2017 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — Ending the Season on a High Note

With all the cards laid on the table, the 2017 F1 season comes to a close. While Lewis Hamilton walks away as a four-time champion, today’s race didn’t go quite his way. The season finale served as a convincing platform to the season-long narrative.

Mercedes continued its dominance, bringing home a convincing 1-2 result. The Silver Arrows’ pace around Yas Marina was without question. Following yesterday’s qualifying, Valterri Bottas staved off his championship-winning teammate to a well-deserved victory.

Following a brief juggle when pitting in on lap 21, the Finn was able to secure his third win of the season. Hamilton threatened the position in the closing stages of the race, but would fall back as Bottas had the upper-hand in Sector 2. Ultimately, Hamilton crossed the line 3.8 seconds adrift of his teammate. It was a fitting bookend to the season, following a troubling second half for the Finnish driver.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel brought his car home in a comfortable third place, ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen. The German driver’s race was a quiet and lonely one, 19.3 seconds off the pace. This was least surprising to Vettel who predicted the raw pace of the Mercedes would be tough to beat.

Coming off of a victory in Brazil two weeks ago, the hope was to close the season with a strong finish; a boost heading into the off-season. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. The upside is Vettel secures second in the championship, 12 points ahead of Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo was on par to bring his Red Bull home in fourth, but fell foul to a mechanical issue on lap 21. It appears the bad luck that once plagued teammate Max Verstappen has swapped to his side of the garage. It’s worth acknowledging that Ricciardo is already looking to move to another team. One of the provisions, at least according to Ricciardo, relies on Red Bull tending to the reliability issues that’s been a nuisance for some time now.

Speaking of Verstappen, he fared better in today’s race, bringing the second RB13 home in fifth. Behind him was Nico Hulkenberg who finished in sixth for Renault. Luck was on the German driver’s side in today’s race. On lap one, he and Force India’s Sergio Perez battled for position, the result of which saw Hulkenberg leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

Following that incident, Hulkenberg incurred a five-second stop-and-go penalty. Unfortunately for Perez, by the time the penalty was served Hulkenberg built enough of a cushion to nullify any damage. As highlighted over the course of the weekend, this victory brings a hefty sum of money to Renault.

Renault teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. didn’t fare quite as well in today’s finale. His race would come undone following a faulty pitstop where the front-left tire wasn’t properly attached. Before that, Sainz threatened to leapfrog Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa for ninth.

Perez brought the Force India home in seventh, 6.8 seconds ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon. Alonso ended the McLaren-Honda partnership on a high note, crossing the line in ninth. His battle with Felipe Massa was an intense one, much like it was in Brazil two weeks ago.

The result secured the team’s third consecutive points finish. A far cry from performances in the past, the McLaren has come into its own throughout the season. It goes without saying everyone is looking forward to a fresh start with Renault in 2018.

Massa completed his 269th and final F1 Grand Prix and rounded out the top 10 finishers. The Brazilian driver celebrated the occasion with a few doughnuts alongside Hamilton and Bottas. It was a fitting end to an illustrious career.

While not the most eventful finale, there is one reprieve: Romain Grosjean. The Haas driver went toe-to-toe with Williams’ Lance Stroll for 13th in the opening stage of the race. Grosjean eventually came out the winner in the battle after a series of back and forth passing.

The French driver emerged 11th at the end of the day, ahead of the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne. Kevin Magnussen recovered from his first lap spin that dropped him to the back of the pack to finish in 13th.

What’s Next?

That much is simple: the award ceremony closes the year for the drivers. Then, in 17 weeks the 2018 season kicks off on March 26 in Australia. The 2018 season will see a change in formula (pun intended) over this season.

For one, Shark Fins and T-Wings are going to be things of the past, thanks to the F1 Strategy Group. In their place will be the “Halo”. The guideline has been in play for several years now and will finally come to next season. Two new types of tires are also entering the fray, though we’ll have more on that later. And, as debuted during the podium celebration, F1 has a new logo.

Beyond that, fans residing in the U.S. will turn their attention to ESPN for all future coverage of the sport. Announced earlier this year, the change is unlikely to be a welcome one for many U.S. fans. Not only has it been heavily implied the current broadcasting team won’t carry over, there are still many questions left in the air.

The 2018 season is going to be a different beast altogether, for better or worse.

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