Abu Dhabi GP

Vital points up for grabs as F1 says goodbye to one of the sport’s greats

They say that all good things must come to an end and it is certainly with a tinge of sadness that such an incident-packed season closes with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Although Lewis Hamilton wrapped up the drivers’ championship at the Mexican Grand Prix before helping his team Mercedes complete the double in Brazil, there is still much to play for in terms of constructors’ points for the chasing pack behind – certainly when millions in prize money is still at stake.

Ferrari and Red Bull are nailed on for second and third in the standings respectively, but Renault sits a makeable 24 points ahead of Haas behind whilst only twenty points separates McLaren in sixth and eighth-placed Sauber. And despite having all its points cancelled up to the Belgian Grand Prix, Force India has McLaren firmly in its sights.

The Acronis Mission Control Centre in Silverstone will be watching on with interest and hoping for no repeat of the unfortunate collision between Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen that denied the team another strong points finish.

“We approach the race in Abu Dhabi determined to end the season on a high note,” commented team principal and CEO, Otmar Szafnauer. “We’ve not delivered the results we needed in the last couple of races, which puts more emphasis on this weekend. Scoring points is a priority as we conclude a close fight in championship.

“Regardless of what happens this weekend, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on our second half of the season. It’s been a mixed bag of results with some highs and lows. There’s been a bit of bad luck, a few driver errors and some areas where we need to improve as a team. We will certainly take the lessons learned into next year.

“Despite a feeling that we haven’t maximised our recent results, it’s hard to fault the attitude of the team. It has been a challenging year with the reset after the summer break, but we’ve had an incredibly loyal workforce with a tremendous work ethic. I have no doubt we have the right people in place to take a step forward in 2019.”

For Acronis partner Williams Racing, the year has been a challenging one but with preparations for 2019 long since underway, the team hopes to finish the season on a positive note before setting its sights on a more prosperous next season.

“We head to Abu Dhabi this weekend for the final race of what has been a challenging year for the team. Abu Dhabi itself is a fantastic location for Formula One with a great party atmosphere in and around the paddock to end a long season,” commented Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe. “The circuit rewards all-round car performance and has a number of signature features including a pitlane that emerges from under the track. It is a fitting place for the championship’s curtain closer and we look forward to putting on a good show for one final time this year.”

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Of course, the sport also says goodbye to a number of drivers after the final races of the season, not least twice world champion Fernando Alonso, whose glittering F1 career comes to an end in Abu Dhabi, 17 years after his remarkable talent wowed crowds at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.

“Abu Dhabi will certainly be very emotional race for me, as it will be the end of a long and happy 17 years in Formula 1,” said Alonso in his team’s race preview. “The time has come for me to move on, but I’m looking forward to ending the season – and my F1 career – on a positive note. I’m also pleased that my relationship with McLaren will continue with the Indy 500, and there will be more new challenges together. There are very exciting things ahead, and I’m enthusiastic for what the future will bring. For now, I’m not ruling anything out.

“I’m fully focussed on this weekend in Abu Dhabi and making the most of every day – in the car, with the team, and with my friends and family. Abu Dhabi is a tough circuit, but we don’t have anything to lose, so both Stoffel and I will be fighting hard as always.”

All in the F1 community certainly wishes him well. And wishes for a spectacular finale in Abu Dhabi to close the curtain on what has been a spectacular season.

Abu Dhabi GP

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.