It perhaps speaks volumes of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that attention throughout the F1 world and social media turned to the sport’s new and surprisingly controversial logo before the smoke from Valtteri Bottas’s victory doughnuts had even cleared…
Bottas’s third victory was his sweetest yet; outqualifying his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, beating him to turn one and soaking up immense pressure for fifty-five laps without putting a wheel wrong.
Indeed, the will-he-crack? intrigue just about made the battle for the victory enjoyable, whilst the rest of the field settled into positions they could neither improve upon nor lose. The problem, according to a number of drivers, team personnel and pundits, is the Yas Marina circuit.
The track should provide plenty of over-taking opportunities and does so in F2 and GP3 and so can’t be fully blamed for F1’s lacklustre curtain-closer. The issue, as has been the case for a while now, is F1 cars themselves and their complicated and easily disturbed aerodynamic packages.
With the exception of Lance Sroll and Romain Grosjean‘s early race scuffle, few others could get close enough to put moves on the car in front. Kimi Raikkonen, for example, who seemed lost in the void between the top three and the rest, was able to keep Max Verstappen captive in his aero-wake.
Verstappen said of the race that it was so boring that “if I had a pillow in the car I could have fallen asleep”. Raikkonen’s dirty air clipped the wings of the sport’s most exciting driver and robbed us of some racing.
With the field stagnant, attention rested with Bottas/Hamilton at the head of the field, with some suggesting on social media that it was all a set piece to try and get Bottas into second in the world championship.
Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda both denied it, stating that the pair were free to race to whatever order they finished in. Besides, with Sebastian Vettel comfortable – and lonely – in third, it was the German who ultimately claimed the runner-up spot in the drivers’ championship.
Behind the dominant Bottas, the exasperated Hamilton, the lonely Vettel, the subdued Raikkonen and the sleepy Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg pulled off the heist of the year, stealing $7million from Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Before the final race of 2017, just six points covered Toro Rosso in sixth and the Haas F1 Team in eighth, with Hulkenberg’s Renault Sport F1 Team sandwiched in the middle.
Toro Rosso team boss, Franz Tost, admitted to the stress of the situation as his new driver line-up of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley struggled to find any sort of pace throughout the weekend.
While Toro Rosso floundered and Haas remained mired in the mid-field, Hulkenberg turned in a solid performance – despite a five-second time penalty for cutting a chicane and gaining a position over Sergio Perez – to score sixth place come the checkered flag and thus elevate Renault ahead of Toro Rosso, taking with it the extra $7million prize money. I wouldn’t go asking Franz Tost about it any time soon…
Behind Toro Rosso’s mugger, Perez and Esteban Ocon rounded out an impressive year for Sahara Force India. The David amongst Formula 1’s giants sealing fourth in the world championship comfortably and Perez and Ocon finishing seventh and eighth in the drivers’ championship respectively.
Fernando Alonso came next in ninth, scoring two points on the McLaren-Honda partnership’s swansong and while hardly a tear will be shed for that, behind Alonso came a doubtless emotional Felipe Massa, finishing in the points for the final time in his Formula 1 career.
Massa leaves Formula 1 with his head held high, having showed immense talent and speed and unrivalled dignity in defeat; the images of the plucky Brazilian pounding his chest on the podium at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix will no doubt live with us forever.
Throw in that Daniel Ricciardo retired with hydraulic failure and Carlos Sainz Jr. retired with three wheels on his wagon and that’s 660 words on a race where little happened; perhaps the greatest success to come from the weekend…
But the race in Abu Dhabi has hardly been the main talking point since it’s conclusion, has it? Instead, three innocuous red stripes that vaguely form an ‘F’ and a ‘1’ have sent us ‘F’ and ‘1’ fans into meltdown.
During the podium celebrations in Abu Dhabi, the sport’s new logo was revealed. It’s part of Formula 1’s rebranding, which is all very lovely; progress and all that. But following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a race that you likely struggled to stay awake for and that I eked just 640 words from, is a new logo the thing this sport needs?
I like the new logo. What’s more, I never really cared for the old one (complaints on a postcard, please). But as Liberty Media move us away from Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 with changes to pre-race festivities, alcohol-free sponsors and new logos, it all seems somewhat frivolous.
For a true rebranding and indeed, re-energising of the sport, we have to wait until 2021 for noisier, closer running and more futuristic cars. The current proposal includes a slightly – and only slightly – less complex V6 hybrid power unit and from next year Pirelli will be introducing seven different dry tyre compound tyres, including Soft, SuperSoft, Really-Very-Soft, Blimey-Look-How-Soft-This-Is and Softy McSoftface.
Formula 1 doesn’t need to, and perhaps shouldn’t, be as complex as it currently is. Confusing fans will only turn them off. Entertaining them is the name of the game and to do that we need Formula 1 to be thrilling, whatever logo is on the merchandise.
The 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may not have been the thrill we all want from a curtain closing grand prix but 2017 has given us plenty. We saw the resurgence of Scuderia Ferrari as championship challengers, even if their challenge ultimately fell short. We crowned a new four-time world champion, while new, young challengers sharpened their skills. We waved goodbye to one of the sport’s finest ambassadors and welcomed new ones to the cut throat world of grand prix racing. Bring on 2018…