Bottas takes crucial win for 2018 - and maybe beyond

Valtteri Bottas' victory in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have been meaningless for the drivers' championship, but it acted as a crucial momentum builder heading into the off-season after a rough run of form.

Bottas was riding high over the summer after his victory in Austria put him into the thick of the title fight with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, only for a downturn in form to see him fade from the battle.

With a new contract being announced in Singapore, the pressure may have seemed off Bottas' shoulders, yet the view of the driver market for 2019 meant his position was already looking precarious. Daniel Ricciardo has been strongly linked to the second Mercedes seat upon the end of his Red Bull deal, while Esteban Ocon is another candidate after an impressive first full season with Force India.

Bottas proved his star quality with a controlled, hassle-free and quintessentially Finnish display: no nonsense, no hassle, no cracking under pressure. Hamilton had a fresher engine, yet he was powerless to stop his teammate from taking his third F1 victory.

The result came at a perfect time for Bottas, who when asked to sum up his season with just one word after the race chose "disappointing". Now it is a case of learning from the mistakes of this year, looking at the large amount of positives, and turning it into an improved campaign next year.

Massa rides into the sunset

Yes, I know, we've heard it all before. "Felipe Massa says goodbye to F1.. yada yada... not believing it until pre-season testing..."  - but all joking side, we have now witnessed the Brazilian's final grand prix.

Massa went out with another strong display that saw him enjoy a good, race-long scrap with former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, who once again proved himself to be faster than Felipe by taking P9 ahead of the Williams driver in 10th.

There was a real sense of contentment around Massa all weekend long. He may have been interested in racing in F1 next year, but this time around, it really does seem like he is ready and happy to retire, unlike 2016.

Massa was given the chance to say goodbye with some donuts on the main straight, parking up alongside the Mercedes duo of Bottas and Hamilton before bidding the crowd farewell one final time.

Massa will still be around motorsport in some capacity, though. He has been linked to an FIA role to represent Brazil on the World Motor Sport Council, as well as being tipped for some F1 TV work. He's also likely to keep racing somewhere next year amid links to a Formula E drive.

Alonso plays it coy on WEC links after Toyota test

One of the biggest talking points in Abu Dhabi was Fernando Alonso's maiden LMP1 test with Toyota in Bahrain the previous Sunday, with the Spaniard staying coy on the finer details of his sports car racing plans.

Asked by about the possibility of doing more than just Le Mans with Toyota, Alonso was defensive, saying he hadn't thought about it before being pressed on the issue. He mumbled he would "love" to do more racing before McLaren racing director Eric Boullier hastily moved things on by saying "next question!".

The feeling is that McLaren is ready to let Alonso do more than just Le Mans with Toyota, with the small WEC calendar meaning there would be just three race weekends besides the 24-hour race he would be adding to his schedule - Spa, Silverstone and Shanghai, missing Fuji due to its clash with the United States Grand Prix.

It is understood Alonso's original announcement for the Toyota test was delayed by at least 48 hours due to Honda dragging its heels over allowing him to drive a rival manufacturer's car, but Yusuke Hasegawa downplayed it when asked by if he had any concerns.

"No [concerns]. Actually this is not a thing I have to comment on. But I'm very happy that he has another challenge. I can support him."

McLaren-Honda reaches the end of the road

At the same press meeting where Alonso and Hasegawa spoke, McLaren paid a warm tribute to Honda ahead of its final race working with the Japanese manufacturer before their split for 2018.

Zak Brown made a very nice speech to sign off before the team raised a toast to Honda, wishing it all the best for its future endeavours as a turbulent three-year stint together came to an end.

While there is disappointment that things did not work out, both McLaren and Honda will feel they are poised for better things. With Renault power, McLaren wants to be able to fight at the front much as Red Bull has this year, while Honda has made improvements late in the season that will give encouragement to new partner Toro Rosso, who themselves haven't had the best of times recentl - awkwardly for McLaren, thanks to Renault.

Note the capitalisation of HONDA in this tweet...

Is new always better?

People rarely like change, so it came as little surprise that the majority of fans and observers panned the introduction of the new Formula 1 logo that was unveiled after the race.

F1 commercial chief Sean Bratches and marketing head Ellie Norman gave a presentation to journalists showcasing the new logo packed with marketing terms and jargon that, while convincing, left most in the room sort of perplexed.

In short though: the logo will be easier for F1 to use digitally and combine with partner logos (e.g. DHL, Heineken), as well as acting as a new identity for the sport in the post-Bernie era. It's a real show of Liberty marking its territory.

Like all things, we'll get used to it, but the comparisons drawn with other logos after the unveiling were amusing. Moments after it was revealed, one journalist whispered "isn't that the ESPN logo?", only for Bratches - who spent 27 years with ESPN - to knock it back by saying the only similarity was that both are red.

Toto Wolff was asked what he thought about it, deadpanning with a one word reply - "mindblowing..." - while Christian Horner had his business hat on when asked if it "talked" to him.

"Does it talk to me? If it generates more cash then it is talking very nicely," Horner said. "Obviously there is a new management, they are going through a rebrand. You can understand the new owners wanting to have a fresh new image, and a logo epitomises image at the end of the day."

It's good to see F1 forging its own path with a new identity under Liberty as part of the widespread changes that have taken place. And while right now it may seem a bit naff compared to the old one, we'll all get used to it.



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