Valtteri Bottas held off Lewis Hamilton to claim a morale-boosting victory over 2017’s world champion as Mercedes dominated F1’s season finale in the Abu Dhabi GP.
It was Bottas’ third win of the year, but first since July, as the Finn made up for being beaten from pole in Brazil and denied his team-mate a perfect ending to his fourth title-winning campaign.
Hamilton applied pressure on Bottas after the one round of pit stops but was unable to get close enough to the back of the sister Mercedes to attempt an overtake and had to settle for second place, eventually finishing three seconds behind.
“Impossible to pass here man!” said Hamilton to Bottas as he congratulated his team-mate in the pre-podium holding room. “I was like ‘where are all the backmarkers?’ I think they’ve got to change this track!”
Ferrari had run Mercedes close for much of 2017 but were no match for the world champions in the Yas Marina desert as Sebastian Vettel finished 19 seconds adrift in third place.
But Bottas’ victory was not enough to deny Vettel the runner-up position to Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
“It was a bit lonely,” admitted Vettel. “We were in no man’s land. I would have liked to be in the hunt but I’m happy with the podium.”
Like Ferrari, Red Bull endured a muted final race with Max Verstappen only fifth behind Kimi Raikkonen after failing to jump the Finn through the pit stops.
Daniel Ricciardo had been running fourth in the other Red Bull but his race unravelled within a matter of laps just after half distance. A brush with the wall triggered an emergency pit stop and then the Australian promptly retired when his car developed a hydraulics fault.
The DNF, Red Bull’s 13th of the year, also cost Ricciardo fourth place to Raikkonen in the drivers’ championship.
It has been a season split in two halves with regards to dominance. Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari looked like he was cruising to the driver’s championship until the summer break from which point Hamilton took the title race by the scruff of the neck.
Mercedes may have been pushed like never before in the hybrid turbo engine era this year, but 12 race wins and a fourth consecutive title double underline that they remain the team everyone has to try and catch when F1 2018 begins in earnest in Melbourne in four months’ time.