Much to gain in Abu Dhabi

2017-11-22 06:01

THE final round of the 2017 F1 season is upon us as the paddock heads east to the twilight race of Abu Dhabi.

Introduced to the calendar several years ago, the Yas Marina Circuit has delivered resplendent views of F1 cars at dusk since 2009.

With no expense spared, the circuit and surrounding facilities are, arguably, the grandest of the lot.

Complete with its Ferrari World theme park and several thousand coloured LED lights, all the facets of the Abu Dhabi circuit combine to deliver a visual spectacle of note.

Despite not being known for delivering the most memorable on track racing, the Abu Dhabi-based circuit has nevertheless seen the creation of several memorable moments for the sport.

It was here after all, in 2010, that Sebastian Vettel won his first world championship title and here too where Kimi Raikkonen, en route to victory, uttered the now famous “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” radio message.

Last year Lewis Hamilton turned over every trick in his book to win the title and even attempted to back rival Nico Rosberg into the clutches of other cars with the hope that he would be overtaken and thus not win the title.

Alas, none of Hamilton’s moves had done the trick and Rosberg took a well-deserved win. It’s a far different story 12 months later.

Not only does Hamilton arrive in Abu Dhabi as a four-time champion but also there’s no Nico Rosberg on the other side of the Mercedes garage.

Instead, it’s Valtteri Bottas who sits in the other Mercedes cockpit and who has a lot to prove. It’s been a lacklustre second half of the season for Bottas, who has summarily been blown away by Hamilton. While he scored a pole in Brazil, he folded at the first sight of the front wing of Vettel’s Ferrari. He needs a big performance this weekend in order to beginning righting his ship for 2018. If not, Hamilton may well blow him away, again.

Similarly, Daniel Ricciardo could do with putting one over teammate Verstappen who has stolen the limelight from the Aussie this season.

The Yas Marina circuit, 5.5km in length, does have several long straits in its layout but the second, more technical sector, should play to the Red Bull’s strengths.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track,” said Verstappen.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight, under braking, for the next chicane section.”

While the constructor’s championship has been settled at the top of the standings, the battle for sixth is going down to the wire.

Only six points separate Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas, and with the promise of a big payday for finishing sixth, the battle between these three teams could be the highlight of the weekend.

Through 19 rounds and 1 147 racing laps, there’s still much to play for and gain in the final race of the 2017 season.

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