The end is near! It’s the 21st and final round of the championship in Abu Dhabi at the spectacular setting of the Yas Marina Circuit. For the last time in 2018, and for the final time here at Badger GP, here are your reasons to watch all the action this weekend!
A new record for Lewis?
Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of setting a new record this weekend if he finishes on the podium. Should he score fifteen points or more in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he’ll set a new record for the number of points scored in a single season. The current record is 397 points, set by Sebastian Vettel in the 19-race-long 2013 season. Hamilton currently sits on 383 points and will surpass Vettel’s record if he finishes in the top three on Sunday. He may have his work cut out though, as he’s likely to incur a grid penalty for power unit changes this weekend.
Meanwhile, Mercedes will definitely score the least points they’ve scored over a season since the start of the hybrid era in 2014. They’ll score a best of 663 points for the year if they finish 1-2 in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Their previous low was 668 points last year; which is still a pretty envious target for the other teams!
The battle for third and fourth
For the first time since last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this is a ‘dead rubber’ race, meaning both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships have been decided. But, as a reader of Badger GP, if you’ve learned one thing from this site in the past ten years, you’ll know that Formula 1 is NEVER boring.
There are plenty of battles to be resolved a little further down the order. The battle for third is still on between Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen, with 17 points currently separating the trio. Raikkonen has a comfortable 14 point advantage, while just three points separate Bottas and Verstappen. Verstappen is on a streak of four podiums at the moment, so it’s not impossible that he could topple both Finns for third in the title race at the final round. Who’ll come out on top?
Things are still quite tight in the battle to be ‘best of the rest’ in 2018, and an excellent performance from a midfield team could see the winner change at the final round. While Renault are 24 points ahead of Haas for fourth in the constructors’ battle and seemingly unreachable, their driver Nico Hulkenberg is a little more at risk. After his DNF in Brazil, Hulkenberg is eleven points clear of Sergio Perez in seventh place in the drivers’ standings. Perez would need a fourth place finish and another non-score for Hulkenberg to topple him and be crowned best of the rest for a third consecutive year. It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely. Nevertheless, anything can happen in Formula 1!
It’s about to get emotional, folks!
Fernando Alonso will be stepping into an F1 car for the final time (at least for now) this weekend after a glittering career spanning over 300 races. To celebrate, McLaren have a special livery for the Spaniard this weekend. Undoubtedly, Alonso has a championship win count which fails to justify his immense talent. He’s never been too far from controversy, but he’s definitely one of Formula 1’s good guys at heart, and the paddock won’t be quite the same without him around.
Still, at least we get to see him fight for the Triple Crown when he returns to the Indy 500 next year!
The end of an era
Alonso’s departure isn’t the only farewell this weekend. This could be the final ever F1 race for both Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson, who are headed to Formula E and IndyCar respectively for 2019. Esteban Ocon will start his final race for now, though we’re pretty sure he’ll be back at some point in the future. Team-wise, it’ll be the last time we see the famous Martini stripes as part of Williams’ livery as the sponsorship deal comes to an end at the end of the season. It may also be the last race for the ‘Force India’ name, with the team expected to change its title before the start of next season.
Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo will start his final race in Red Bull colours, Kimi Raikkonen competes with Ferrari for the 151st and last time, Pierre Gasly steps into a Toro Rosso for the final time, Lance Stroll will make his last outing with Williams and Charles Leclerc puts in one last performance for Sauber before moving up to Ferrari in 2019. Meanwhile, the futures of Sergey Sirotkin and Brendon Hartley in the sport are yet to be announced.
The constant change is part and parcel of the sport. You only have to look back to when BadgerGP.com began ten years ago to see how quickly things can change. Over the past ten seasons, we’ve seen two drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – define their generation and win multiple championships, while Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button both managed to sneak in a title before retiring from the sport during in that time too. Drivers, teams, circuits and seasons have all come and gone over the past ten years but, in a sport which is ever-evolving, the core has remained the very same. And it’s still just as brilliant as ever.
Long live Formula 1!
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live both on Channel 4 and Sky, with the race beginning at 1:10pm GMT. Make sure you don’t miss your last slice of F1 action for 2018!