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Hamilton praises ‘exceptional’ Bottas for final race win in Abu Dhabi

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Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Valtteri Bottas following an “exceptional” victory in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season came to a close.

Bottas headed up a one-two finish for Mercedes at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, soaking up race-long pressure from Hamilton to capture his third win of the year.

Hamilton was unable to close out his championship-winning year with a victory despite getting to within striking distance of Bottas twice in the race, but was quick to pay tribute to his teammate for his display on Sunday.

“I think Valtteri did a great job this weekend, and also this year,” Hamilton said. “To come into a new team is always difficult. It’s always a challenge to acclimatize, to get used to new people, new ways of working, so I think he’s done an exceptional job, and to finish on a high is great.

“I think it was great to have the race that we had today as well. He didn’t really make any mistakes. I think we both had one mistake in the whole race: a lock-up for me in Turn 17 and for him at Turn 5, but otherwise pretty much perfect.

“Obviously with that pressure he did exceptional. But also for me it feels like a win for all of us. It’s a one-two for Mercedes, it’s a very strong win against Ferrari this weekend and we mean to continue next year.

“Of course going into next season, it’s back to business, but excited for the challenge ahead.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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