The Undercut: The season is ending but the Kubica hype train is just beginning
Our man @GrandPrixDiary previews the final race of 2017
It is that time of year again, when members of the F1 circus tweet joyous pictures of the huge amount of legroom they get on Emirates and Etihad flights, along with gushing thanks for the unexpected (yeah, right) upgrade and how the whole experience is MUCH better than anything you’ll ever get to do.
Sour grapes from me? Yes, probably, as almost every year without fail, I get invited to a party over the Abu Dhabi weekend, twice now by the same sponsor, despite the fact I’ll be sat in a pub 3,500 miles away.
I always respond, saying how I’d LOVE to attend but due to a problem with geography (and money) I can’t make it but would really like to be there next year and by the way, your product is fantastic and I’ll tell anybody who’ll listen of that fact.
The hint, despite being heavier than Lewis Hamilton’s necklace, is never taken, so instead of sunning myself in Ab-Dab, I’m here in the chilly Cotswolds, waiting for yet another invite to a party I’ll never attend.
Etihad flights are so special, that you get a private display team accompany you all the way from London
So, ahead of the race, what has been happening in the F1 world?
It would not be a regular week if we didn’t have news of Fernando Alonso and his desire to race elsewhere, so it was no surprise to see him pop up in nearby Bahrain, testing a Toyota LMP1 car.
Clearly, the Honda relationship is long over (this final weekend of torture aside) but there must have been some serious string pulling between them, Alonso and McLaren to allow the man the Japanese company pay zillions of yen to get in a car of their most bitter rivals. You kind of get the feeling they just don’t care anymore - and who can blame them?
Elsewhere, the Robert Kubica hype train looks like it is finally about to pull into the station. He and current Renault F1 reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin are to test for Williams in the post season tyre test here next week.
The team apparently still haven’t decided who will partner Lance Stroll in 2018 and as Paul di Resta and Daniil Kvyat’s hopes (such as they were) seem over, the test surely indicates they will go for Kubica, as with Sergey (I cannot help but think of Meerkats whenever I type his name) being only 22-years-old, they still have the same young driver issue with team sponsor Martini, which meant they could not hire Pascal Wehrlein.
One F1 journalist said Kubica was 98% certain, which seems a remarkably precise prediction.
On Monday we were treated to a day of various celebratory tweets by Mercedes, who as usual, crammed every staff member into the hallway and halfway up the stairs, for more back slapping.
Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly well deserved but like those years of Red Bull domination, it is becoming a bit tiresome.
Not that they are great on Twitter anyway but this was one of those days when Ferrari would do well staying away from it.
The Staircase of Smugness makes an appearance. Again.
Anyway, on to the race itself. Talking of Ferrari, they are yet to win in Abu Dhabi and with Sebastian Vettel and the team in form (better late than never) this could be their chance.
However, without wishing to state the obvious, they still have the boys from Brackley to worry about, not to mention the Red Bull pair. Both championships are all done and dusted of course, so this one is all about pride and going into the winter break with one more trophy for the cabinet.
In the middle of the grid though it is a very different story.
Just six points separate Toro Rosso (53), Renault (49) and Haas (47) and the amount of prize money at stake is said to be around nine million quid.
With Toro Rosso previously having alluded to Renault sabotaging their power units, you can expect some interesting words should Brendon Hartley or Pierre Gasly find themselves stood at the side of the track looking at a smouldering engine. Still, they have Honda motors next year, so they’d best get used to it.
The obligatory ‘The sun sets on the F1 season’ shot.
So, we have a few farewells coming up at Yas Marina. Some sad, some not so.
McLaren, with the possibility of topping 400 grid penalty drops for the season, say goodbye and good riddance to Honda. Felipe Massa is retiring for good this time, unless things don’t work out with Kubica and Williams ask him back, while the uninspiring Sauber duo, Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, are both looking uncertain to be back as Ferrari would rather like their young pairing of Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi getting trained up there, and when Ferrari tell Sauber to jump, it is only a question of how high.
No farewells from me though (sorry about that) as I’ll be attempting to keep you vaguely informed of goings on over the winter before the test sessions and car launches kick off in January.
Be sure to join the DriveTribe F1 team in the chat room on Sunday – see you there!