Vettel on the podium, but disappointment for Raikkonen who still finished third in the championship
Yas Marina – “We tried our very best and I’m looking forward to staying with you for the coming years. Thanks also to the team, here and in Maranello. Next year we’ll try again.” That was Seb Vettel’s immediate radio comment from the cockpit, after finishing second in the #abudhabi GP. He made up one place from where he qualified and drove an impeccable race. The day could have ended on a better note, but for the fact that #kimiraikkonen had to retire the car with an electrical problem, in his final race for the Scuderia. However, partly helped by Seb’s second place, Kimi still finished third in the championship, his best position since returning to the Scuderia in 2014.
The twilight race start is always a beautiful sight. From the second row, “wearing” the Ultrasoft tyres, the middle compound on offer here, the two Ferraris got away well, with Seb trying to attack Bottas. But there was drama immediately, as Hulkenberg’s Renault tipped over at turn 9. The Safety Car came out, which is not a common occurrence in #abudhabi. The race was neutralised for four laps. Once underway again, Kimi was glued to his team-mate. But almost immediately his SF71H crawled to a halt on the start-finish line. The pit wall told him to try and restart it (using the electric MGU-K motor) but unfortunately there was nothing to be done. The Iceman’s final race in red ended in disappointment. Then Hamilton pitted and Seb found himself in second place.
After 15 laps, Vettel was called in for his tyre change, shedding the Ultras and fitting the Supersofts, the hardest compound, to run all the way to the finish. A bit of time was lost with the front right wheel at the pit stop and, as he came out of pit lane, Seb had to attack to get past Ocon. That meant he was unable to pull off the “undercut” on Bottas who pitted after him.
Incredible but true, a few drops of rain began to fall, the craziest strategy variable one might encounter in the Emirati desert. At this point, Seb was running at a very strong pace and in fact the rain didn’t actually dampen the track. Bottas was struggling and Seb got by with 20 laps remaining, at the end of the second sector. With Ricciardo having pitted, Sebastian was now second, 7.3 seconds off Hamilton.
Seb kept pushing and the gap went under 6 seconds, but he also had to keep an eye on Verstappen who was coming up behind, with Ricciardo in tow. The final laps: the gap to the leader got smaller, while Max dropped back. That’s how it ended, with the Scuderia repeating its best result at this track that has never suited it too well. A somewhat sad farewell to Kimi therefore, as his team-mate paid tribute by setting the race fastest lap.
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