Bottas soaks up Hamilton pressure for Abu Dhabi F1 victory

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Valtteri Bottas closed out the 2017 Formula 1 season with victory after a controlled display in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, soaking up pressure from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton en route to his third win of the year.

Having not won a race since the Austrian Grand Prix in July, Bottas set his sights on ending the drought after taking pole at the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday, heading up a front-row lock-out for Mercedes.

Bottas was able to convert pole into victory for the second time this season despite coming under heavy pressure from Hamilton for much of the race, signing off in style after an impressive first year for Mercedes.

A good start from Bottas saw him retain his advantage on the run to the first corner, leaving Hamilton to fend off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel from behind. The leaders settled down in their starting positions, with the only major incident coming further back as Kevin Magnussen spun off the track at Turn 3.

The sole attempted move on the opening lap came from Nico Hulkenberg on Sergio Perez, only for the latter receiving a time penalty for cutting a corner and gaining an advantage in an evident off-track move for position.

Bottas and Hamilton were able to pull clear for Mercedes in first and second as Vettel slipped a couple of seconds behind in P3. Even with his teammate running a fresher, more powerful engine, Bottas himself opened up a two-second buffer in the lead early on, retaining his advantage towards the first round of pit stops.

The main fight of note in the early part of the came from Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll over P13, with the pair going side-by-side on a number of occasions. Grosjean was able to force his way past on Lap 11 with some canny defense at the end of the DRS zone, prompting Stroll to dive into the pits for fresh tires soon after losing position.

Max Verstappen was the first of the leading drivers to pit, coming in at the end of Lap 14 in a bid to get the undercut on fifth-placed Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari responded by pitting Raikkonen one lap later to cover Verstappen, bringing the Finn back out still ahead.

Daniel Ricciardo was able to retain P4 after making his pit stop four laps later, albeit after tapping the wall and losing a bit of bodywork. The Red Bull driver’s plight deepened soon after when a hydraulic issue caused him to slow on-track, forcing him to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race.

Bottas took advantage of the yellow flags to make his pit stop from the lead, handing over to Hamilton at the front. Mercedes opted against bringing the drivers’ champion in one lap later, who instead worked to find the overcut with a series of quick laps.

Hamilton ultimately came in for his sole stop at the end of Lap 24, emerging from the pit lane behind his teammate after a new fastest lap from Bottas ensured his early advantage was restored as he sat around two seconds clear.

Armed with fresher tires, Hamilton quickly put the hammer down and began to make inroads on his teammate at the front of the field, moving to within DRS range as the race passed half distance.

The Briton latched onto the rear of Bottas’ car with 25 laps to go to put himself within striking distance, only for a lock-up at Turn 17 to send him wide and cause him to drop back, relieving some of the pressure at the front.

With Renault looking poised to leapfrog Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, the team lost one of its bullets in the gun when Carlos Sainz Jr. was forced to retire after his left-front tire wasn’t attached properly. The Spaniard was fortunate not to crash in the pit exit tunnel, ultimately pulling over at Turn 3 and parking up.

The leading Mercedes drivers continued to trade fastest laps throughout the second half of the race, with Hamilton griping about the difficulty of following other cars at Yas Marina due to the circuit layout.

Hamilton had one final charge at Bottas with six laps to go after the Finn made a mistake at the first chicane, getting back within DRS range, only to drop back again through the final sector.

Bottas was able to cross the line 3.8 seconds clear of Hamilton for his third win of the year, signing off from his maiden season with Mercedes with a stylish display.

Hamilton’s championship year ended with a return to the podium after two races away, taking P2 to complete Mercedes’ fourth one-two finish of the season in the process.

Despite Bottas’ victory, Sebastian Vettel was able to clinch runner-up spot in the drivers’ championship by finishing third for Ferrari, albeit some 15 seconds back from Hamilton in front.

Kimi Raikkonen capped off a mixed season by finishing P4 in Abu Dhabi, rising above Red Bull’s Ricciardo in the final standings in the process. Max Verstappen took fifth in the sole racing Red Bull at the checkered flag, finishing less than one second back from Raikkonen.

Nico Hulkenberg finished as the top midfielder in sixth place despite his early penalty, ensuring Renault moved above Toro Rosso to P6 in the constructors’ standings. The Red Bull B-team was made to pay after failing to score points for the third race in a row, with Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly finishing 15th and 16th respectively.

Force India ended its best-ever F1 season on a high note with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon taking P7 and P8, while McLaren-Honda ended its partnership with a run to ninth for Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa bid farewell to F1 with a 10th-place finish for Williams, easily finishing clear of Romain Grosjean at Haas and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Magnussen recovered from his first lap spin to finish 13th for Haas ahead of Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein, with teammate Marcus Ericsson trailing the Toro Rossos in 17th. Lance Stroll was the last classified finisher in 18th for Williams after making three pit stops.

More to follow…

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III