The Undercut: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Say hello, wave goodbye…

Well, just where did F1 2018 go to?

Here we are already at race 21 of 21 and the end of what has been (Ferrari fans may not agree) a pretty damn good season.

It is sad to see it end, but as we have already covered elsewhere on DriveTribe, 21 races is a bit too much. Give the punters less and keep them hungry should be the way to go, though if Liberty Media had their way, we’d be racing right up until Boxing Day.

However – and apologies as we bang this particular drum once more – there is little point having all these races if nobody is going to watch them.

Fewer people these days can afford the cost of going to a Grand Prix and this will be, for the foreseeable, the last season with live races on terrestrial telly in the UK.

Projected UK TV F1 viewing figures for 2019.

While Sky do an admirable job of covering the sport, to get new fans and to keep the existing ones, it really does need to be live and avaliable for free.

Quite how nobody at Liberty can see this is anybody’s guess – maybe they are just too busy sorting out an exciting new race to be held in Ulaanbaatar or some-such place.

Anyway, as Kimi Raikkonen would say, it is what it is, and we’ll just have to be grateful that Channel 4 will be showing highlights programmes, even if that will entail watching races like the Mexican Grand Prix at something like midnight on a Sunday.

So, back to the current and this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Yas Marina, the only circuit to have a multi-storey car park as part of the track

It is fair to say, with few exceptions that this race does not provide much of a spectacle. Overtaking is pretty much all DRS related and being stuck in the middle of the desert, rain is hardly likely to spice things up.

Most of the action so far this week has been going on off track, as of course you’ll know, unless you live in the aforementioned Ulaanbaatar, this is Fernando Alonso’s last F1 race.

Of course, not everybody believes that, and many have already kicked off the 2020 driver silly season, by wondering which team Alonso will make his F1 return with.

During FP1, Sky’s David Croft asked Haas boss, Guenther Steiner, if there would be a place for the Spaniard in his team. Somewhat surprised, he skirted diplomatically around the issue but basically said 'no thanks chum'.

He’ll be back…

It's a fair bet that the only team willing to insert Fernando into their line-up would be his personal fan club, McLaren.

Team boss Zak Brown would no doubt jettison Lando Norris or Carlos Sainz in the blink of an eye if it meant having his beloved Alonso back.

The team have even had special dispensation to run a one-off (or not, as the case may be) 'cheerio' livery on his McLaren. They don’t appear to have done one for Stoffel Vandoorne though.

Maybe just painting “Sorry we buried your F1 career” on the sidepods would do the trick.

You’ll be seeing a lot of this man in 2019…

I am aware, and apologies for this, that I’ve been a bit downbeat so far today, so how about a good news story?

There is without doubt, just the one: the return after eight years, of Robert Kubica.

As F1 fans, we have been drip-fed stories and rumours of his return for at least two years, so like Alonso’s 2020 comeback, we aren’t that surprised, but when the news of his Williams deal made item three on the BBC Evening News, you know it is something special.

I’m only surprised that Theresa May didn’t insert anything about it in her daily Brexit drone-athon.

Talking of being surprised, the only person seemingly taken aback by the news was, bless him, Williams incumbent Sergey Sirotkin, who said glumly this week, to nobody in particular, that he ‘could not believe he was not an F1 driver anymore’.

The drive, as with most in F1, probably had an awful lot to do with who could bring the most wonga, though Williams say the Kubica choice was down to speed.

We’ll have to see won’t we? There are many who wish the Pole the best, but he has a hell of a task in front of him.

Are Force India referring to the latest Haas complaint here?

Off track, there are more shenanigans involving the Haas team, where if complaining about stuff earned you points, they’d be world champions.

Apparently, there is still anger there about Racing Point Force India not really being Force India and that Racing Point Force India didn’t design the Force India car that Racing Point Force India have been racing all year.

All clear? Good.

Onto the race then and what can we expect?

Not much out of the ordinary would be the likely answer but you never know.

As of FP1, the Red Bull’s were looking very speedy while pretty much everybody else was where you’d expect them to be, though our arguing pair of Force India and Haas are right in the mix, so maybe a bit of argy bargy between them on Sunday might be something to look forward to.

Talking of Red Bull, cheeky scamp and chief shover, Max Verstappen, was having fun on Friday, laying down rubber in his pit box.

So sad to see youngsters smoking.

“Is that enough smoke?” he asked, to get the reply from his engineer “Yes, but not the launch we’ll be looking for on Sunday”.

Oh Red Bull, what a riot.

One influencing factor could be the new ‘sausage’ kerb installed at turn twenty, to try and keep the drivers on the race track for once.

Sausage Vandoorne

After an hour of having 20 F1 drivers constantly bashing into it, the thing already looked like it was falling to bits, so unless the drivers try to avoid it, you could see a puncture or two coming.

Whatever the outcome, this is our last blast of F1 until March and a long winter beckons, so fingers are crossed for a good send off for 2018.

So, join me @GrandPrixDiary over on Twitter for the race weekend and also with the rest of the gang in the DriveTribe chat channel.

Cheers!

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