Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 at Abu Dhabi

By on
F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Mercedes were in a league of their own at Abu Dhabi with closest competitors Ferrari being more than 20 seconds behind. Valtteri Bottas kept his cool to fend off ever continuing pressure from Lewis Hamilton to win the Grand Prix, rounding off his season on a high by taking pole, fastest lap and the race win.

While Pirelli already expected a straight forward single stop race, the tyres fitted to the cars at the start were similarly similar. All but the last three used the ultrasofts to start, while the last three on the grid opted for super softs.

As the lights went out, Bottas easily maintained the lead from pole, heading into the first corner ahead of Hamilton. The top 9 saw no position changes, apart from Alonso who managed to gain a single position by passing Massa. That however didn't last long, as his lack of straight line speed saw Massa pass by on the long back straight. Alonso was extremely close to Ocon, and got out of the slipstream repeatedly, but saw no change to overtake without DRS - which is disabled in the first 2 laps.

Nico Hulkenberg however did get past briefly by Perez, only to get the position back by cutting a corner. A complaint by Perez and a steward's investigation further down the road saw the German take a 5s time penalty for gaining an advantage off-track.

Then next 10 laps saw almost no action in the top 12, with the only read battle going on being the fight for 13th. Stroll, being the faster one on the straights, defended well, but once Grosjean found a way past, he sped up through the twisty third sector to rapidly get a reasonable advantage over the Canadian. The latter however did create a flat spot on one of his tyres during his failed defensive more versus the Frenchman, and as a result had to pit for new super softs on lap 12.

Stoffel Vandoorne pittle one lap later too, switching to supersofts as well.

Meanwhile, in the fight for 10th, Alonso had shaken off Sainz and was shadowing Massa. Once again though, the Williams proved a difficult car to overtake.

Of the top 6, Verstappen was the first to pit, chaging to supersoft on lap 15. Raikkonen followed the next lap to cover Verstappen. It was an easy one for Raikkonen to stay ahead of the Dutchman, as the latter had come out on track behind Ocon, and needed 2 laps to get ahead. Sergio Perez, running just ahead of Raikkonen, pitted another two lap later, moving Raikkonen and Verstappen back up into 5th and 6th, exactly their positions as before the stops.

On lap 19, Ricciardo pitted, a late call due to a suspected puncture. The stop was slow due to the tyres not being ready, but Ricciardo soon was back on the radio, saying "something on the front still feels weird". One lap later, it turned out to be a terminal hydraulic issue that also disabled the power steering just before the Australian parked his car aside of the race track. A disappointing end to his season, despite praise from his race engineer: "Sorry about that mate, you were doing good until that point. You were faster than Raikkonen".

Bottas pitted one lap later, on the back of Vettel pitting 2 laps before him.

Alonso then did get past Massa on lap 23, duely fulfilling his engineer's request to give it "101%" after both men had stopped. In fact, Alonso pitted first, and Massa did so one lap later, but it wasn't enough to keep the Spaniard behind, as this time, using the overtake button, Alonso did make a move on the straight stick. The Spaniard was congratulated, and informed the gap to Sainz - who was yet to pit - ahead of was just 21s, but Alonso retorted "ok man, but this is what we have. I would love a podium, I would love many things, but this is what we have, so...".

On lap 25, Hamilton pits and rejoins again in second place, a second down on his team mate, and 10 seconds ahead of Vettel. Raikkonen in 4th, followed closely by Verstappen was another 10 seconds further down the road.

On lap 33, Ocon and Sainz pitted simultaneously, making Grosjean the only man left not to have pitted. Sainz' race was over moments later as the left front wheel wasn't properly fixed.

Romain Grosjean pitted one lap later from 8th, and rejoined the track in 11th, 13s behind Massa and 19s ahead of Vandoorne.

Lance Stroll meanwhile was having a race to forget. At times he was 5 seconds a lap slower than the Saubers, with Stroll repeatedly asking to try alternate strategies. After that, he made another pitstop to "just try something with the tyres, because this is a waste of time". Two further laps into the race, he asked desperately "what should I do?? Please give me some more information". Stroll was told the front tyres were too cold, but interestingly, that's also something he should be seeing on his steering wheel as well.

In the closing stages, Bottas got under threat from Hamilton for the win, after a mistake by the Finn, but he stayed ahead, and went on to pull away again by setting the fastest lap on lap 51 and 52. That sealed it for the race result, as Hamilton backed out of the battle. Both Mercedes dropped their pace considerably in the final 3 laps, ending the race with 5 seconds in between them.

Vettel and Raikkonen finished third and fourth, ahead of Verstappen. Nico Hulkenberg's 6th position ensured Renault's 6th place in the Constructors' Championship, jumping Toro Rosso.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
177Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG551:34:14.06225
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG55+3.899s18
35Sebastian VettelFerrari55+19.330s15
47Kimi RäikkönenFerrari55+45.386s12
533Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer55+46.269s10
627Nico HulkenbergRenault55+85.713s8
711Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes55+92.062s6
831Esteban OconForce India Mercedes55+98.911s4
914Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda54+1 lap2
1019Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes54+1 lap1
118Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari54+1 lap0
122Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Honda54+1 lap0
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari54+1 lap0
1494Pascal WehrleinSauber Ferrari54+1 lap0
1528Brendon HartleyToro Rosso54+1 lap0
1610Pierre GaslyToro Rosso54+1 lap0
179Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari54+1 lap0
1818Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes54+1 lap0
NC55Carlos SainzRenault31DNF0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer20DNF0