So this is it. The sun has set on the desert, the season and Fernando Alonso’s illustrious F1 career. Sadly, Badger GP is also calling it a day. For one last time, I have the privilege of picking Top Dog…and I have to admit it was a bit of a head scratcher. My trusty note book has no fewer than SIX names written down as serious contenders for the coveted canine crown. Sainz, Max, Lewis, Leclerc and Ricciardo were all on the list. Terrific drives all. But after much pencil chewing, my mind is made up. Who is our top Abu Dhabi dog? Which mutt mastered his moves around the marina? Pop that sparkling rosewater cork for…

…FERNANDO ALONSO

Farewell Fernando | Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren

Yes, the wily old devil has won me over at the last hurrah. The viewing public thought the same and he was duly anointed official Driver of the Day. And who am I to disagree? Nostalgia plays a part, no doubt, not to mention a hefty dose of gratitude for seventeen years of a job bloody well done. He may have only two world championships to his name, but Fernando is still regarded as one of the all time greats. He may have rattled some team bosses along the way, but he still commands colossal respect from his peers. He may have accumulated a few blots on the old copy book, but fans love his never-say-die attitude.

I could go on waxing lyrical about Alonso’s best moments, but Top Dog is about the performance of the race, right? And here’s why Nando takes that prize. For one thing, he finished the race! Making the chequered flag is unusual these days, so it was a relief to see him cross the line on his last outing. He fought valiantly in attack and defence despite his, er, dog of a car. He was running in the top ten at the half way point, hanging on to the hind quarters of much speedier cars ahead. When young gun Charles Leclerc (so excited to see him in a Ferrari next year) pulled a nifty overtake on the Spaniard, Alonso stayed glued to him for a few more corners before finally giving in.

After his pit stop, he was dead last. But tenacity is our Fernando’s watch word and he wasn’t going down without a fight. His late-braking pass on Sirotkin was downright fab. A few laps later he overhauled Brendon Hartley. Could our retiring hero make it into the points and go out with a bang? Almost, people, almost. In the dying laps he was in with a shout of nicking the last point from Kevin Magnussen. Until he decided to cut the corner. Three times! Naughty Nando. Time penalties followed and the chance of 10th place was kaput. Alonso didn’t seem bothered. It was his final V-sign to the powers that be. Muchas gracias but I am outta here. And I’m taking my 1800+ points with me! (Another brilliant radio retort from the Spaniard).

Pirelli Media

Alonso joined Hamilton and Vettel for a final lap of honour, treating the adoring crowd to some synchronised doughnuts under the stars. There was something in the air that night – and Fernando is a most worthy Top Dog. We will miss you. Now off you pop and win that triple crown!

So there we are, folks. It’s time to retreat to the kennel and let the sleeping Top Dog lie. It’s been my absolute pleasure writing this column for the past couple of seasons. Thank you for reading along, you gorgeous people. Keeeeeep watching!