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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

He might not show it but Valtteri Bottas 'so happy' to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Mercedes driver converts pole into race victory at Yas Marina Circuit with teammate Hamilton in second

Valtteri Bottas triumphed in the closing race of the 2017 season, then remained as cool on the podium as he did throughout the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

"We Finns don't show much emotion, but it doesn't mean we don't have any,” he said when prompted by Formula One competitor-cum-commentator David Coulthard at Yas Marina Circuit. “I am so happy. There has been so much support. I can't show it too much, but I feel good."

And so he should. Beginning the 2017 finale in pole position, Bottas held off everyone behind him for almost the entirety, a star cast that included Mercedes-GP teammate and freshly minted world champion Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton eventually finished where he started, in second. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third.

"It's a really important win for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of the year,” said Bottas, whose two previous F1 victories came this campaign, each before mid-July. "Congratulations to Lewis on the title and congratulations to Sebastian for the second place.

“I was really managing the pace and the race. It was a nice feeling. The last five laps I started to go bit quicker and I'm really pleased."

In truth, no one bar Hamilton got anywhere near as fast. Bottas relinquished the lead only when he chose to pit at the end of Lap 21, before assuming it again when Hamilton came in for a quick tyre change three loops later.

Other than a slight mistake on Lap 50, when he locked up and allowed Hamilton to close to within half a second, Bottas cruised to a third victory of the season. Towards the end, he even set consecutive fastest laps.

Much like those two spins around Yas Marina, Bottas conceded the past 12 months have been pretty whirlwind. Lest we forget, he closed out 2016, in Abu Dhabi, as a Williams employee.

“Yeah, it is crazy,” he said. “To think last year I was here with Williams, knowing that 2017 I would be with Williams also. And now I’m here, winning a race with Mercedes. It’s a bit crazy, but so is life.

“For sure, it’s been an incredible season for me in terms of how much I’ve learned in this team, with Lewis. Every single race I’ve been always able to find something."

Looking ahead to a potential challenge of the 2018 drivers' crown, Bottas added: "Based on one race win at the end of year, I can’t say I know how to win the title - I’ve never done it before.

“I just need to go next year race-by-race. But for sure, this weekend gives me a lot of confidence. I’m really looking forward to next year, see what it brings.”

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Casting the mind forward too, Hamilton knows Bottas could represent a significant threat in his bid for a fifth world title. The Englishman has been incredibly complimentary of his teammate all week, although he reminded that come the season-opener in Australia in March, it will be business as usual once more.

“Yeah, for sure,” Hamilton said. “But Valtteri did a great job this week, and also this year, to come into a new team, the challenge to acclimatise, get used to new people, new ways of working.

“Certainly he’s done an exceptional job. To finish on a high like this is great. It was great to have the race we had today. We both had one mistake in the whole race, but otherwise pretty much perfect. And obviously with that pressure, he did exceptional.

“But also for me it feels like a win for all of us. Because it’s a one-two for Mercedes, it’s a very, very strong win against Ferrari this weekend. We need to continue next year. The beginning of next season, it’s back to business. I’m excited for the challenges ahead.”

Updated: November 27, 2017 08:38 AM

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