Lewis Hamilton has called for changes to be made to the design of the track at Yas Marina Circuit in order to make racing on it more entertaining.
The four-time world champion believes Abu Dhabi is “the best place” to host the Formula One season finale but the lack of overtaking opportunities of its track has often resulted in boring races, including Sunday night’s routine affair that saw Valtteri Bottas secure victory from pole position.
The top eight in the race finished in the same order as their qualifying standings (positions 4 to 8 each moved up one spot due to Daniel Ricciardo’s DNF).
“If there’s any way we can improve this track to enable us to have these battles… you’ve got these long straights where you can’t even get close enough to utilise them. If there’s some way where we can enable us to be able to remain closer in that third sector, I think this will go up in the rankings of a great circuit,” Hamilton said on Sunday night after claiming second place in the race.
“I don’t know if they can do it but I know there’s money to do it but I just hope… I have hope for Abu Dhabi to get better.”
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen did everything he could to try and pip Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday but ended up in P5 behind the Finn, just like they started.
The 20-year-old Dutchman did not hold back in sarcasm when describing how the race unfolded.
“For me that was a pretty boring race, if I had a pillow in the car I could have fallen asleep. I tried to follow Kimi at the start but it’s so hard at this track and I couldn’t find an opportunity to pass. As soon as you get within 1.5 seconds it is really tough to get close and make a pass,” said Verstappen.
Yas Marina Circuit was designed by German engineer Hermann Tilke, who also designed the tracks in Sepang, Bahrain, Shanghai, Istanbul, Valencia, and Singapore and was involved in the overhaul of some of the European circuits.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits last night’s race was not an interesting one, describing it as a “procession of cars” but didn’t just blame the circuit.
“I think the race itself wasn’t very spectacular, the championship was already decided but also with the new regulations of cars, these cars are extremely difficult to overtake. You could see that between Raikkonen and Verstappen and the same between Valtteri and Lewis,” said Wolff.
“A track like Abu Dhabi is probably one where you can see where the effect is the worst and that’s why we saw a procession of cars rather than an exciting race.”
While some may prefer having the season-closing race to be at a track that offers more opportunities for having an exciting race, Hamilton feels Abu Dhabi is the right place to host the finale.
The Brit added that Yas Marina Circuit was not the only venue that had this problem.
“I think ultimately you can look at a lot of the tracks, my engineers can give me a number for overtaking delta for every single circuit and it obviously varies. Which is strange that the TV don’t even advertise that. They don’t tell people while they’re watching TV that the reason someone cannot overtake is because of the downforce, the drag issue, and then from track to track varies. That’s something perhaps they should include,” said Hamilton.
“But no, I think this is one of the best, if not the best, place to have the last race, in terms of the atmosphere, in terms of the hospitality, it’s second to none, it’s such a beautiful place, so it’s a great week.
“I think the track, as a lot of the tracks do, have some small flaws in the sense that it’s hard to follow, or can’t follow, which I think can make better racing. How they go about doing that, I can’t tell you, I’m not a track designer, and I don’t know if it can be changed but…”
Valtteri Bottas survived several laps of high-speed pressure from his Mercedes team-mate and world champion Lewis Hamilton to claim a memorable victory in Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Finn, who started from pole position, led from the lights to the flag apart from a spell following his first pit stop when the four-time champion Briton was in control.
It was his third career victory, all of them recorded since he joined Mercedes to partner the 32-year-old Briton in January following the unexpected exit of 2016 champion German Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton came home a comfortable second, four seconds behind Bottas, having eased off in the closing laps after abandoning his bid to pass him in the turbulent air created when following close to another car.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished a lonely third for Ferrari, as the two Mercedes men delivered celebratory ‘doughnuts’ for the crowd. It was Vettel’s 99th career podium and his 13th of the season.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull and German Nico Hulkenberg for Renault, whose sixth-place finish assured Renault of sixth place in the constructors’ championship ahead of Toro Rosso.
Mexican Sergio Perez came home seventh ahead of his Force India team-mate Frenchman Esteban Ocon, two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of McLaren Honda and retirement-bound Brazilian Felipe Massa, in his last F1 race, for Williams.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was fourth on the grid, failed to finish after retiring his Red Bull for the third time in four outings. He had a hydraulics problem.
“Such a good car today so thank you for that and the season – it’s a very nice way to end it,” said Bottas to his team.
Hamilton was unhappy with the tight track.
“It’s impossible to pass here man!” he said in the pre-podium room. “I was like — where are all the back-markers… They’ve got to change this track.”
Hamilton ended his season having scored points in every race.
British Formula One legend Jackie Stewart is hoping to witness a fierce battle for the world championship next year after Mercedes ran away with a fourth consecutive title this season, thanks to Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton’s successes in 2014, 2015 and 2017, along with Nico Rosberg’s triumph 12 months ago, have seen the Silver Arrows sustain a four-year stretch of dominance in the sport.
That was preceded by four years of similar reign by Red Bull with their former driver Sebastian Vettel hogging the world title from 2010 to 2013.
While Vettel managed to put some pressure on Hamilton this year in his new and improved Ferrari, the Briton was still able to steer clear of his fellow quadruple world champion. A total of 43 points separate Hamilton from Vettel entering the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Stewart, a three-time world champion himself, believes the sport needs some stiffer competition at the top.
Asked if he can perhaps imagine next year’s title fight to be a three-horse race instead of Hamilton’s one-man show, Stewart told Sport360: “I hope so. We need to have it more competitive than it’s been this year.
“We’ve had a long run now of domination, whether it be Red Bull and then Mercedes. So it would be nice of course to see Ferrari come back in.
“But Ferrari seem to be sort of peak and valley, they’re not as consistent. But I think, hopefully next year, you never know with Red Bull having a Honda engine next year, that could prove to be quite good. So I hope we’re going to have a more competitive season next year.”
British marque McLaren are one of the most successful teams in the history of F1 but they’ve only won one world title this century – Hamilton’s maiden championship coup was with them in 2008.
The Woking-based team have struggled in recent years, and their partnership with Honda that started in 2015 did not deliver the performance McLaren were hoping for.
Next year, they will be replacing the Honda engine with a Renault one. Does Stewart think this move will pay dividends and push them back to the front of the grid?
“I think it’s not impossible,” said the 78-year-old. “McLaren have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience. Don’t count them out. They’ve got one of the finest facilities in the world. So I think they can be in good shape.”
While expectations are high from the McLaren team for next season, Cyril Abiteboul, the managing director of Renault Sport Racing, is somewhat reserved when discussing the power they plan on supplying both the British side as well as Red Bull.
“You know I don’t want to make any promises,” Abiteboul said in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
“First thing will be reliability because we’ve seen this season that you need to walk before you run and I think we’ve been on many occasions too aggressive in the way that we were trying to bring performance and extra power to the engine too quickly because of the expectation of all customers including the yellow cars, so I think we need to go step by step: first be reliable then accumulate as many miles as possible during the winter tests – I think it’s important for any chassis organisation.
“I understand, talking about Red Bull, that they changed their philosophy and are planning for the development of their car but if the engine is not reliable it’s going to be useless. So we need to get that.
“And if we have that, I am extremely comfortable and confident that we have the sort of technological bricks to bring to the engine in order to make steps and to catch Mercedes.”