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Bottas wins season finale in Abu Dhabi


While Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes early securing of the 2017 titles has taken a lot of the fizz out of today's season finale, there are still a few outstanding matters that will be resolved.

In all honesty, today's race won't see any of those drivers as yet unsigned for 2018 do enough to secure one of the few remaining seats, though if Pascal Wehrlein could make it to the podium it might just help his cause in terms of Williams.

At the same time, barring another start-line disaster for Sebastian Vettel, it is highly unlikely that he will lose runner-up spot to Valtteri Bottas.

On the other hand, with an eye on Daniel Ricciardo recent reliability issues, Kimi Raikkonen could yet leapfrog the Australian for fourth, The Iceman currently just 7 points behind.

The big battle today will be that between Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas for sixth in the team standings, a position the Faenza outfit looks likely to lose as its reliability issues continue.

Just 4 points behind the Faenza team, Renault's Nico Hulkenberg merely has to hold station and finish 7th for the French team to do the job, while a points finish for teammate Carlos Sainz also would finally put Toro Rosso out of its misery.

Haas is in the mix, albeit 6 points behind Toro Rosso, but based on current form and its qualifying performance we can't see that happening.

Though the runner-up spot is seemingly out of reach, Bottas would dearly love to end the season with a win, especially after his run of poor form since the summer break. First however, he has to do a better job of getting off the line than he did in Brazil, the Finn basically throwing his race away.

Having suffered a similarly difficult second half to his season, Sebastian Vettel would also like to sign off for the winter in style, especially if he can take another chink out of the 43 point deficit to champion Hamilton.

Max Verstappen and Ricciardo will also be keen to end the season on a high, especially at a circuit where their team has enjoyed so much success.

However, there is also that little matter of that man Hamilton, who like Michael Schumacher before him, seems remorseless in his quest crush the opposition. Having been quickest in all the practice sessions that mattered, it was only a few late changes to his car that cost him the vital 0.172s needed yesterday to take his 12th pole of the season.

Despite the fact that this is the ninth Grand Prix here, we're still not fans. Despite the bling and talk of 'big hitters', it is soulless, especially as in recent weeks we have enjoyed the passion of Monza, Japan, Mexico and Brazil.

However, we're stuck with it, so all we can hope is that we get a race fitting of the occasion, for if nothing else this is the last time we will see F1 cars race with fully open cockpits, the dreaded Halo device coming into play next season.

For the second successive season we say farewell to Felipe Massa, and this time it is likely to be for good. How nice therefore to see the popular little Brazilian sign off with a points finish, especially as he does not go into that good night of retirement gently.

Felipe has a special place in our hearts at Pitpass, for his signing to Sauber in 2001 was one of the final articles our editor wrote for 'the site that will never be named', while his debut in Melbourne in 2002 was the first race we covered as Pitpass.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin making their way to the grid.

The optimal strategy today is a one-stopper featuring one stint on ultrasofts for 15-30 laps then supersofts to the flag. However, the low degradation means the strategy can be used the other way round for those starting outside top 10, start on supersoft and finish on the ultrasoft.

The pre-race air display is as impressive as ever, and it is followed by the national anthem. Massa calls his son Felipinho to join him.

Ahead of the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 31 degrees.

All are starting on the purple ultrasofts bar Wehrlein, Ericsson and Hartley who are on supersofts.

As they prepare to head off, Hamilton advises: "It's quite windy out there."

The grid forms.

Bottas gets away well and Hamilton moves across to cover Vettel who locks up into T1. Further along a big spin for Magnussen in T3 while Hartley runs wide in the chicane.

Indeed replay shows all sorts of silliness at the start with cars at the back of the field heading off in all directions, Magnussen having run wide in T1 subsequently spinning at T3.

Raikkonen is all over Riccardo, the two side by side for corner after corner, the Red Bull driver keeps his cool.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ocon and Massa.

Perez questions whether Hulkenberg exceeded track limits at T2 as he overtook the Mexican. "He needs to give back that position," urges the Force India driver. Hulkenberg however claims: "He pushed me off the track, he made me run wide there." One for the stewards perhaps.

"They don't have to a genius to realise he cut the corner and gained an advantage," says Perez.

Indeed, the stewards are investigating whether Hulkenberg gained an advantage in leaving the track.

Bottas builds a 1.3s lead by the end of lap 3, while Hamilton is 1.9s clear of Vettel.

Hulkenberg is handed a 5s time penalty for "leaving the track and gaining an advantage". That won't please Perez as the German still holds the position.

Lap 4 sees Hamilton post fastest lap ( 43.137) as Vettel slips further back, as do those that follow.

Bottas responds with a 43.011 as Stroll complains that he has no grip. "Honestly I have no rear grip," he screams, "is there anything I can do?"

Grosjean makes a bold move on Vandoorne to take 14th.

"I'm a little bit stuck, I can't do much," says Verstappen as he maintains a 1.2s gap to Raikkonen.

Grosjean passes Stroll for 13th but the Williams driver immediately re-takes the position courtesy of DRS.

While Bottas and Hamilton continue to trade fastest lap, in what is rapidly becoming a procession, Grosjean's pursuit of Stroll is one of the few battles. Elsewhere, following his first lap spin, Magnussen is hunting down Hartley.

Some classic karting manoeuvres as Stroll and Magnussen continue to scrap for 13th. The teenager refusing to be intimidated by the Haas driver.

Raikkonen is urged to close the gap to Ricciardo again, he is currently 3.7s adrift.

"You need to obey the dotted line at T11, don't go over the dotted line" Grosjean is told. "I'm starting to get a bit fed up with the rules," is the awesome response.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Yas Island, here.


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1. Posted by Trixi, 26/11/2017 18:06

"This was a lovely end-of-season gift to Bottas from Hamilton for being his number 2 man this season and not being a threat to him. It was a show to Nico Rosberg that he coukd be that poir of a team mate and do team orders. Then to say that he doesn’t care if he’s liked or not is just more kies. Then he can shut down his Facebook page and stop yelling to the crowd about how great they are at every race. So tired of his lies. Team orders. "

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2. Posted by Cobra Racer, 26/11/2017 18:03

"And, once again, we bid a fond farewell to the Abu Dhabi Grand Processional, where high-performance cars are paraded in line astern for lap after lap after lap. However, I would like to express my thanks to the Team Renault Left-Front Tire Changer for providing a most-exciting 5 seconds. What is the expression? Two hours of unimaginable boredom punctuated by a loose wheel.

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