ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday as Mercedes wrapped up another triumphant Formula One season with a one-two finish and four-times world champion Lewis Hamilton having to settle for second.
The win was a career third for the Finn, who had started on pole position and stayed in front to deny Hamilton a 10th success of the 20-race campaign.
“It’s a really important win for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of the year,” said Bottas, who joined Mercedes after 2016 champion Nico Rosberg retired abruptly a year ago.
“This weekend, pole and win, I couldn’t be happier to end the season like this.”
In a processional race, with plenty of glamour but little excitement under the Yas Marina floodlights, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took third place to finish runner-up in a championship that Hamilton won in Mexico last month.
The final points tally was Hamilton 363, Vettel 317 and Bottas 305.
Mercedes had already won the constructors’ world championship for the fourth year in a row and ended with 668 points to Ferrari’s 522. The one-two finish was their fourth of the season.
Bottas managed the pace throughout, ceding the lead to Hamilton only when he pitted first, with no major issues.
He took the chequered flag 3.8 seconds clear of his team mate, who had been within a second at one point. Vettel was 19 seconds down the road.
”After three, four or five laps I couldn’t go any faster and from then it was pretty lonely,“ said Vettel, a three-times winner in Abu Dhabi. ”In the second part of the race we had a stronger pace but not good enough.
“Very much congratulations to Lewis on his season, he deserves to win the championship this year in the end. I hate to say it, but he was the better man. I‘m sure we will do our bit over the winter and hopefully come back stronger.”
Hamilton kept Bottas in his sights but was unable to do anything but follow. He said that was not because of any lack of intent.
“Big congratulations to Valtteri, he did an amazing job today to hold me off. It was a great race, I gave it everything, every single lap. It is hard to overtake here,” said the Briton after his 25th successive race in the points.
“It’s so hard to follow,” he said in the cool-down room before going on the podium. “I was, like, ‘Where are all the backmarkers?'. I think they need to change this track.”
The pair performed celebratory tyre-burning spins after the finish, with retiring Brazilian Felipe Massa pulling his Williams alongside the Mercedes and joining in the hugs and handshakes.
With the finishing order reflecting the starting positions, with the exception of Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo who retired with an hydraulics issue, the main suspense was in midfield.
Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas were separated by just six points before the start, with millions of dollars in prize money at stake and Renault taking the honours thanks to Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth place.
It was still a tense evening for the French manufacturer team, however, after their Spanish driver Carlos Sainz was released from a pitstop with a loose wheel and retired after almost crashing in the exit tunnel.
Hulkenberg was also given a five-second penalty for cutting a corner, with some considering that the stewards had let the German off lightly rather than forcing him to hand back the place to Force India’s Sergio Perez.
There was also an emotional send-off for Brazilian veteran Massa, the 2008 world championship runner-up finishing 10th in his final race.
“I am very lucky to have all of this in my life so ready for the next step,” said the former Ferrari driver. “For sure, I will miss many things -- racing against amazing drivers and competing in the best car and the best category in the world.”
McLaren’s Honda partnership ended in the points with Fernando Alonso finishing ninth.
The old Formula One logo also made a final appearance, the sport’s new owners presenting a new one as part of a bigger rebranding to come.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon