Lewis Hamilton has called for changes to Formula 1’s season-ending fixture after a lacklustre conclusion to his world championship-winning campaign in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Hamilton finished behind his Mercedes team-mate and race winner Valtteri Bottas, while Sebastian Vettel completed the podium places, following a race which will not live long in the memory.
Abu Dhabi has become the stage for Formula 1’s season finale – indeed it pays a premium to do so – and it is one played out against the backdrop of an exotic harbour and thousands of floodlights.
But the 3.3-mile Yas Marina track is notable for its lack of action, and aside from Daniel Ricciardo’s hydraulics failure and Carlos Sainz’s dodgy tyre following a pit-stop error by his Renault team, it was yet another race here to pass off without incident.
Last year’s grand prix only came to life after Hamilton defied Mercedes’ team orders and backed up the pack in a fruitless bid to prevent Nico Rosberg from winning the championship. Hamilton hustled Bottas on Sunday, but the Finn’s lead rarely appeared in danger.
“They’ve got to change this track,” Hamilton, 32, said. “It’s just impossible to overtake. You have to have a 1.4 second advantage on the car in front. Valtteri and I have got the same car, and there’s not 1.4 seconds between us in ability.
“You have the long straights where you can’t even get close enough to utilise them. If there is some way to enable us to remain closer, it is a track which will go up in the rankings, but I don’t know if they can change it. I know there’s money to do it. I have hope for Abu Dhabi to get better.”
Hamilton cemented his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats in Mexico last month by joining an elite band of drivers to have won the world championship on more than three occasions.
He vowed to end the season with a bang, but after finishing ninth in Mexico, recovering from last to fourth in Brazil, and a second-placed finish here, the Briton will start the defence of his championship off the back of a three-race winless streak.
Bottas, who surrendered his lead to Vettel at the opening corner in Brazil earlier this month, made no such mistake in the desert.
Supported by his wife Emilia – a former Finnish Olympic swimmer – and ex-Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, Bottas blasted out of the starting blocks and fended off Hamilton on the short drag to the left-handed opening turn, with Vettel slotting in behind.
With six laps to go, Bottas made a mistake when he got out of shape through turn five which saw Hamilton move to within half a second of his team-mate. But the newly-crowned four-time champion failed to make a move, and Bottas took the spoils.
“A big congratulations to Valtteri because he did an amazing job to hold me off,” Hamilton added. “I gave it everything. Valtteri did a great job this weekend and this year.”
For Bottas, it marked his first victory since July and only the third of a campaign in which he has been outclassed by Hamilton.
“We Finns don’t show emotion but it doesn’t mean we don’t have any,” Bottas added. “I’m so happy. It is a really important win after a difficult start to the second half of the year.”
Hamilton has criticised the new Formula 1 logo which was launched following the race.
The expensive redesign by Liberty Media, the sport’s American owners, replaces the logo which was introduced by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and has stood for 30 years.
Liberty, which acquired F1 for £6.4bn in January, hope the new design will help broaden F1’s appeal and attract new audiences.
But moments after its reveal on the podium here at the Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton questioned the need for change.
“The old one was iconic, and the new one isn’t,” Hamilton, 32, said. “Imagine if Ferrari changed theirs?”
Bottas and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel also queried the wisdom of the rebrand with both insisting they preferred the old design.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff provided a one-word response when asked for his feelings on the logo. “Mind-blowing,” the Austrian said with more than a hint of sarcasm.
Explaining the need for a new logo, Sean Bratches, F1’s American commercial boss, said: “Our new brand identity symbolises the wider transformation taking place in Formula 1 as we aim to broaden the sport’s appeal, attract new audiences and build stronger connections with existing fans.
“We set out to create a logo that captures the speed and excitement of the pinnacle of motorsport and this reveal signals the beginning of a new era for Formula 1.”