaining for some of the race while Hamilton made several attempts at passing Bottas was unable to get passed his team mate as Bottas went on to win his third race for the year from Hamilton, with Vettel a distant third. Raikkonen held off Verstappen with Hulkenberg controversially staying ahead of Perez, while Esteban Ocon ran eighth, ahead of Alonso and Massa.

Hulkenberg’s sixth placed helped Renault jump Toro Rosso in the constructors championship, which did not sit well with Toro Rosso in their last race using Renault engines, bringing the frosty relationship to an ugly end.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Bottas (Mercedes)
2 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
3 – Vettel (Ferrari)
4 – Raikkonen (Ferrari)
5 – Verstappen (Red Bull)
6 – Hulkenberg (Renault)
7 – Perez (Force India)
8 – Ocon (Force India)
9 – Alonso (McLaren)
10 – Massa (Williams)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton – 363 – Champion
2 – Vettel – 317
3 – Bottas – 305
4 – Raikkonen – 205
5 – Ricciardo – 200
6 – Verstappen – 168
7 – Perez – 100
8 – Ocon – 87
9 – Sainz – 54
=10 – Hulkenberg – 43
=10 – Massa – 43

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 668 – Champions
2 – Ferrari – 522
3 – Red Bull – 368
4 – Force India – 187
5 – Williams – 83
6 – Renault – 57
7 – Toro Rosso – 53
8 – Haas – 47
9 – McLaren – 30
10 – Sauber – 5

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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