Sainz chuffed with last-lap move on Hulkenberg as Ricciardo rues hard tyre stint
The last-lap fight eventually helped the Spaniard end up sixth in standings.
McLaren's Carlos Sainz was particularly proud of his last-lap overtake on Renault's Nico Hulkenberg in F1 Abu Dhabi GP as Daniel Ricciardo rues hard tyres choice.
The battle for sixth in the F1 drivers' championship was a tight one, but it ultimately reached its climax in the dying stages of the F1 Abu Dhabi GP at Yas Marina circuit, as McLaren's Sainz emerged as the winner with the one point he scored.
He was helped by the fact that Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly had a bad Lap 1 which sealed his fate. The Spanish driver started the race in eighth and he managed to steer clear in the opening lap which Gasly, of course, didn't managed to.
From there, it was a standard first stint, but the McLaren driver was forced to pit early onto the hard tyre, as his softs were unable to hold up. He re-entered the race and attempted to overtake Ricciardo, but failed initially and was stuck behind the Australian.
It looked like both Sainz and Ricciardo struggled in their second stint and decided to stop again to switch onto the soft tyres with the hope that they would reach the Top 10 when others around them will be facing tyre issues. It seemed a risky move at first.
However, the teams wishes turned true 10 corners from the end of the race, when Sainz used DRS to overtake Hulkenberg in a daring move on the left-hander to end up 10th - the move wasn't aired on TV as they focused on Lewis Hamilton crossing the line.
In fact, the battles weren't aired as much on the world feed. "The target this weekend was to finish sixth in the drivers’ championship and we made it happen," said Sainz. "It wasn’t an easy race, with a lot of traffic in all the stints and having to start on soft.
"We went for the two stops knowing it was going to put me in a delicate position to make it to the top 10, but also knowing it was my only chance. I managed to catch Hulkenberg right at the end and pulled off an overtake, on the last lap, that I will not forget.
"I’m very happy with my season." On the receiving end of the overtake, Hulkenberg was disappointed with his result, after the one-stop strategy he was on, had him on the back foot in the latter stages of the race, undoing his good work at the start.
He was also passed by his teammate Ricciardo in his last grand prix for now but the German won the Driver of The Day award."It could have been really good, actually, if it hadn’t been for Bottas, who overtook me half a lap or one lap too early," said Hulkenberg.
"That made me lose two seconds and that was the two seconds that I missed to get ahead of Lando after my stop. I think if I would have had track position on him, and clean air, I could have pulled off a great strategy on soft-medium and going long on the soft would have really paid off.
"But unfortunately that wasn’t possible and then I was in his dirty air for 30 laps and that just eats tyres. The pace was very high and Carlos and Daniel were also pushing on from behind, so there was no time to rest and to save tyres, so it was quite intense.
"At the end we just paid the price there – the tyres degraded and at the end unfortunately I couldn’t hold on to that P10. We didn’t talk about the strategy. We already lost out to Perez, to Kvyat – the reverse starters – because they just had the advantage on that.
"So that wouldn’t have put us in front of them. You see Daniel finished P11. And I had track position and we were trying to sit it out. In the end, I just lost out to Sainz on the inside with the DRS and then I tried to come back on him but I cut Turn 13 quite aggressively.
"I almost spun because I hit that kerb very hard and I almost lost the car – and that’s where Daniel also slipped through. That didn’t matter in the end – it was half a lap too early." Even with Ricciardo passing through, the Australian wasn't overly happy.
"It got a bit exciting [towards the end]," said Ricciardo. "I mean, I was craving a bit of excitement. I know Abu Dhabi sometimes isn't the most exciting one and I don't know how it was at the front, but my race was pretty boring. I don't want to be critical.
"I'll just say it how it is. We just get that sometimes in F1, and it felt like tonight was a boring one unfortunately. I think personally the hard tyre killed my race. We didn't have speed on it at all, it's one of those ones as a driver, actually, that you know straight away.
"Even, we do test sometimes like five laps, seven laps, [but] you need an out lap to see how it's going to be. And I could feel already, at Turn 8, I think it was, on the out lap with the hard, my gut told me that this was gonna be a pretty shitty stint.
"I didn't say it on the radio straight away, I didn't want to be negative from the first lap, but after a few laps I said "boys, we're not going anywhere", so eventually we did a two stop. Two stop was, a ton better, but I guess too little too late."
[Image courtesy: Carlos Sainz Website] [Note: The story was also written by me on FormulaRapida.net]