Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: 7 things you need to know from the final race of 2019
So that’s it, folks. The 2019 F1 season is done and dusted, the drivers’ straw-lined hibernation boxes are being readied for the airing cupboard and the cars prepped for the museums.
Here’s how they finished, and everything you need to know from the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
1. Hamilton caps off his year in style
It’s been another incredible season from Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton – another championship title putting him just one shy of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven.
That title was won weeks ago but you wouldn’t know it by the way he drove this weekend. The Brit took a grand slam of pole, race win and fastest lap – and he led every single lap of the Grand Prix as well.
And on not one of those laps did the champ look remotely troubled by the opposition as he cruised to yet another win. It’s the 84th of his career (putting him just seven behind Schumacher’s record), a 50th win from pole, and his 19th lights-to-flag victory, which equals Ayrton Senna’s record.
It was a great way to cap off the season for Lewis and he must surely be favourite to make it seven titles next year. Can anyone stop this guy?
2. Max powerless to stop Hamilton
If Lewis is to win a seventh title next year he will have to beat a highly-motivated Max Verstappen to do it. The Dutchman could do nothing about Hamilton’s pace today, but after three wins this season and with the increasing competitiveness of the Red Bull-Honda package, there’s no doubt Verstappen will really fancy his chances of a proper title bid next season.
3. Leclerc was third… or was he?
Another man who will be eyeing up a championship charge in 2020 is Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari star raced to third place in today’s race, but at the time of writing we are still waiting to find out whether he will be allowed to keep his podium finish.
Before the race the stewards announced they would be investigating a “significant” fuel discrepancy issue with Leclerc’s Ferrari.
And with a technical issue like that, it’s hard to see how it’s anything other than a slam dunk for the stewards to impose a penalty – the question is, what will that penalty be?
4. Bottas almost makes the podium
After taking a new power unit for the this race, and the grid penalty to go with it, Valtteri Bottas had to start this race from dead last. But he hustled and harried his way through the field and ended up just a second behind Leclerc in third place.
He will no doubt be watching the stewards office closely now, as any penalty for Leclerc could promote Bottas up to third.
Ultimately though, for all the talk of ‘Bottas 2.0’, 2019 has been another disappointing season for the Finn – for the third season in a row he’s been in a championship winning car and yet again he’s fallen a long way short of his team-mate, picking up just four wins compared to Hamilton’s 11. You really get the feeling that 2020 will be his last chance to mount a title challenge, the question is, can he really step up and dethrone Hamilton?
5. DRS disabled
Plenty of F1 fans wish the sport would ditch the Drag Reduction System that allows the drivers to breeze past other cars with apparent ease. For the first 18 laps of this race, those fans got their wish, as a technical issue meant the DRS was not working.
It clearly made overtaking a lot more difficult – and hampered Bottas’ progress through the field, for example – but there was something to be said for watching overtakes happen, and knowing the driver pulling it off had properly earned it.
6. Farewell Hulk
A somewhat underwhelming 12th-place finish for Nico Hulkenberg marks the end of the German’s F1 career, at least for the moment.
With Renault moving him out in favour of Esteban Ocon, the Hulk found himself without a seat in the Formula 1 game of musical chairs, and he leaves the sport without ever having secured a podium finish.
It could have all been so different had a proposed move to Ferrari come off, but it never did. And here’s a question for all you stats fans: is Hulkenberg the only driver in F1 history to have taken a pole position but never scored a podium? Answers on a postcard. Or in the comments.
7. Just 105 days to go...
So yes, that’s it for 2019, but for those of you already craving your next F1 fix, don’t worry – the first race of the 2020 season is just 105 days away. See you in Melbourne!
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