Did you miss the 2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? Here’s our blow-by-blow report of the race as it happened, from Bottas’ early lead from pole to disappointing exits from podium potentials…
Going into this year’s Formula 1 season-closing race in Abu Dhabi, both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships had already been determined. But in true Formula 1 spirit, fans were still buzzing ahead of the championship race at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday 26th November.
With Hamilton having already clinched the Drivers’ World Championship title at the Mexico GP in October, teammate Valtteri Bottas went in with a chance of being runner-up if he could fill up the 22-point gap that separated him from Sebastian Vettel. Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo came in with a seven-point lead on Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, though the intra-team battle between Force India’s Sergio Perez (on 94 points) and Esteban Ocon (83), and Williams’ Felipe Massa (42) and Lance Stroll (40) proved to be just as exciting in the points game.
The Mercedes duo set themselves up to be the clear favourites for the 2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Bottas starting on pole after setting the best time of the Q3 session on Saturday, beating Hamilton by 0.172 seconds.
His qualifying round was a good sign of things to come, as he secured the new best-ever performance for a Formula 1 car at Yas Marina Circuit with a time of 1m36.231s, a record previously held by Hamilton who completed the fastest lap in a 2011 qualifying session with 1m38.434s.
Behind them on the grid was Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen.
Following his disappointment in Brazil when he was on pole but missed the win, Bottas seemed to start the Abu Dhabi GP with a clear head and just one mission. But Ricciardo was convinced that Red Bull could make the podium, feeling confident after splitting Ferrari on the grid. Could the Aussie retain his position throughout the race or would his Dutch teammate move up? This year has seen the most number of drivers on the podium since 2013 so the Abu Dhabi winner was anyone’s guess.
From the get-go, Bottas’ performance at Brazil was a thing of the past as he led the group from pole and maintained his lead.
With few drivers overtaking, the cars at the front of the pack maintained their starting positions as Bottas and Hamilton continued to set the fastest laps and Raikkonen struggled to close the gap on Ricciardo in fourth.
Meanwhile, Massa and Alonso battled for tenth place while Stroll and Haas’ Romain Grosjean remained hot on each other’s heels battling for 13th, often playing bumper cars around the bend as they struggled to break free from one another.
As the race went on, Alonso remained hot on Massa’s heels, at times just half a second behind the Williams driver as they battled for eighth, with Renault’s Sainz adding further pressure just a second behind.
Into lap 20, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Perez battled for 11th with just one second time difference between them.
Following a great pit, Dutchman Verstappen came back out in P9 but quickly moved up to P8 after picking off Ocon and climbing up even further, eventually working up to P5 after teammate Ricciardo was forced to retire with hydraulic issues in lap 21.
With the Red Bull driver out of the picture, Ferrari duo Vettel and Raikkonen were in good standing in P3 and P4 with Verstappen following in fifth. But the Mercedes duo continued to dominate, with each taking turns securing the fastest lap and pulling further away from the chasing pack with each lap.
Hamilton kept his sights on Bottas though, eager to close the small gap and pull out in front. Behind them, Raikkonen and Verstappen fought for fourth with just 1.4 seconds between the two.
But the real excitement was lower down the pack. After his tyre came loose as he left the pit, Sainz, who was sitting in P12, pulled off track and was forced to DNF. This left Hulkenberg, Perez, Grosjean, Alonso, Massa and Sauber’s Wehrlein battling for points.
By lap 41, Hulkenberg had picked off the competition to secure P6, which he was able to maintain until the chequered flag.
Verstappen continued to put pressure on the Ferrari duo as he attempted to fill in the one- to two-second gap, but he wasn’t able to beat his P5 standing.
From lap 45 onwards, Vettel was 20 seconds behind second-place Hamilton, making his chances of catching the leaders pretty slim, but with Raikkonen far enough behind, Vettel’s odds for a podium finish were in the bag.
With 11 laps to go, it was pretty clear that Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel would take to the podium. Despite Hamilton making Bottas fight to hold his winning position, it wasn’t enough and the Finnish driver was able to break away from the Brit in the final lap to secure his the win, his third of the season, with Hamilton and Vettel joining him on the podium. Despite his lonely race in Abu Dhabi, Vettel’s third-place finish was enough to make him runner-up in the World Championship.
And so another exciting season of Formula 1 racing action came to a close in Abu Dhabi. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings as the UAE capital celebrates its tenth edition of the championship series.
WORDS Rachael Perrett