Against the setting sun in the heart of the desert emirate, the 2017 season finale at Abu Dhabi started off with the palpable excitement of promising another Mercedes versus Ferrari duel. But in the end, it was the triumphant Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas that prevailed, ahead of 2017’s world champion.
Clinching the third victory of his career, and arguably also the best, thus far, Valtteri Bottas kept an ever-vigilant Lewis Hamilton behind to win his maiden Abu Dhabi Grand prix.
But could the second and third-placed drivers have won?
Could Lewis Hamilton have won?
Probably yes. In fact, one would argue that a victory for Hamilton did seem very much in sight, ever since the four-time world champion began closing the gap on the race leader in the closing stages.
The battle for first, did, in fact, become quite intense from lap 40 onward onto the checkered flag. But the victorious Finn drove a controlled, error-free race to keep Hamilton’s feisty charge in check in the end.
But it must be said, typical for a low altitude track replete with heavy curbing, one has got to be slightly careful where overtaking is concerned unless one’s mounting charge on the main straights.
But, despite valiant attempts by Hamilton, who at one stage reduced the gap to Bottas to a margin as narrow as a second, the Brit couldn’t quite make it.
Even then, despite having missed the chance to grab a tenth victory in a season where he has utterly dominated, Hamilton and his fans must be content with a brilliant, daring second here in Abu Dhabi.
Could Vettel have won?
No. Even as Saturday's performance during qualifying put Vettel within four-tenths of a second of second-placed Hamilton, it wasn’t quite the Sunday outing that the German would’ve liked.
In all honesty, despite driving a steady race and putting his Ferrari in a strong third, Vettel didn’t seem in control, at any stage, to dominate the proceedings.
The commentators, in fact, offered an interesting perspective as to whether the Yas Marina track offers any strengths to suit the Ferrari’s chassis and design, with tricky high speed corners and heavy braking zones offering more of a race advantage to their number one rivals and season winners, Mercedes.
With an 18 second gap to the eventual race winner, Vettel could only go as far as third and in no way looked likely to threaten the leading pair. Though, what he did manage was nearly an equal gap to teammate and fourth-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
Do you think anyone else could have won today's race? Let us know in the comments below!