By Thomas Dodd
- Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas wins the final Grand Prix of 2017 in Abu Dhabi ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton
- Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third to secure runner-up in the standings
- Williams’ Felipe Massa retires from Grand Prix racing after sixteen season at motorsport’s top table
ABU DHABI, UAE – It wasn’t the setting for the title showdown we had all expected months ago, but the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix still gave F1 fans plenty to talk about. For the final time in 2017, here are five things we learned.
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Valtteri Bottas showed his mettle
It may not have been a heated battle with a championship on the line but Valtteri Bottas can be proud of the race he drove in Abu Dhabi, fending off team mate Lewis Hamilton to lead a Mercedes 1-2.
What’s more, the Finn was able to turn a pole into a win after coming up short in the previous two races despite being fastest in qualifying.
A third win in 20 races is a solid return for the Finn, who did everything he could as Hamilton’s number two, including taking potential wins off Sebastian Vettel in Russia and Austria when his British teammate was off the pace.
Third in the championship is also a terrific effort from the Finn, who was yet to win a race at the start of the season. He’s grown a lot this year, and will hope to be more of a factor in the title race in 2018.
No one is happier than Fernando Alonso
After three torrid years, Fernando Alonso is finally free from Honda engines, and it looked as though the weight had been lifted off the double world champion’s shoulders after the race, where he again demonstrated his qualities to bring a car lacking in power on a circuit with two long straights home in 9th.
It’s been a horrible period for the Spaniard, who, including a winless season with Ferrari in 2014, has not taken the chequered flag first in over four years.
The switch to Renault engines for 2018 has everyone around the Woking-based outfit buzzing with excitement, and Alonso will hope they can live up to the hype as he can ill-afford another season at the wrong end of the field as he searches a much coveted third title.
McLaren ended the year last but one in the Constructors’, but not one member of the team would argue against them not being there after next season.
A circuit searching for its soul
Glitz, glamour and a night skyline to boot, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has everything a Formula 1 event needs. Throw in driving under and past hotels in the playground of the rich and famous and you have all the makings of a superb weekend of motor racing and spectacle.
That is until you get to the topic of the circuit. The two long straights halfway round the lap unquestionably provide the drivers with a chance to overtake, but the rest of the lap is a repetitive series of corners that make close racing difficult to come by.
Gimics such as the below-ground pit exit look impressive, but the straights seem to be there purely to link two sets of bends at either end of the lap, and not for the purpose of great racing.
Much expense was spent building the Yas Marina circuit, but it seems with the budget available, the designers definitely missed a trick or two.
After 272 starts, 11 wins and 41 podiums, Felipe Massa said goodbye to Formula 1 on Sunday. For good. After last year’s retirement U-turn the Brazilian will well and truly hang up his helmet and gloves.
One of the more popular men on the grid, a gentleman and a fair racer, Massa will be remembered for having to play second fiddle at Ferrari to Michael Schumacher and Alonso for so many years, and having his dream of being world champions snatched away from him at the last corner of his home Grand Prix by Hamilton in 2008 – a race which ultimately proved to be his last win in the sport.
After moving from the Scuderia for 2014, Massa spent four years at Williams, where he was an excellent mentor for young Finn Valtteri Bottas , who fittingly won Massa’s last race, for three seasons and then 18-year-old Canadian prospect Lance Stroll in 2017.
The Brazilian, who started in Formula 1 in 2002 with Sauber, finished 10th in his last race and 11th in final standings with 43 points, helping Williams to fifth in the constructors’ standings in the process. A likeable, and bubbly figure, Massa will be missed in the paddock next season.
End of an Era
The final engine had been switched off for but a moment when Formula 1 already decided to open the chapter on 2018 and what’s to come. On the backdrop of the podium after the national anthems, the new Formula 1 logo was revealed to the world.
Different, and a seemingly more simple design, it quickly split the online public, and may take some getting to use when everything gets going again in March in Melbourne next year.
After an amazing season – a new #F1 era awaits
— Formula 1 (@F1) 26. November 2017
The 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also go down in the record books as the last in F1 history to see the cars run fully open cockpits. After 67 seasons of being exposed to the elements, 2018 will see all cars run with the HALO protection system, which several teams have already trialled in practice sessions, ahead of its compulsory inclusion on all car designs.
With drivers and fans seemingly erring on the negative side when it came to feedback, it will be a fascinating to see how all the teams tackle the new changes this winter.
Formula 1 roars back into action with the Australian Grand Prix, from Albert Park, Melbourne on March 25, 2018.
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