Vettel on the podium, but disappointment for Raikkonen who still finished third in the championship
Yas Marina – “We tried our very best and I’m looking forward to staying with you for the coming years. Thanks also to the team, here and in Maranello. Next year we’ll try again.” That was Seb Vettel’s immediate radio comment from the cockpit, after finishing second in the Abu Dhabi GP. He made up one place from where he qualified and drove an impeccable race. The day could have ended on a better note, but for the fact that Kimi Raikkonen had to retire the car with an electrical problem, in his final race for the Scuderia. However, partly helped by Seb’s second place, Kimi still finished third in the championship, his best position since returning to the Scuderia in 2014.
I think today’s race sums up the year pretty well: a few ups and downs and in the end just being close, but not close enough. Today, I really tried to hang on as long as I could, but it was tough being behind Valtteri. I believe I was a little bit quicker, but it was very difficult to get close, especially in the last sector, until he had some issues and I managed to get past. We were strong in the straights and we had speed, but we were struggling in the last sector to keep up, especially in the last two corners. At one point, I had hopes of winning the race, so I was pushing as hard as I could, but in the end it was not enough. It has been a very intense year and I think we have to look at ourselves, as there are many things that we can do better and the potential this team has is still huge.
Obviously I’m a bit disappointed. It’s not the way we wanted this last race together to finish. We wanted to do well and I think we would have had a pretty good car for the job. Unfortunately we had an electrical issue; in the back straight, I felt I was lacking power and then everything shut down. It’s a pity but that’s how racing goes sometimes. It’s been a pretty decent season, but the four retirements were not in our plans and obviously did not help; we wanted more for sure. I want to thank all the Ferrari fans who always gave me a lot of support. We went through good and bad times together, and this makes it all the more interesting. Of course we wanted a better finish, but that’s part of the sport. We will always have the memories of winning the Drivers’ Championship and two Constructors Championship together.
Today’s result, a second place for Sebastian, along with the work of the entire team, means we have been able to finish the world championship with our drivers in second and third places. Kimi deserved a better result from today’s race, but the send off he was given by the guys, as he drove out of the garage was a lovely moment. As from Tuesday, we take part in the tyre test, which is the first step for next season and the entire team, both at the track and back in Maranello, will be giving their utmost once again in 2019. My heartfelt thanks goes to all of them, to our sponsors, our fans and customers, who have always supported us.
The twilight race start is always a beautiful sight. From the second row, “wearing” the Ultrasoft tyres, the middle compound on offer here, the two Ferraris got away well, with Seb trying to attack Bottas. But there was drama immediately, as Hulkenberg’s Renault tipped over at turn 9. The Safety Car came out, which is not a common occurrence in Abu Dhabi. The race was neutralised for four laps. Once underway again, Kimi was glued to his team-mate. But almost immediately his SF71H crawled to a halt on the start-finish line. The pit wall told him to try and restart it (using the electric MGU-K motor) but unfortunately there was nothing to be done. The Iceman’s final race in red ended in disappointment. Then Hamilton pitted and Seb found himself in second place.
After 15 laps, Vettel was called in for his tyre change, shedding the Ultras and fitting the Supersofts, the hardest compound, to run all the way to the finish. A bit of time was lost with the front right wheel at the pit stop and, as he came out of pit lane, Seb had to attack to get past Ocon. That meant he was unable to pull off the “undercut” on Bottas who pitted after him.
Incredible but true, a few drops of rain began to fall, the craziest strategy variable one might encounter in the Emirati desert. At this point, Seb was running at a very strong pace and in fact the rain didn’t actually dampen the track. Bottas was struggling and Seb got by with 20 laps remaining, at the end of the second sector. With Ricciardo having pitted, Sebastian was now second, 7.3 seconds off Hamilton.
Seb kept pushing and the gap went under 6 seconds, but he also had to keep an eye on Verstappen who was coming up behind, with Ricciardo in tow. The final laps: the gap to the leader got smaller, while Max dropped back. That’s how it ended, with the Scuderia repeating its best result at this track that has never suited it too well. A somewhat sad farewell to Kimi therefore, as his team-mate paid tribute by setting the race fastest lap.