Abu Dhabi Lew! The Undercut bids farewell to F1 2018
For once, Yas Marina served up quite a treat…
Apologies for the terrible attempt at getting the Fred Flintstone quote in the headline there but it had to be done.
As ever with ‘The Undercut’ I won’t bore you with anything approaching a detailed race analysis, there are enough of them out there already and you’ll have seen the race anyway.
If you didn’t watch it because you were expecting the usual Yas Marina yawn, you missed something of a good old race. Not a classic but still worth a couple of hours of your time.
The drama kicked off early with a huge shunt on lap one when Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault got its wheels intertwined with Romain Grosjean’s Haas.
With open-wheeled race cars, a wheel going over that of another car is a scenario that can often end badly, and for Hulkenberg it soon did.
Nico barrel rolled into the barrier, which unlike the armco or concrete of old, clearly cushioned the impact well but there then followed what sounded like a rather panic stricken radio message, with the German, upside down and in his words: “hanging like a cow”. He was also aware the car was on fire.
Thankfully, the Safety Car, Medical Car and more marshals than you could shake a stick at, were all on the scene in seconds.
Q: How does Nico Hulkenberg like his soup? A: He likes a roll with it.
All’s well that ends well, in this instance at least, but I’d be surprised if the FIA did not have a look to see if the Halo device had any part in him not being able to get out. Turning an F1 car the right way up with the driver still in it is not a good thing.
The Renault F1 team tweeter has a GIF for every occasion.
Another driver of note out early on was everybody’s favourite Finnish Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, who ended his career with the Scuderia on lap seven as his SF71H decided it would like to end the year (and the associated pain of it) early.
Kimi, being Kimi, calmly hopped over the wall and instead of doing the normal thing of walking up to the pit wall for a debrief, went straight into hospitality.
Time for a much deserved Cornetto.
From then on, albeit with a bit of shuffling around the pit stops the race was a fairly straightforward affair position-wise.
We were treated to a bit of wheel banging here and there, notably when Max Verstappen gave his good mate Esteban Ocon a little shove, this time using an F1 car as opposed to his hands, during one feisty overtake before he did the same to the hapless Valtteri Bottas a few laps later.
Stoffel Vandoorne getting a bit racey. Better late than never I suppose.
Back in the midfield there was action aplenty, as has been the case for most of the year.
This ‘B Category’ or ‘F1.5’ as some have called it was again pretty entertaining to watch.
Maybe F1 owners Liberty Media might sense an opportunity here and we could have this lot race separately from the top three teams, in two Grands Prix on the same day.
I guess I shouldn’t be giving Liberty such ideas, it is probably just the sort of thing they would go for.
Somebody definitely had too much sugar yesterday.
As it was, our American friends would no doubt have been thrilled by the celebrity level yesterday.
One such celeb, Will Smith, managed the feat of going from somebody everybody loves to see, to being so irritating, that we began to wish he’d just naff off back to that mansion in Bel Air.
His on screen, over-the-top excitement and wacky facial expressions every time something (or nothing) happened were gleefully seized upon the by TV cameras for our enjoyment and it very soon became rather tiresome.
Out on track though, his buddy Lewis was finding it anything but tiresome as he cruised, like your dad out for a gentle Sunday drive, to another easy victory.
It was so obviously easy that he didn’t try to kid us with the usual pretend radio messages of “There is something wrong with the rear” or “Something sounds bad with the engine”.
He may as well have radioed Toto on the final lap to tell him to get the kettle on, such was the certainty of victory.
One last Hammer Time for the year.
So, that then is it for F1 2018. The season is finally over, with an incredible tally of eleven wins for the reconfirmed world champ.
Just the BBC Sports Personality of the Year still to bag and the knighthood when Her Majesty hands out the New Year gongs.
Of course, for many teams, the season was over long ago.
McLaren and Williams realised theirs were over and done with when they rolled the garage doors up in Barcelona for pre-season testing.
Eleven world titles there and a lot of donuts.
Ferrari waited until July before binning their season into a wall at Hockenheim and while Red Bull gamely grabbed three wins, it was always clear from the summer onwards that Sir Lewis of Stevenage was going to end up top dog.
You only have to look at his points tally to fully realise just what a year he has had.
He has trousered 408 of them. A whopping 88 more than his erstwhile title rival, Sebastian Vettel.
As for his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, well if there was any doubt about him being the Mercedes No 2, then this season confirmed it.
It has been nothing short of an utter humiliation for Bottas this year.
Zero wins (although he of course could and should have won in Azerbaijan and Russia), but ending up 161 points away from the other side of the garage is embarrassing .
Fernando finished 11th but at least with ‘Driver of the Day’ he finally won SOMETHING with McLaren.
Look at Hamilton’s achievement another way.
If you add together all of the points scored in 2018 by Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly, Stoffel Vandoorne, Marcus Ericsson, Lance Stroll, Brendon Hartley and Sergey Sirotkin, those thirteen drivers scored 407.
Still less than Lewis did all on his own.
Helmet swap time. They’d fetch a few quid on eBay.
It would take something of a miracle, but Hamilton could equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins, once considered unmatchable, at next year’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Now I know what you are thinking, surely it is down to the car, and of course a fair chunk of that success is.
Had Alonso been in a Mercedes instead of plodding around in a dreadful McLaren, another title for him would have been something of a dead cert.
One day after leaving F1, Alonso is back, in an F1 car…
The constructors points haul is in its own way, just as remarkable as what their champion achieved.
In 2018, Mercedes scored nearly TEN TIMES the amount that the once great Williams team managed, which is impressive, sad and worrying, all at the same time.
However, regardless of the prospect of another year of Lewis and Mercedes dominance, we can still look forward to a tasty 2019 season.
Only two teams, Mercedes and Haas, have kept the same driver line-up, so with a lot of new drivers in new teams, there are more unknowns than usual.
Add to that the return of Robert Kubica, in at Williams, Sauber star Charles Leclerc off to rattle Vettel’s cage at Ferrari, with of course Raikkonen still around to amuse us all with his radio messages – well I for one can’t wait.
Just 111 days until the Australian Grand Prix folks. Stay strong…