Verstappen in a spin
Max Verstappen was in the thick of the action once more at Yas Marina, spinning his Red Bull through 360 degrees in front of the pack at the first corner after clunking into the side of Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India. Amazingly, both drivers escaped without major wounds to their cars (though Hulkenberg did suffer floor damage), which is remarkable given the volume of the whack you hear in these onboards.
Bottas shows Massa no mercy
Abu Dhabi may have been Felipe Massa’s swansong in F1, but his fellow drivers weren’t going easy on him. In the latter stages the Brazilian fought to keep former team mate Fernando Alonso at bay, while in the early running it was current team mate Valtteri Bottas who provided the assault, diving up the inside of Massa into Turn 11 to take P9. But the Finn wouldn’t remain in front for long – three laps later he’d retire with broken suspension.
Ricciardo battles Raikkonen
When Red Bull pitted Daniel Ricciardo at the end of lap 9, they’d hoped the extra couple of laps the Australian had run on supersofts would allow him to jump ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who had stopped two laps earlier and switched from ultrasofts to softs. As it happened, Ricciardo emerged from Yas Marina’s subterranean pit lane just behind the Finn, and despite a gung-ho overtaking attempt nine laps later into Turn 11, he’d frustratingly remain bottled up behind Raikkonen until the next round of pit stops when Red Bull were able to use the undercut to get him by.
Rosberg completes ‘critical’ Verstappen overtake
Of all the things Nico Rosberg did in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, this move on Max Verstappen for P2 might have been the most important. Told by his team that it was ‘critical’ he got past the Dutchman, but knowing that one mistake could unravel his title bid, Rosberg was inch perfect. And once unleashed from behind the Red Bull with its ageing tyres, Rosberg then reeled off five fastest laps in six laps to protect his position from the one-stopping Dutchman. Stirring stuff.
Sainz bangs wheels with Grosjean…
Toro Rosso endured a miserable weekend in Abu Dhabi, with issues severely curtailing the Italian team’s running in practice and contributing to both Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat dropping out of qualifying in Q1. Both drivers would retire from the race too, the former after a feisty drive that included this wheel-banging moment with Haas’ Romain Grosjean (with whom we ride) at Turn 11. “I was in front and he pushed me wide,” pleaded the Frenchman over team radio after taking P14 off the road – and with no penalty forthcoming, it seems the stewards agreed.
…before being punted off by Palmer
Having earlier banged wheels with Romain Grosjean, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz found himself involved in more contact later in the race as he was unceremoniously punted into a spin by Renault’s Jolyon Palmer – contact which resulted in a broken gearbox. The Spaniard labelled it a ‘stupid move’ but Palmer, who Sainz had passed for P13 earlier on the same lap, suggested that he’d been caught out by the Toro Rosso driver braking earlier than usual. “He came to apologise in the end,” said Sainz later.
Vettel snatches P3
When Sebastian Vettel was left hanging at the front of the field as the only driver yet to make a second stop, it looked like Ferrari had missed a trick. But with Lewis Hamilton hardly flying behind, the German was able to charge back onto the tail of the lead pack after a late stop for supersofts, with this pass on regular nemesis Max Verstappen four laps from home netting him his first podium finish in seven races – and fourth in the drivers’ standings.
Rosberg holds his nerve
Whether you approved of Lewis Hamilton’s ‘backing up’ tactics or not, what’s undeniable is that they prompted a grandstand finish to both the race and the season as a whole. Here we ride with both Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel for a tense final lap in which the former is trying to hold off the latter’s freshly-shod Ferrari. Tense, tight and top entertainment.