2018 Abu Dhabi GP Review – By Bob Constanduros
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a bit same-old same-old, wasn’t it? It was never going to be the championship finale we hoped for and indeed, the F2 and GP3 championship finales – which did have to be completed at Yas Marina – also went predictably. It’s a fine place for a motor race and the circuit was in brilliant condition as usual but there weren’t really any mysteries when it came to the end of the season.
There are some uncertainties about the track: the temperature can get up to about 45 during free practices one and three and yet by race time it can be down to 30; you only get to experience that in FP2 and qualifying. Tyre performance wasn’t entirely predictable, with some drivers complaining of front right graining and rear tyre wear so there was a lot of tyre management and in the end the drivers described it as one of those races where you just couldn’t necessarily race, you were just tyre managing to the end of the race. There really wasn’t much Sebastian Vettel could do about Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages, which is why he finished a rather uninspiring 2.6s behind the new World Champion at the end.
Of course, the man who really did liven things up was Max Verstappen as usual, the only one of the top six to start on the hypersoft tyres and gaining rapidly on those ahead in the opening stages. His overtaking manoeuvre on a disappointing Valtteri Bottas was brilliant stuff – we saw one or two other similar passes during the support races and also some that didn’t work out so well, so full marks to Max.
We also saw how it can all go wrong in those chicanes on the back straight with the nasty accident which befell Nico Hulkenberg and caused the first safety car we’ve had for six years or so – which was then followed up by a couple of VSCs. You can never be certain that a driver isn’t going to be affected when a car rolls over, but with the halo, there is better than ever chance he’s going to be OK, and that was the case with Nico, of course.
Lewis proved that even with the distraction of actor Will Smith he can still do the business which is why he is a superstar World Champion who attracts superstars – manna from heaven for Liberty. And he had Billy Monger in his garage, who is hoping to move up to what will be F3 next year. (Incidentally, in case you missed it, Mick Schumacher has announced he will be in F2 next year.) Lewis couldn’t have done more and it’s the first time that he has won races after clinching the World Championship.
Elsewhere, there were one or two interesting statistical changes after qualifying. For instance, it was only the third time that Daniel Ricciardo had out qualified Max Verstappen in 2018. Only the fifth time that Brendon Hartley had outqualified Pierre Gasly – Brendon probably already knew that he was being replaced next year by Alex Albon. As my colleague Luke Smith pointed out, the Toro Rosso driver changes read like this: a driver who has been ditched by Red Bull is replacing a driver who has been ditched by Red Bull to partner a driver who has been ditched by Red Bull!
To continue on the stats: Sirotkin outqualified his teammate for the 12th time, Ocon did the same for the 16th time and Alonso completed a total whitewash of the unfortunate Vandoorne. Incidentally, in a similar vein, in the races in which they’ve both finished, Vettel and Raikkonen have each beaten one another eight times this year.
And so 2018 has petered out. Abu Dhabi is a great place for a Grand Prix, there’s a great atmosphere and a real party one. Of course, it’s not to everyone’s taste – nor is the mud at Spa – but it’s interesting to see how many other promotors come to see Abu Dhabi and there are some very serious local dignitaries present.
There are now also a lot of changes to F1; here’s a summary:
Raikkonen leaves Ferrari for Sauber
Ricciardo leaves Red Bull for Renault
Leclerc leave Sauber for Ferrari
Ocon leaves Formula One to become test and reserve driver for Mercedes
Sainz leaves Renault for McLaren
Ericsson leaves Sauber and Formula One for ChampCar
Alonso leaves Formula One for Indy500 and WEC
Hartley leaves Toro Rosso and Formula One
Gasley leaves Toro Rosso for Red Bull Racing
Vandoorne leaves McLaren for Formula E
Sirotkin leaves Williams and Formula One
Stroll leaves Williams probably for Force India.
It’s quite a list.
As I mentioned in my preview, for some the 2019 season has already begun and if it hadn’t, then it does now. Testing is taking place down the road from where this is written. I’m off to Bahrain for some GT racing but in the meantime I wish you a happy Christmas and I hope to be writing about Formula One again next year. Bye for now.