Abu Dhabi darkness descends on 2018 season: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

So this is it. After 8 months, 20 races and 1159 laps of racing, we arrive at the finale of the 2018 season under the lights at Abu Dhabi to close out what started as an intense battle for the title between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, but transcended into a thrashing administered by the Briton.

With Hamilton leading the championship by 81 points, and Mercedes leading the constructors’ championship by 67 points, they carry unassailable advantages into the final race, with the titles being wrapped up in Mexico and Brazil respectively.

As a result, the F1 bandwagon will rock up at the 5.5 kilometre circuit with the same situation as last year; nothing left to fight for, apart from bragging rights for an early Christmas present.

With both the championships done and dusted it would be fitting that the drivers are let off the PR chains and give the fans a treat with some great wheel to wheel racing. Last year the only real action we got to see was a good battle between Lance Stroll and Romain Grosjean for 13th place. Valtteri Bottas took the win ahead of his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in a race weekend which Mercedes utterly dominated.

Abu Dhabi info graphics. Image courtesy of Pirelli

The track was highly anticipated – with an incredible amount of money was invested into the circuit. Whilst the facilities are great; with the LED roof on the hotel the track passes under, beautiful garages and the impressive edifices that are the grand stands, the track was somewhat disappointing.

The pit exit passes underneath turn one, and the circuit designer Hermann Tilke thought this would be an extremely impressive feature. It would have been mightily impressive – if people could actually see it.

At a track like Abu Dhabi, however, action is hard to come by. The high speed, twisty nature of the first sector does not really allow for much overtaking, and the only clear-cut opportunities to pass come at turn 8 and turn 11, resulting in races on the man-made island being fairly processional – a word all too often associated with Formula One these days.

Notwithstanding the track design, we have seen some memorable moments at the Yas Marina circuit since its inception in 2009. Sebastian Vettel clinched his first world title in 2010 in a dramatic season that ebbed and flowed beautifully between 5 title contenders, and who can forget Nico Rosberg’s flying Silver Arrow at turn 17 after colliding with a slow-moving Narain Karthikeyan.

The 2018 season comes to a close with many driver changes, Ferrari will be swapping  Kimi Raikkonen – who will race for Sauber in 2019 , for Charles Leclerc. Esteban Ocon will race for the final time, we suspect until 2020 and he will be replaced by Lance Stroll after his father gifted him a seat at the team he bought; meaning that Williams will be saying farewell to him this weekend. Daniel Ricciardo will partner Max Verstappen for one final race before his move to Renault, while Carlos Sainz switches to McLaren to replace Fernando Alonso.

The legend that is Alonso is leaving the sport at the end of the season, meaning that this will be the last ever race for the two-time world champion. It will be a shame to see him go, but let’s hope he can cross the line with some decent points to see off a career strewn with horrible luck in the final few years.

So it’s a weekend of goodbyes. Plenty of drivers will be on the move, and we’ll be waving goodbye to what has been a tumultuous 2018 season, and as the floodlights are lit up for the race in Abu Dhabi, darkness will fall on 2018 for Formula One.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

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