He might have won the F1 Championship but that didn’t stop Lewis Hamilton complaining about Yas Marina after 2017’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With the 2017 championship already in his bag (his fourth), Lewis Hamilton could have been forgiven for taking things a bit more sedately during the season’s final race at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. But that’s not him at all and, if nothing else, the man knows the importance of his loyal fan-base so was always going to give it all he had.
That didn’t mean top place for the Brit on the podium, however, as Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, the Finnish Valtteri Botas, took the pole and secured his third – and easily most important – grand prix win. For Botas, this was undoubtedly the moment when he finally validated all the faith his team has had in him all along. With only one season in his contract, we’d say his agent will now be rubbing his/her hands at the prospect of some upcoming negotiations.
Once again, however, the design of Yas Marina’s track came in for criticism because of its dearth of overtaking opportunities, making for a less than exciting race for drivers and spectators alike. “It’s one of the worst tracks for that,” Hamilton later said to reporters. With only seven laps to go, Hamilton had been closing in on Bottas but couldn’t get past. “I was never going to overtake unless he made a massive mistake,” he added. Still, it’s doubtful that anyone at Mercedes would be complaining – the dominance it exhibited throughout the season and, indeed the past four years, has been almost ridiculous.
Ridiculous enough to make the sport too predictable? Many are saying as much. In fact, as the team took top honours at Yas Marina, some pundits were already complaining that the results table is unlikely to look any different at the end of 2018, unless Ferrari pulls an ace from under its sleeve. Stranger things have happened.
Sebastian Vettel, who at certain times in the season looked like he might be in with a chance of stealing Hamilton’s glory, cruised home to third place and it was a race to forget for Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified fourth but failed to finish. Crossing the line in tenth was probably not how Felipe Massa wanted his final race to pan out but that’s Yas Marina for you – the races that excite here are the ones when championships are still in the balance.
The run from the start grid to the first turn is barely 300 metres and has a short braking zone, so there’s very little opportunity for changing position – in fact, after the first lap, the entire top 12 positions were the same as when they’d started.
For Massa, this was the end of a career that began with Sauber 15 years before he hanged up his Nomex suit for good. With his departure, there had been much speculation about Robert Kubica occupying the empty Williams seat but it’s been confirmed that rookie Russian, Sergey Sirotkin, will be driving for the team instead. Kubica, unbowed, maintains that a return to F1 is his ultimate goal. Maybe next year, Robert.
As darkness descended on Abu Dhabi and fireworks lit the sky with a staggering display, the commentators went into overdrive about a newly unveiled F1 logo and the prospects of far reaching changes in the sport once again. Hamilton, on the other hand, seemed blissfully nonchalant and completely at ease. It might not have been his race but 2017 had definitely been his year.