#976 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

2023-01-03 23:00

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#2017, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Margherita Urpi,

#976 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton is enjoying the just-won World Championship and makes an accusation against his former Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg. "What did I lea


Lewis Hamilton is enjoying the just-won World Championship and makes an accusation against his former Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg.


"What did I learn from Rosberg? Nothing, zero".


Words of praise, on the other hand, for Fernando Alonso:


"From all my teammates I've raced with, I generally didn't learn much. The only driver from whom I've learned something in my career is Alonso, no one else has really passed anything on to me".


Hamilton then pays tribute to the Spaniard, his teammate at McLaren in 2007.


"It was my first year in F1, and then I would say I gained experience, so I never really thought about learning from another driver. I improved solely because of my strength and skills".


So, nothing learned from Rosberg:


"I learned zero from him. Although the defeat in the 2016 World Championship made me the driver I am now, my mental condition was crucial. Focusing on every detail made the difference this year".


Hamilton then talks about the just-concluded season in which he battled against Vettel:


"Mental strength was crucial to achieving the championship this season. It's that way for many professional athletes, we're talking about tiny percentages. I think it was the biggest difference between us. My work ethic has improved a lot, and I probably would have won five championships by now".


Now, some rest and then the new quest for the title in 2018. But first, on Sunday, November 26, 2017, with the final checkered flag, the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship will come to a close, a year that once again saw Mercedes claim both titles. It's clear that Sebastian Vettel would have preferred to arrive at the Abu Dhabi media meeting still in contention for the championship title, rather than with everything already decided in favor of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. In this situation, it's already time not only to take stock but, above all, to work for the next season.


"In Germany, they say: as easy as a walk in the park. But I don't think it will be that way in 2018. Ferrari has made incredible progress compared to last year. We've improved both in terms of the chassis and the engine exceptionally well. We were close to Mercedes, but not close enough when it mattered. But we've learned from what happened, and we're fully charged for 2018. Of course, there's a bitter moment for losing the title, but we're looking at the positive side of having a couple of races to approach the program and look to the next season. Sure, everyone will push next year, but we believe we have the right people".


When asked about his teammate Kimi Räikkönen, who hasn't won in 90 races, Sebastian Vettel replies:


"If you were to ask him, I don't think he would be aware of it because, as drivers, we're taught to look forward, to progress, to be positive, and focus on what lies ahead, rather than what's already behind us".


Then the discussion turns to the rule changes for this season and the show offered to fans.


"The cars were more fun because you can push, and that's what we drivers want. We always complain about speed, and this made the races better and more enjoyable for us. I'm not sure if it made the show more interesting for the fans because some races might have been more boring. It's true that if you can't overtake, it's annoying, but if you can on certain circuits, it's more satisfying, both for the driver and those watching from outside. Maybe we should relax and maybe accept that there are two boring races because then there will be more interesting ones".


Like Lewis Hamilton, who has just won his fourth World Championship, Vettel shares his admiration for Juan Manuel Fangio:


"Fangio is an icon of motorsport to me, for the results he achieved in a very dangerous era, in the worst period for a driver. He's a driver we all admire because he lived through the most dangerous period, and being so close to a sporting icon like him is beautiful. I think he should be celebrated more for the successes he achieved. We often hear about Ayrton Senna and Prost, but I believe he is the godfather of this sport".


The Anglo-German team celebrated the double world championship after the Brazil race with a party at the Brackley farm.


"Every single individual within the team has shown unwavering commitment. In my fourth year with this team, I understand the work ethic of this team, and the fact that we've been competing with Ferrari allowed us to reach another level of performance. Seeing them all and realizing that in every race I've been able to run, I've received the energy from the engine they built is fantastic. Entering through the main door and seeing them on the sides of the road to welcome me to celebrate the two titles we've won has been fantastic. I believe it's been a positive year: we've driven cars to their limits. Of course, there's still a lot of work to do in many different areas, but we're on the right path. Liberty has helped this sport progress, and I'm excited to think about what they can do in the future. I hope there will be closer values from now on and that it will be easier to follow the car in front to overtake it. I repeat, this year has been positive for Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull, and maybe next year, McLaren can join for an even more exciting championship".


When asked about the strengths and weaknesses of his title rival this season, Hamilton shows respect for his opponent:


"I can only say that the weaknesses he believes he has are the ones we all have. I, too, have to work and raise the level. Mercedes was faster this year and won because we were more consistent, made fewer mistakes, and had no breakdowns. But if we look at the beginning and until mid-season, Ferrari was ahead, and it wasn't a matter of luck. They have a fantastic car, but when you're under certain pressure, you can make mistakes".


Then, about the Sunday race:


"Seb and I have each won three, and I believe the desire to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the fourth time will make the race more interesting. Vettel won the last Grand Prix, so I have no intention of letting him off the hook".


Fernando Alonso, who is increasingly engaged on multiple fronts with tests for Toyota and the Daytona race, is the next to speak:


"They were excellent tests that gave me great feelings. I'm behind the wheel every week with different cars. The last two public tests, in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, were interesting, with technologies that we don't have in Formula 1, like four-wheel drive or traction control and the limitation on the fuel level, which is a bit frustrating. Overall, it was all interesting. The cars are more raw, simpler. I'm ready to race at Daytona, as for Le Mans, I don't know yet. Certainly, I won't have much free time. When you're a driver, you believe in yourself and believe you can adapt to anything, or you don't race. I think it's one of my strengths: maybe I'm not the fastest in qualifying or the fastest in the wet, but maybe I'm the best overall, and I'm ready to gather good advice to do my best".


Alonso then reiterates that the agreement between McLaren and Renault came at the right time.


"The timing for the change was right. Personally, I had high expectations for the McLaren-Honda partnership given past results, and that's what prompted me to switch from Ferrari to the Woking team. But we didn't achieve the results we expected, and that's why it's the right time to change and join Renault. Their results this season are a source of optimism for us. There's still something missing in terms of performance, but they're fighting for podiums and race wins, which is different from what we're experiencing now. With Renault, I feel like I'm coming home because I consider it a second home. The company is good, and the engine is very positive".


Daniel Ricciardo, with his trademark optimistic smile, responds next, referring to the Sunday race at the Yas Marina circuit that will mark the end of a fairly positive season for the Red Bull driver:


"I hope this last race goes well. Personally, I have to make sure to correct the little mistakes I made this year. I think it's been a positive year: I've had some good races, and I'd like all twenty to have been great, but it hasn't been. I need to understand where I can improve, both on and off the track. We need to start the next season strongly right from the beginning. It would be nice next year to be in the fight for the world championship, against two four-time world champions. There's improvement to be made, and I hope to bring out the best in myself".


When asked if his teammate and rival Max Verstappen will still be his friend next year, Ricciardo jokingly replies:


"It would be nice to keep him on the guest list for my birthday. Max has improved compared to last year, and it will be fun competing with him next year. Hopefully, we'll have a world championship to aim for".


For his part, the young Dutch Red Bull driver, speaking about his season, says he's not entirely satisfied.


"I'm not in contention for the championship, but I've had some positive races. In Brazil, we didn't perform very well. I hope to be closer this weekend already because if we are in qualifying, we can do better".


Pirelli presents the new 2018 range of Formula 1 tires in Abu Dhabi. In the upcoming season, two new compounds, each identified by distinct colors, will be introduced along with new constructions and usage windows. The 2018 range includes tires that will be one step softer for each compound compared to this year, making them the fastest in Formula 1 history. A new tire, the P Zero Pink Hyper Soft, softer than the Hyper Soft, will be introduced for circuits like Monaco where high mechanical grip is required. The hardest compound available will be the Super Hard, marked in orange. 


The 2018 Pirelli range will consist of nine tires in total: the seven P Zero slick tires, along with the new Cinturato intermediate and full wet tires. Teams will test the new P Zero Pink Hyper Soft for the first time in five days. Explains Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director: 


"The changes for 2018 are more moderate compared to 2017 when tire sizes increased by 25% to better suit the new generation of cars. Given the unique circumstances this year, we realized our approach in developing the 2017 tires may have been too conservative. For 2018, the tire range aims to facilitate around two pit stops in most races. The faster and more performing new tires could lead to even more competitive and exciting races in 2018".


On the eve of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Scuderia Toro Rosso confirms the driver lineup for the 2018 season. As anticipated last week, the duo will consist of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, confirming the choices made by Helmut Marko ahead of the United States Grand Prix. Despite not being particularly young by Toro Rosso's standards (21 years for Gasly and 28 for Hartley), the 2018 pairing for the Italian team will be one of the least experienced in terms of Formula 1 racing. Gasly and Hartley will arrive in Melbourne next March with a combined total of nine Grand Prix races under their belts. Team Principal Franz Tost comments: 


"We are really happy to confirm Pierre and Brendon for 2018. In the latter part of the season, they have demonstrated that they are ready for Formula 1, adapting to the team quickly and getting to grips with the car in a short space of time. We have been really impressed with their speed of learning. Not all drivers can do that, but I hope we can provide them with a good technical package to perform at their best".


Brendon Hartley confesses: 


"I'm really happy. I had an opportunity, and I managed to turn it into a full season in Formula 1. I couldn't be happier, and I really have to thank Red Bull and Toro Rosso for believing in me and giving me this second chance: dreams can come true".


On Friday, November 24, 2017, during the first practice session, Sebastian Vettel sets the fastest time. The German, showing competitiveness, especially in the final sector of the track, is ahead of Lewis Hamilton, also on Ultrasoft tires, and Max Verstappen. Verstappen's car has its steering column changed. The other Ferrari driver, Kimi Räikkönen, is fourth, testing a new diffuser model but spoils his best lap with a driving error. He is ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who, towards the end of the session, tests the Halo device. Romain Grosjean goes off the track. The track, not yet rubberized, proves tricky for several drivers who spin. In the second session, Hamilton and Vettel swap positions in the rankings, with the British driver managing to edge out the German by just 0.149 seconds. Hamilton is the only driver to go under the 1'38"0 limit, breaking the track record by 0.5 seconds, a record that had stood since 2011. Daniel Ricciardo secures the third position, followed by the two Finnish drivers from Ferrari and Mercedes, Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas, with Bottas being particularly competitive on race pace. Romain Grosjean makes several errors, while Stoffel Vandoorne spins. Mercedes, despite losing the 2016 award for the fastest pit stops, has been a paradox and a disgrace for the team. The Anglo-German team, known for its meticulousness, has rolled up its sleeves to change tires faster than anyone else. Fourth consecutive constructors' title, and the fourth World Championship for Lewis Hamilton. Now they also want the pit stop accolade. They lead the overall standings for the fastest pit stops throughout the season: they will secure it with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. They've ousted reigning champions Williams from the realm of mechanical speed; last year, the British team set an unmatched and possibly unbeatable record of 1.92 seconds for changing tires. Despite setting the absolute best time this year as well, a 2.02s pit stop for Felipe Massa's car in Silverstone, the Williams team has lost 0.1s compared to the previous season, all because of the main pit stop adversaries: the reluctant tires. 


Heavier and wider tires due to the 2017 regulation changes: the rear ones are 80 millimeters wider and weigh an extra 1.8 kilograms each compared to the old ones, while the front tires have widened by 60 millimeters and gained about 800 grams each. An increase in bulk of about 25% for a total car weight increase from 722 to 728 kilograms. All this weight falls on the shoulders of the mechanics who had to adjust their habits and routines. 'It's like feeling ten kilograms more with your arms stretched out,' quantifies Steve Nielsen, sporting manager of Williams, who, for their 2016 title, managed to win 14 pit stops out of 21 with an average time of 2.70 seconds each. This year, even though they completed eight pit stops out of 19, they remain second ahead of Red Bull (with four victories). Meanwhile, Ferrari, the winner in 2015, is fourth with just one win, at Baku with Vettel (in 2.62s). Mercedes had prepared even before the start of this burdensome new tire era, offering customized training and courses to their staff. Over five practice sessions per week, a personal trainer monitoring their progress through smartphone apps to measure their improvement compared to their teammates. A race within a race. For the overall triumph: Mercedes mechanics have been the fastest 6 times out of 19. The mechanics of the second driver, Valtteri Bottas, are even more skilled than the champions in the champion's box. Bottas's crew won three times, changing tires twice in 2.15s (in Austin and Monza) and once in 2.19s (in Mexico), while Hamilton's team, in their three victories, were slightly slower (2.27s in Singapore, 2.35s in Spa, 2.39s in Bahrain). A matter of fitness and the right equipment. Looking forward to 2018 when Pirelli won't change dimensions but colors and softness: nine compounds in total, including the introduction of a Hyper Soft, the softest ever made and the fastest ever, as well as a Super Hard. Each will be one step softer than they are now. Mario Isola, head of car racing for the company, says: 


"Our approach in developing the 2017 tires may have been too conservative. The new tires are faster and more performing and could lead to even more competitive and exciting races in 2018".


During the third and final practice session on Saturday, November 25, 2017, the track temperature rises to 43°C, and Lewis Hamilton confirms himself as the fastest, further lowering the track record. Valtteri Bottas follows closely behind him, making Mercedes the only cars to record times under 1 minute and 38 seconds. Kimi Räikkönen finishes third but is 0.5 seconds behind the leader. Sebastian Vettel concludes with the fourth-best time, ahead of the two Red Bull Racing drivers. Strong winds on the track send an umbrella flying, but it is quickly removed. A few hours later, in Q1, Kevin Magnussen is the first driver to set a reference time, but is soon beaten by Valtteri Bottas. Lewis Hamilton then improves the time before being surpassed by Bottas again. The Finn sets the fastest time on two consecutive laps. In the final minutes, the top ten drivers decide not to go out on the track, while the battle to make it to Q2 intensifies. Lance Stroll squeezes into the qualifiers, beating Romain Grosjean by just 0.013 seconds. In addition to Grosjean, the drivers from Sauber and Toro Rosso are eliminated. In Q2, Valtteri Bottas once again manages to be faster than his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes are the only cars to go below the 1'37"0 mark. Nevertheless, the top drivers decide to go out on the track in the final minutes dedicated to the battle for entry into Q3. In this phase, Hamilton overtakes his teammate once again. Felipe Massa manages to beat Fernando Alonso's time at the very last moment, by less than 0.1 seconds, securing a spot among the qualifiers for the final phase. Eliminated alongside Fernando Alonso are the other McLaren driver, Stoffel Vandoorne, Carlos Sainz Jr., Kevin Magnussen, and Lance Stroll. In the final session, Valtteri Bottas again sets the fastest time, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The two Mercedes drivers are the only ones to break the 1'37"0 barrier. Nevertheless, Lewis Hamilton makes a mistake in the second attempt, and Valtteri Bottas confirms his pole position. Sebastian Vettel is third, while Daniel Ricciardo moves up to fourth, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. Thanks to these results, Mercedes secures its 100th front-row start in the Formula 1 World Championship. Bottas claims his fourth career pole position and will have the best starting position to try to take the second place in the overall standings away from Sebastian Vettel if he wins and the German finishes outside the top eight. Seb now has a 22-point advantage over his pursuer.


"It was a good qualifying session, but it's a shame to be so far back. The race pace is good, and tomorrow will be a good race. It's tough to overtake here, but not impossible".


Promises Seb to his fans, having accepted and digested the defeat, he wants to bid farewell to 2017 with honor. Mercedes, for their part, wants to prove on the Yas Marina circuit that they've won this World Championship, the fourth in a row, on merit (and not due to problems faced by their competitors). The one-two finish, if needed, is another answer. For Bottas, it's also a personal satisfaction, as he closed the practice sessions with a time that is also the new track record. This confirms what has been seen from mid-season onwards: Mercedes engines are currently unbeatable. Lewis Hamilton, perhaps feeling relieved of objectives, graciously concedes the lead to his teammate:


"It was an incredible qualifying session. Congratulations to Bottas for the pole; he did an exceptional job".


And Valtteri Bottas adds:


"Things improved from practice to qualifying. I have a good feeling with the car. Even in Brazil, I started from pole and then couldn't win, but my goal for tomorrow is clear".


Dressed in a grey suit, light blue striped shirt, blue socks, and brown loafers. The strict elegance of Jean Todt is unexpectedly interrupted by an ethnic bracelet on his right wrist. The FIA president is a mix of tradition and innovation. At 71 years old, the French manager is heading for re-election for a third term at the FIA. He faces no opposition.


"I don't need to be president to live. The problem is, I love motorsport".


It's the final Grand Prix of a season that has been new in terms of rules and management. The first without the creator of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone. And already on the horizon are innovations for 2018, starting with a reduction in the number of usable engines (from 4 to 3), the debut of the infamous Halo, the safety halo on the single-seaters, and discussions about power units from 2021. Beyond his office with large windows overlooking the paddock and Yas Island's yachts, the qualifying session gives Valtteri Bottas his fourth career pole ahead of the World Champion and Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari is third, over 0.5 seconds behind. The French executive looks back and, above all, forward.


"It's been a very interesting season for many reasons, including the additional 5 seconds of speed gained by the cars. Fascinating. But there remains a problem: F1 is too expensive, and there's too much disparity between small and big teams. The cost cap has never worked. We want to encourage the entry of other suppliers and find synergies between various categories of motorsport. The reduction to three engines? It's for cost savings. Otherwise, those who can afford it would change engines every session".


And changing engines comes with penalties.


"This year, some have collected 500 grid positions, and others none. It may not be liked, but it was a decision made together. Anyway, results won't be influenced by this but rather by mistakes and reliability".


New power units in 2021.


"We aim for simpler, cheaper, and more sustainable engines, even though I am against a completely new development. We'll take the first step in an evolution".


Ferrari and Mercedes, in addition to engines, fear revenue revolutions.


"They already have big sponsors. The smaller teams don't".


The Ferrari team has threatened to leave the Circus.


"I hope it doesn't happen; it's an iconic brand, but it wouldn't be an advantage for them either".


Some are calling for a return of the noise.


"It's not essential, but there are a thousand different opinions".


The controversial Halo?


"A small but significant change. Motorsport isn't as dangerous as it used to be, but it still carries risks".


By the way, are you worried about Kubica's return after the rally accident in 2011?


"The doctors will assess".


Brazil has nominated Felipe Massa for the FIA World Council.


"I have ideas about him. But if he wants to bring a contribution to our world, he's welcome. For me, he's like a second son".


Formula 1 without Ecclestone: Liberty Media will also change the logo.


"Bernie built a recognizable little empire like the Olympics. Now, onward: the new American owners are professionals and will bring evolutions. The new logo? It's nice and it works".


On Sunday, November 26, 2017, at the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas holds onto the lead, followed by his teammate Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen, and Nico Hülkenberg. However, Hülkenberg is penalized with a 5-second penalty, to be served during the pit stop, for cutting a corner during the first lap while defending his position from other drivers' attacks. The order, at least in the points positions, remains unchanged until lap 14 when Max Verstappen makes an early pit stop. The Dutchman rejoins the race in ninth place. Kimi Räikkönen, in an attempt to defend his position, pits one lap later and rejoins the track ahead of the Red Bull Racing driver, unable to pass Esteban Ocon. Sergio Pérez, who is in seventh place, pits during lap 16, while Nico Hülkenberg makes his pit stop, along with a penalty, during lap 17. Daniel Ricciardo pits during lap 19 and then stops permanently one lap later due to a hydraulic issue. Sebastian Vettel pits during lap 20, followed by Valtteri Bottas during lap 21. 


Lewis Hamilton remains on track until lap 24 in an attempt to regain the lead after the pit stops. However, Valtteri Bottas retains the lead, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Nico Hülkenberg. In the following laps, Lewis Hamilton increases his pace, closing to within a second of Valtteri Bottas. An error by the World Champion on lap 32, however, puts Lewis Hamilton out of striking distance from the Finnish driver. In the same lap, both Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz Jr. make pit stops to change tires. The Spanish driver returns to the track before the left front tire is securely attached to the car; shortly after leaving the pit lane, he is forced to retire. Nico Hülkenberg climbs up to sixth place, ahead of the two Force India cars. In the final laps, Lewis Hamilton tries once more to close in on Valtteri Bottas but without success. The Finn secures his third victory in the World Championship and his first career hat trick. For Mercedes, it's their fortieth one-two finish. Felipe Massa closes out his Formula 1 career with a tenth-place finish and a championship point. However, the celebrations are kept to a minimum for the Finnish driver. The Mercedes driver is highly self-critical of the latter part of the season:


"It's a very important victory for me after a difficult period. But I've worked hard to address the issues and improve, and I managed to find this win, so I couldn't be happier".


The Finn already has his sights set on 2018:


"I hope to improve next year".


Regarding his success at Yas Marina, he says:


"I managed the pace and the race. I had positive feelings, had a small lock-up when I was approaching a lapped car, but then no other problems; the car worked really well".


In the opinion of the British driver:


"I offer my congratulations to Valtteri because he really had a great race. It was a beautiful race where I gave it everything I had. It's very difficult to overtake on this circuit, but I want to thank my team for everything they've given me this season, and it's an honor to work with them".


A solitary race for Sebastian Vettel, who finished third, and second in the driver's standings:


"Hamilton deserved to win the championship; he was the best. We will work during the winter and hope to come back even stronger next year".


His Ferrari couldn't do more:


"I had a good start but not much space. Then there were 3-4 laps where I couldn't go faster. In the second stint, I started to feel the car better, had a better race pace, but not enough to catch the Mercedes".


Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari joins the ranks of the winners and pays tribute:


"I hate to say it, but Lewis Hamilton was the best, and he deserved the championship".


So it goes. Just as it is true that an era is fading behind them, and the logo of Formula 1, created 23 years ago by Emperor Bernie Ecclestone, is replaced by the new one projected onto the podium and from now on, everywhere. Three red lines, round, essential, in 3D. Simple and sinuous. Designed primarily for the web, where the new American owners want to go. Speaking to the younger generation to bring them into the next Social Formula. Sean Bratches, the commercial director of the Circus and former ESPN manager, knows that this is not just a makeover; it's a baptism of the form and destiny of this glorious program:


"The old brand no longer works on digital platforms. Even Coca Cola and Starbucks have revised their logos to fit the new containers. We want to reach a broader audience, give ourselves a new identity, reposition ourselves in a changing market".


A lot: Liberty Media has many revolutions in the pipeline: Super Bowl-style races, interactive TV graphics, on-demand content even on mobile phones, different broadcasts for each country, fan festivals, plenty of merchandising, and plenty of entertainment. Too much, according to the former boss, who called it fast food.


"The new logo? I liked the old one better".


Sebastian Vettel says, and even Lewis Hamilton is skeptical because:


"It's like changing the brand of Ferrari or Mercedes, which are icons, but perhaps this will become one too".


Perhaps it's not everything, even though it's a lot of what will happen. In 2018, the number of available engines will change, the safety halo will be introduced, and discussions about the future will take place. The present is about celebrating others. Valtteri Bottas closes the year with his third career victory, and Hamilton finishes almost apathetically in second place.


"But I gave it my all; my teammate did well to keep me at bay. An epic championship, or perhaps a historic one?"


Both work, even Seb acknowledges this as he looks at his own shadow, slow and third, almost twenty seconds behind the Finn. He had to defend his second place in the standings, and the German has locked it down:


"We don't go on vacation at Ferrari. I'm very hungry for next year".


In the Abu Dhabi paddock, the most red-clad man near the Ferrari is Lapo Elkann. He's wearing a double-breasted jacket in Scuderia Ferrari red, matching glasses.


"We have to give strength and confidence to Ferrari. Support it".


Lapo writes on Instagram what he calls a love letter:


"Dear Scuderia Ferrari, you are always in our hearts, and you always thrill us with the most beautiful values and the greatest determination possible. You made us enjoy, you made us cry, but each of you, Exceptional Human Beings, I have always seen giving your utmost. You give it 300% and make us prouder and prouder. It's been an incredibly exciting but also very tough and challenging year; you never gave up, you believed and continued to believe until the end with consistency, strength, determination, and the passion that sets you apart from everyone and everything else. Next year, with the same Strength and Determination, we will do everything to become World Champions again. Well done to all, from the First to the Last".


Now Formula 1 has its Hall of Fame too. Inaugurated by the FIA at a gala evening at the Automobile Club de France in Paris on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, the virtual hall houses the legends of four wheels. Nine World Champions were present at the event, such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, and Nico Rosberg. In total, 33 drivers from the Circus, from the first World Champion, Giuseppe Farina, to the most recent, Lewis Hamilton, have had the honor of immediately entering the Hall of Fame. Among them, the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher couldn't be missing, the most successful driver in the history of Formula 1. The German, who is still on the long road to recovery after the accident that occurred four years ago on the slopes of Meribel, was celebrated last in one of the most emotional moments of the evening.


"We all know that Michael should be here, and I'm sure he would have liked to be here; he would have been very honored. What made Michael so special and successful was his love and passion for this sport, just like everyone in this room".


Says Michael Schumacher's manager, Sabine Kehm.


"We miss Michael. He's there, still fighting".


Those are the words of Jean Todt, the former Ferrari general manager and current FIA president. He talks about Michael Schumacher, with whom he won everything during their time at the Maranello team.


"Michael is a very special person; he is for the world of motorsport, he is for me, he is a true friend, and he continues to fight to recover".


Todt continues, recalling an anecdote from the time he spent with the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion:


"He was about to start the 2001 season, and Michael, despite being the world champion, timidly asked me, 'May I do some tests at Fiorano to make sure I can still drive?' He was always full of doubts, whether he was a good driver or not. That shows his humility and a complete lack of arrogance".


The new initiative by the FIA was warmly welcomed by the drivers. Sebastian Vettel comments:


"It was incredible to see all these names and faces. Many of them I only know from what I've read and seen, but I think it's a fantastic idea. There is so much history in the sport, and it's still very much alive, and thanks to events like these, it will remain so".


During the gala evening in Paris, the Hall of Fame website was also launched. FIA President Jean Todt emphasizes that this is just the first phase of an ambitious project, anticipating that:


"The Hall of Fame will soon expand to the FIA headquarters in Geneva, and other champions and disciplines will be in the spotlight in the coming years".


A Hall of Fame that is hoped to include more Ferrari drivers since President Sergio Marchionne speaks of two years to avoid the divorce between the Maranello team and Formula 1:


"I believe there are conditions to save the marriage. We all have to commit to it".


Is Liberty Media, the new owners of the circus, really indigestible spouses?


"They are inexperienced, which is understandable. Ross Brawn, who has plenty of experience, is also with them. There are things that Ferrari cannot accept. If they want to turn Formula 1 into the NASCAR championship, they can do it without us. We won't be there".


As an appetizer for Christmas lunch, it's not bad. On Monday, December 18, 2017, the President of Ferrari sums up a year that promised better and ended up far from Mercedes:


"Considering where we started, we made giant strides. But the second part of the season was embarrassing. The Asian races were a nightmare. Then we recovered, but by then, the turkey was cooked".


In Maranello, they are convinced that without the mistakes made in Asia, Ferrari could have won the World Championship:


"We did a simulation that says this".


Who made those mistakes? The drivers stand as the accused. Maurizio Arrivabene defends Sebastian Vettel:


"Today, everyone appreciates Hamilton, but let's remember that Vettel has won four championships like him. You don't reach these milestones by chance. Sebastian is a guy who gets emotional; he's a bit southern".


But impulsiveness can be cured:


"Vettel is someone who studies and will improve in 2018".


Kimi Räikkönen, on the other hand, is inconsistent:


"We spent the season looking for the screw that would make him light up. In Monaco, we found that screw. Kimi was passing within a millimeter of all the walls. Yes, but we can't evaluate a season based on just one race".


What will the Ferrari of the next World Championship be like? It will be presented, even if virtually, on February 22, 2018, on the Scuderia Ferrari website.


"We have to work a lot on the engine; we've changed the organization of the sports management, and we can already see the results".


Alongside him, Mattia Binotto confirms this. The president has a lot of faith in the effect of his corporate management philosophy:


"I hate the pyramid system. Hierarchies are often obstacles. In FCA, I have forty people who report directly to me in Europe and the USA. We're doing the same in Ferrari. We're even breaking down the barrier between the racing team and road car production".


So, it's not surprising that an engineer like Corrado Iotti transitions from road car production to coordinating the Scuderia Ferrari engine department. Breaking down barriers, overcoming obstacles, flattening pyramids. But for what Formula 1? For a championship with as few rules as possible.


"For me, the ideal would be for them to give me the tire specifications, and that's it. Everything else, the engine, chassis, aerodynamic solutions, should be free. This would unleash the creativity of the teams. Instead, today we are forced to live with very detailed rules. If they tell me even the characteristics of the left fin, it's easy for all the cars to be more or less the same, there are no overtaking opportunities, and everything becomes boring".


How can you not die from rules?


"By removing some of them. Immediately, for example, we could allow the use of DRS all the time and not just in certain parts of the track".


And then, a new regulation will need to be developed for 2020:


"One that rewards creativity without turning into a county fair. Formula 1 has its nobility".


Who agrees to fight the popular drift?


"The major manufacturers".


That is, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Renault, the ones who compete in Formula 1 to challenge each other in motorsport and not just to promote a soft drink. Is there room for one last consideration about Alfa Romeo's rivals?


"They're just starting, and they will become autonomous little by little".


After the Snake, will the Trident of Maserati also take to the track?


"It's an idea that I have in mind, but it's not possible now".


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