Sebastian Vettel clinched runner-up spot in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship with a “lonely” run to third place in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he struggled to match the front-running Mercedes drivers for pace.
Vettel led the drivers’ standings from the opening round up to the Italian Grand Prix in September, only for a collapse from Ferrari through the Asian flyaways to cost him a chance of winning a fifth world title.
Vettel signed off from the 2017 season by finishing third in Abu Dhabi after failing to put up any kind of fight to Valtteri Bottas or Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field as they took a one-two finish for Mercedes.
“In the beginning I tried very hard and I think I had a good start, but then nowhere to go. I locked up a little bit and flat-spotted the first set to tires a tiny bit with that,” Vettel said.
“But then after three, four, five laps, I just couldn’t go any faster and they seemed to pull away.
“From there onwards it was pretty lonely. But then I have to say, in the second stint I really got into the car, got into the rhythm and I think we had stronger pace in the second part of the race – but not good enough to match those two guys.”
While disappointed to miss out on a fifth title at the hands of Mercedes rival Hamilton, Vettel admitted the Briton deserved the title on the podium at Yas Marina.
“Very much congratulations to Lewis on his season. He deserves to win the championship this year in the end,” Vettel said.
“I hate to say it – he was the better man, so I’m sure we will do our bit over the winter and hopefully come back stronger.
“Thanks to all the fans. The support for Ferrari has been incredible, so thank you very much. Forza Ferrari!”
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.