Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

tiistai 28. marraskuuta 2017

Abu Dhabi GP: Bottas led Mercedes into a dominant 1-2!

Last weekend it was time for the season finale under the setting sun of Abu Dhabi. Once again I was at hospital with my son. To my deep disappointment I missed all free practice sessions and the qualifying! I don´t even remember, when I´d have missed qualifying during these 24 years of Formula 1 passion! The mobile application I had used before didn´t work this time so I had to settle for reading the results in the news. I felt absolutely heartbroken not to see the qualifying live!

It was a highly impressive qualifying for Valtteri Bottas, who made it on pole for the third time this season! And this time gloriously by driving, not due to Hamilton´s misfortune or mistake! There was a clear 0.172s gap between the Mercedes teammates at the end of Q2. But there was nothing the Ferrari teammates could do to challenge the Silver Arrows for a front row grid slot. Sebastian qualified third, already half a second down on the pole-setter Bottas. Kimi had shown promising pace in the qualifying as well, but in the closing stages of the final session Red Bull´s Ricciardo got the upper hand on the Iceman, claiming P4 and leaving the Finn in P5. Teammate Verstappen completed the third row for Red Bull. The flying Dutchman was already a second off the pole-setter´s pace. The pink-liveried Force Indias locked down the fourth row, Perez having the upper hand on teammate Ocon. McLaren´s Alonso and Williams´ Massa rounded out the top ten.

Luckily I managed to watch the race on my cell phone. Pole-setter Bottas kept his head ice cool at the start and held on to his lead. It was amazing how superb starts the top six drivers all took, as the pecking order remained unchanged. Mercedes were having a double lead, with Sebastian, Ricciardo, Kimi and Verstappen following close behind. Kimi seemed hungry to get past Ricciardo but overtaking proved a very difficult task at the Yas Marina Circuit. World champion Hamilton was close to his teammate but making it into DRS distance seemed impossible. Soon it was obvious, that the Mercedes duo was out of Sebastian´s reach, as the German Ferrari ace was unable to match Mercedes´ lap times.

Red Bull´s Verstappen was the first top driver to pit on lap 15. The Dutch Red Bull ace opted for a fresh set of red-marked supersoft Pirellis and re-joined the track in P9. Ferrari reacted right away and called Kimi in on the following lap. The Iceman opted for a similar tyre strategy. Ferrari´s strategy proved successful, as Kimi re-joined the track ahead of Verstappen. Ricciardo pitted on lap 20; in spite of a slightly delayed pit stop the Australian managed to stay ahead of Kimi, when re-joining the track. However, Red Bull´s reliability issues continued! Almost instantly after his pit stop, the "Smiling Avenger" had to retire the race due to a hydraulic problem.

Sebastian pitted on lap 21 and the race leader Bottas a lap later. Hamilton stayed out driving as fast as he could; was the Briton going to make it ahead of his teammate due to overcut? Hamilton came in three laps later, but in spite of a flawless pit stop the Finn managed to keep his lead. There were only two seconds separating the Silver Arrows. Hamilton was determined to attack his teammate. The Briton made it within DRS distance from the Finn, but Valtteri made sure, that Lewis had no chances to make a move. Bottas responded by improving his pace. Sebastian, on the other hand, was driving quite a lonely race in P3. He was already 15 seconds down on the race-leading Finn and teammate Kimi was 10 seconds behind Sebastian.

Further back in the midfield Renault´s Sainz had a catastrophic pit stop on lap 34. The Spaniard was driving an excellent race, but the pit stop led to a loose wheel, and Sainz had no option but to retire. Quite an unforgivable mistake from the Renault team.

Towards the end of the race the battle for victory really intensified. Hamilton was putting serious pressure on his teammate, who had clearly decided to win the race. There was only one mistake, that Valtteri made on the closing laps, a small lock-up. Other than that, the Finn made it impossible for his teammate to try a move. And Valtteri drove to the chequered flag as the race winner for the third time this season. In addition to taking pole and race win he also set the fastest lap time in the race, which made the weekend absolutely perfect for the cool-headed Finn. Hamilton had to settle for P2. There´s a revealing statistical detail in terms of Hamilton´s world championship seasons; after securing the world championship, Hamilton has never won a race during that season! This time, too the newly crowned world champion seemed to have lost his sharpest edge. Sebastian kept his 3rd place till the end and Kimi made it a very decent result for Ferrari by finishing 4th. Kimi´s P4 and Ricciardo´s retirement meant, that Kimi moved 4th in the championship standings, leaving Ricciardo 5th. Verstappen finished 5th for Red Bull and Hulkenberg 6th for Renault. Once again both Force Indias proved highly reliable, as the pinks finished 7th and 8th, Perez having the upper hand on his teammate. McLaren´s Alonso and Williams´ Massa (who was driving the very last GP of his F1 career) completed the top ten.

All in all, the season finale was kind of an anti-climax, as Hamilton had already clinched the world title in Mexico. The Yas Marina Circuit doesn´t offer many chances for overtaking, which made the last race of the season kind of boring. So now the 2017 season is officially over, although the drivers still run tyre tests for Pirelli today and tomorrow. So no more F1 racing for four months... The beginning of the 2018 season I´ll still be watching at hospital but I´ll definitely continue updating my blog! Many thanks for all my readers for following my blog! 

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