Nico Hülkenberg crossed the line at the Yas Marina circuit in sixth position – enough to leapfrog Toro Rosso for sixth in the table.
However his and team-mate Carlos Sainz’s races were far from straightforward…
Hülkenberg qualified seventh fastest and had to re-pass Force India’s Sergio Perez to maintain that position on the opening lap. But his move (using more than the circuit) earned him a time penalty meaning his mechanics had to wait five seconds before being allowed to work on his car during its routine tyre-change pit stop which itself proved nervy when there was a delay with one wheel.
The German though had already built up a substantial gap over the chasing Perez and was able to resume in seventh which became sixth when Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo retired.
That was sufficient for Renault – still only in its second year back in F1 – to pip Toro Rosso to sixth in the constructors’ standings by a point. Impressively it also meant Renault was the highest-placed constructor in the race behind the season’s ‘big three’ – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull whose cars filled the first five places.
A canny drive by Sainz briefly enabled Renault to dream briefly about both its R.S.17s finishing in the points only for disaster to strike. As Sainz left his pit crew after his tyre change the left-front wheel worked loose and he was forced to park up at the side of the track.
Sainz has finished the season ninth overall in the drivers’ standings with Hülkenberg right behind in tenth.
“It was a bit of a thriller!” reflected a jubilant Hülkenberg. “Sixth position in the championship is good for us and will be a morale booster for the team over the winter. We had a good package over the second half of the season, but we have had some issues so it is great to finish on a positive result and go into the winter with our chins up.”
The team’s Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul said: “Mission accomplished. We came here with one clear objective. At the start of the year we set out to finish fifth, which was very ambitious, but ambition is good – you have to set high targets.
“This season we’ve not made it easy for ourselves and the last three weekends have been a microcosm of this rollercoaster of a year. At times we’ve been too aggressive, then too conservative, but we came to Abu Dhabi with a very extreme preparation and the weekend went almost exactly to plan.
“Sixth was the revised goal and I’m so proud we got it. It’s a milestone for the team and an achievement that goes beyond the on-track result. It’s a motivation for everyone – for every team member and a fantastic reward that will count far more through the winter than any financial considerations.”