Max fifth in Abu Dhabi: “Positively surprised by our pace”

Published on 26 November 2017 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen finished fifth fastest at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which was dominated by Mercedes: Valtteri Bottas triumphed ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen trailed in their Ferrari’s in a less eventful race. Max was able keep up with the Fin for 55 laps, but was not able to really put the hammer down.

“I tried it with Raikkonen, but he kept the door well shut, so it was a shame I couldn’t get pass him. On this track you still cannot overtake. I came to one-and-a-half second of him, but noticed within two second that overtaking was not possible”, says Max after the race. He continues: “I was positively surprised about the pace we had and the balance was also much better today. That was positive. Apart from that it was a reasonably boring race.”

Backmarkers Wehrlein and Magnussen caused Max to lose time regarding Raikkonen. Max: "Magnussen made a mistake, and then Wehrlein tried to pass him. They were in a fight and then I got behind of them, that was not so ideal. Then Magnussen let me pass in turn three, a very fast corner, that was absolutely not ideal. But it is what it is.” When asked if Max will go for three wins again next year, he says in conclusion: “Minimum!”

When the lights go out and the Formula 1-field is let loose, the whole top six has had a good start. Max checks if he can pass Raikkonen, but there is no room for an overtake maneuver. The Fin in turn is able to briefly overtake Ricciardo, but after the first lap, the complete top twelve have retained their positions.

Max is able to slot in with Raikkonen’s Ferrari and even managed to get within DRS-distance. Despite that Verstappen can keep up with the Fin, the situation fails to bring forth any action. The only ones able to entertain the crowd are Lance Stroll and Romain Grosjean, both are entangled a fight going on for numerous laps. The fierce battle for P13 is eventually won by the French Haas-driver.

While Bottas and Hamilton’s Mercedes slowly increase their distance to the rest of the field, Max opens his assault on Raikkonen by heading into the pits and swapping his ultra-softs for the super-softs. The Dutchman rejoins in P9, behind of Esteban Ocon. Ferrari reacts immediately by calling in Raikkonen and the Fin rejoins the pack in seventh, ahead of Ocon and Verstappen. On his new set of tyres, Max quickly makes little work of his old Formula-3 rival with a decisive move at the end of the straight. This puts him again in the wake of Raikkonen.

When most of the drivers have had their first pitstop, Max is running in sixth. His Red Bull Racing-team mate halts on lap 20, but Ricciardo is forced to park his car due to a hydraulic problem. Max moves up to the fifth spot.

Hamilton seems to increase the pressure on race leader Bottas, but slips off course on lap thirty and meekly follows his Mercedes-team mate after that. Not much later, Carlos Sainz does his pitstop. As Renault failed to put his left front wheel correctly on the car, the Spaniard almost went into the wall exiting the pit lane, making him the second drop out of the race.

Meanwhile Max is following Raikkonen and on lap 35 he gets within DRS-range again. The gap remains still some one to two second, till the duo start lapping backmarkers. Pascal Wehrlein and Kevin Magnussen, fighting for P13, cause the gap between Verstappen and the Fin to increase to three-and-a-half second.

In the closing stages, Verstappen manages to get back within one-and-a-half second of Raikkonen, but that’s as far as he gets. Max finishes in fifth at the final race of the 2017 season. Highlight of the race is spectacular firework that lit up the darkness after the flag dropped. In the final standings, Max finishes in sixth with 168 points to his name this season.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit - Sunday 26 November

RACE RESULTS

01 77 Valtteri Bottas     Mercedes                   	55 1:34:14.062
02 44 Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes                   	55 +3.899s
03  5 Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari                    	55 +19.330s
04  7 Kimi Raikkonen      Ferrari                    	55 +45.386s
05 33 Max Verstappen      Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer  	55 +46.269s
06 27 Nico Hulkenberg     Renault                    	55 +85.713s
07 11 Sergio Perez        Force India Mercedes       	55 +92.062s
08 31 Esteban Ocon        Force India Mercedes       	55 +98.911s
09 14 Fernando Alonso     McLaren Honda              	54 +1 lap
10 19 Felipe Massa        Williams Mercedes          	54 +1 lap
11  8 Romain Grosjean     Haas Ferrari               	54 +1 lap
12  2 Stoffel Vandoorne   McLaren Honda              	54 +1 lap
13 20 Kevin Magnussen     Haas Ferrari               	54 +1 lap
14 94 Pascal Wehrlein     Sauber Ferrari             	54 +1 lap
15 28 Brendon Hartley     Toro Rosso                 	54 +1 lap
16 10 Pierre Gasly        Toro Rosso                 	54 +1 lap
17  9 Marcus Ericsson     Sauber Ferrari             	54 +1 lap
18 18 Lance Stroll        Williams Mercedes          	54 +1 lap
NC 55 Carlos Sainz        Renault                    	31 DNF
NC  3 Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer  	20 DNF