Valtteri ends 2017 F1 season on a high note
Valtteri Bottas, overshadowed all season long, by his team mate and champion-elect Lewis Hamilton, wanted to end his season in style. The Finn was consistently fast all weekend long, add to that, the seemingly lack of pace of his rivals, Bottas was definitely bound for glory in Abu Dhabi.
Saturday saw Bottas head the field for Sunday’s race by registering an impressive 1’36.231, two-tenths faster than Hamilton and more than half a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo took 4th with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen taking 5th and 6th respectively.
On race day, Bottas launched off the line to lead the grid into turn 1, Lewis Hamilton diligently followed the #77 Mercedes to hold off any 1st lap challenge from the Ferrari’s and Red Bulls. Hamilton was visibly slow out of the 1st corner, which immediately gave Valtteri a good buffer to work with. This was all that Bottas needed to maintain track position all race long.
In the early laps, no position changed hands between the top 12 runners, it was as if all drivers were content with the status quo. It was only after the pit stop window that the field got jumbled up. Then a series of unfortuante events unravelled for the mid field runners; first was Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso, spinning out all on his own. Afterwards, it was Daniel Ricciardo’s turn, the Red Bull hit the wall on turn 13, causing a puncture, Ricciardo was called in for a tire change but was slow getting out of the pits, which was followed by an immediate loss of hydraulics as he rejoined the race. It was a huge disappointment for the Aussie who was aiming for the podium to close out his season. Then it was Carlos Sainz’s turn, the Renault driver pitted on lap 33, only to come out with a loose front tire. Sainz was left with no option but to pull over and into retirement.
Up in front, Valtteri was never challenged, the Finn only relinquished the lead after he pitted, but quickly regained position after Hamilton made his requisite pit stop.
It was only an error in the later stages, that Bottas was in any danger of loosing first place, the Finn was held up by backmarkers and misjudged his braking point, slowing him down, giving Hamilton the opportunity to get within DRS range. But the 4 time champ didn’t pull the trigger and just kept following, albeit closely, the #77 Mercedes to the flag.
Valtteri kept his composure and crossed the line to take his 3rd win of his career!
Lewis Hamilton dutifully took 2nd, while Sebastian Vettel, who was a non factor in this race crossed the line, 19 seconds adrift, in 3rd. In 4th was Kimi Raikkonen, followed by Max Verstappen in 5th.
Felipe Massa in the Williams took the last scoring position, and at the pit straight, fans gave the Brazilian a resounding send off. After 15 glorious years in Formula 1, Massa has finally decided to step down.
Formula 1 now takes an 11 week break, before the 2018 season opener in Melbourne, on March 25.