• Troy Dalton F1 2017 Season Blog Final Race and Season recap

    F1 2017 Career / #1 Driver for Sauber

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    Pre-Race
    This is the last race of the 2017 season and I'm looking forward to taking a short break at seasons end. To date, the season has been an overwhelming success and I've only finished outside of the top 15 four times. Unfortunately, two of those came in the previous two races and my driver reputation has taken a massive hit. Plus, it didn't help that I lost the head-to-head battle against Romain GROSJEAN. In hindsight, I should never have been competing against GROSJEAN, because in the real world, the Sauber isn't very good.

    Most of my success can be attributed to starting the season with a difficulty level that was too low, but I was simply making an educated guess at the time. Right now I'm at 85% and this seems to be a happy medium between my actual skill level, a more realistic expectation of the Sauber F1 team, and keeping it fun without it becoming a grind. However, now that I'm on the verge of completing my first full season, I'm going to be fully focused on improving the car from here on out. As the car improves, I will monitor my progress and increase the difficulty level as necessary. Also, I now have a new rival, Stoffel VANDOORNE.

    Practice
    I completed all my practice objectives in the first two sessions, but I was really struggling to get the car on pace. Midway through the final practice, I decided to scrap my setup completely and started over with my SPA setup as base. I was immediately quicker and after a couple minor tweaks, finished practice with a lot of confidence. I'm not sure I'll have the pace to get out of Q1, but the car is a lot better than it was at Mexico and Brazil, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

    Qualifying
    Goals, 18th grid spot or higher, beat rival (Stoffel VANDOORNE).

    I turned one lap in Q1 and posted a 1:42.897, which was good enough for 14th in the session, then in Q2 I posted a 1:42.949, which was slightly slower, but good enough to put me 12th on the grid.

    Q2/P12 (1:42.949 US/Tires) * - Starting 3rd...yes...3rd, because nearly every car that qualified in front of me was accessed a significant grid penalty.
    Pole: Max VERSTAPPEN 1:41.396

    Race
    Goals, finish 16th or higher, beat rival (Stoffel VANDOORNE).
    Weather Forecast: Clear.
    Race Strategy: One stop. Start on ultra soft's, then switch to soft's on lap ten.

    Race Results
    Podium: P1 Kimi RAIKKONEN / P2 Valtteri BOTTAS / P3 Sebastian VETTEL
    My Finishing Position: 7th

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    Summary
    Let me first say that starting that near the pointy end of the grid was a little bit intimidating, because I knew there were a ton of really fast cars who were behind me and despite Abu Dhabi's vast layout, it is suspiciously difficult to pass there. When the lights went out I got a great jump and thought about shooting the gap between Kevin MAGNUSSEN and Max VERSTAPPEN, but I didn't want to throw the race away in turn one, so I tucked in behind MAGNUSSEN and used the draft to eventually pass him on the long straight heading down to turn 8.

    At that point, I figured VERSTAPPEN would run away and hide, but I stayed just close enough to take advantage of the draft and I followed him for several laps before finally giving way to Valtteri BOTTAS. On lap ten I pitted as scheduled and when I came back out I was in 14th position. There were quite a few drivers who had not yet pitted or were on two stop strategies. Since I wouldn't be pitting again, I figured a top ten finish wasn't out of the question.

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    For the rest of the race I just concentrated on hitting my marks, taking care of the tires, and monitoring my fuel. I even began playing with adjusting the differential for specific areas on the track. It certainly does make a difference, but I need more practice changing settings on the fly. This should be made a bit easier when my McLaren GT3 wheel arrives in Feb...but I digress. The last three laps I had to take some defensive lines to disuade OCON and MAGNUSSEN, but as I previously mentioned, it's not as easy to pass at this track as you might think. Ultimately, I was thrilled with my seventh place finish, but the real story was the dog fight between Ferrari and Mercedes.

    Kimi RAIKKONEN captured his second consecutive win, followed by BOTTAS, and VETTEL, with Lewis HAMILTON finishing in fifth behind VERSTAPPEN. HAMILTON's fifth place finish was just enough to secure him the drivers championship, as he finished atop the F1 standings a mere four points ahead of VETTEL. RAIKKONEN finished the season in third, followed by BOTTAS and then the two Red Bull's.

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    If you thought the drivers championship was close, the constructors championship could not have been any closer. Mercedes-AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari finished the season with exactly 572 points each! Now when you look at the final standings, it shows Mercedes in 1st place and Ferrari in second. However, Ferrari finished with ten victories and Mercedes nine. I think the game doesn't know how to break the tie properly and simply put them in alphabetical order.

    WINS by driver: HAMILTON(6), RAIKKONEN (6), VETTEL (4), BOTTAS (3), VERSTAPPEN (1).

    So, despite MERCEDES being listed as number one, Ferrari actually won the constructors championship via the tie breaker. I must admit, this slight miss step on Codemasters part was disappointing, because even though the game tracks your individual career progress, there doesn't seem to be any historical records. If there are, I can't find them.

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    Another disappointing aspect was the end of season...which seemed like an after thought. No silly season, no drivers swapping teams, no offers from other teams, no fanfare, no nothing. Just a simple screen showing my finishing positions and then that's it. You literally just go right from the end of the season to practice at Melbourne. Yes, there was a 2,242 resource award, but that was just a simple screen stating that fact...oh yea...there was a congrats from the team, but it was so impersonal, it might as well have been written on a napkin. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the lack of anything even remotely significant was a let down.

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    So, time for a short break, then it's off to season two.
    This article was originally published in blog: Season #1 / Race #20 - Abu Dhabi started by Troy Dalton
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