Abu Dhabi GP 2017

NOVEMBER 27, 2017

Race Analysis - The sunset chasers: Bottas wins the season finale

Start, Abu Dhabi GP 2017
© RV Press


By Dan Knutson in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton chased Valtteri Bottas into the sunset and on into the night during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The two Mercedes drivers were the only ones in contention to win the 2017 season finale, and Bottas stayed ahead of his pursuer and won. Here's what happened.


Bottas started things off on the right foot by edging out Hamilton to win pole position.

"What a lap!" Hamilton said. "He just had an incredible qualifying and congratulations to him."


It's about 400 yards between the front row of the grid to the first turn. Bottas won the 400-yard dash, and took the lead ahead of Hamilton and Vettel.


Bottas also started the previous race, in Brazil, from the pole but lost the lead to Sebastian Vettel in the first turns. But Bottas did not repeat losing from pole in Abu Dhabi. Bottas had excessive wheelspin at the start in Brazil. In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton had just enough wheelspin to keep him away from Bottas.

"It felt like I got a slightly better initial getaway," Hamilton said. "But then I got wheelspin. I was too aggressive on the power. We were quite close into Turn 1 but that little bit that I lost there I lost..."


After Bottas pitted at the end of lap 21 in the 55-lap race, Hamilton stayed on track for three more laps hoping to get the "overcut" pass on Bottas. But when it all shook out, Bottas was still out front by just over a second.


Once again Hamilton chased after his teammate.

"I just gave it everything, every single lap," Hamilton said.


Once again Bottas kept control.

"I was really managing the pace," he said. "It was a nice feeling. I had one bit of a lock up as I was approaching one of the lapped cars, but otherwise no issues."


In an equal car to Bottas, Hamilton just could not get close enough to try and pass because the closer he got the more downforce he lost.

"A great race, a great battle at the end of the season," Hamilton said. "I did the best I could, but Valtteri did a great job: very clean and no mistakes. This is one of the harder tracks to overtake; you need to be 1.4 seconds faster than the car in front to overtake. I had a lot of pace in the second stint, but as soon as I got into that window of about 1.2 seconds, I was done."


Unable to keep up with the Mercedes cars, Sebastian Vettel ran alone in third in his Ferrari.

"In the beginning I tried very hard," he said. "I had a good start then nowhere to go, locked up a little bit and flat spotted the first tyres a tiny bit with that. After three, four, five laps I couldn't go any faster and they seemed to pull away. From then onwards it was pretty lonely. I have to say in the second stint I got into the car, got into the rhythm and I think we had stronger pace in the second part of the race, but not good enough to challenge those two guys."


The rest of the runners were even further back. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) rounded out the top six.


The gap between Bottas and Hamilton was under two seconds for much of the race. Then Bottas finally managed to stretch that out.

"The last five laps I started to go a bit quicker, managed to build a gap," Bottas said.


Bottas goes into the winter offseason on a winning high.

"It was a really important win for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of the year," Bottas said. "Working hard on all the issues and getting better and better with everything. This weekend, I couldn't be happier to end the season like this."