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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Renault rejoice, Perez brings up century and Vettel keeps record: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix talking points

Following the conclusion of the season-ending event at Yas Marina Circuit, Graham Caygill looks at the major moments from the race.

Renault rejoice

Nico Hulkenberg did enough at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to earn Renault the required points to finish sixth in the constructors standings. Luca Bruno / AP Photo
Nico Hulkenberg did enough at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to earn Renault the required points to finish sixth in the constructors standings. Luca Bruno / AP Photo

The bigger winner yesterday, other than Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes-GP of course, was Renault.

They will gain extra prize money for 2018 after Nico Hulkenberg placed sixth to earn the team eight points. That was enough for Renault to climb up to sixth in the constructors’ table ahead of Toro Rosso.

It was far from plain sailing for Hulkenberg, however. He was given a five-second penalty by race stewards after being adjudged to have passed Sergio Perez’s Force India on the first lap by going off the track and gaining an advantage.

The punishment was having to sit at his one pit stop for five seconds before his mechanics could service his car. It almost proved costly as a problem with a wheel gun on the right rear tyre slowed his stop even further. But the German still came out ahead of Perez and went on to take sixth.

"I knew I had a five second gap but when I realised the pit stop was taking longer I was getting a bit nervous. It turned out OK," Hulkenberg said.

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Unlucky Sainz

Renault driver Carlos Sainz Jr Valdrin Xhemaj / AFP
Renault driver Carlos Sainz Jr Valdrin Xhemaj / AFP

While it was a good day for Hulkenberg, his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr was one of the two race retirements.

The problem came when, at his pit stop, his Renault team failed to attach the left front tyre properly. He showed great rallying skills, reminiscent of his father Carlos Sainz, the double World Rally Championship title winner, to avoid crashing the car into the pit lane tunnel as the wheel became loose.

Sainz eventually parked the car on the side of the track by Turn 5 and he will hope for better luck in 2017.

Century season for Perez

Force India driver Sergio Perez. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
Force India driver Sergio Perez. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

It was a case of mission accomplished for Force India’s Perez.

The Mexican said at the beginning of the race weekend that his goal had been to score 100 points during the season, as he had done in 2016.

While he was frustrated at being overtaken by Hulkenberg on the first lap, complaining vigorously on the pit radio over the incident that would lead to his former teammate to receive a five-second penalty, seventh place and the subsequent six points ensured Perez reached his century for the campaign.

It was a solid final day of the season for Force India, with Esteban Ocon finishing behind Perez in eighth. It gave them a final points total of 187, the highest in their history to equal their best finish of fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Vettel's record survives

Valtteri Bottas, left, and Sebastian Vettel. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA
Valtteri Bottas, left, and Sebastian Vettel. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

Given the pace in qualifying, where Valtteri Bottas' time for pole position was 2.5 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton’s 2016 effort, it had been expected that a new official fastest lap, in race conditions, would be set.

But Sebastian Vettel’s 1 minute, 40.279 seconds, set in the inaugural race in 2009, survived for another year, although only just.

With refuelling no longer allowed in F1, Bottas produced a series of rapid laps in the final stages as his fuel load burnt off. His 1.40.650 was quick but not quick enough to dislodge Vettel’s record.

Hamilton is confident that the cars will be even quicker in 2018, so it may be only 12 more months that Vettel gets to enjoy the record. Unless he breaks it himself in his Ferrari.