Organisers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix insist that they want to keep their spot on the Formula 1 calendar as the final race of the season. It’s a prestigious placement for the event, despite the fact that normally by this point of the year both the driver and team championships have been wrapped up.
That can leave the finale looking something like a ‘fifth wheel’ on the schedule, but the race promoters insist that the kudos of being the final race of the year more than makes up for the lack of any title drama: “It works really for us to be the season finale,” Yas Marina chief executive Al Tareq Al Ameri said this week. The end of November window is good for us as it encourages people to come here, to enjoy themselves and to experience what Abu Dhabi has to offer,” he told The National newspaper.
The timing also means that teams can stay on at the circuit for three days of post-season testing with Pirelli in optimal weather for late November. The last four years have seen the titles won before the F1 circus arrives in Abu Dhabi. This season, Lewis Hamilton closed out his fifth world championship in Mexico, and Mercedes sealed team honours last time out in Brazil.
“We have seen it before that it has not taken a lot from the event,” Al Ameri insisted. In fact, he believes that with the titles out of the way it could even make for a better event on the day. That’s because teams are no longer having to play it safe and protect engines, or issue orders to their drivers to stop them battling between themselves rather than maximising points. It usually makes for a good race,” he insisted. “You see the drivers allowed to go all out for victory with no team strategy or orders to get in the way. It produces pure racing,” he concluded.
Although Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are confirmed as the top two in the drivers standings, and Mercedes and Ferrari finish at the top of the constructors championship, there are still some battles to be decided further down the order. Force India have an outside chance of overhauling McLaren for sixth place, while just 15 points covers Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso. In the drivers battle, Kimi Raikkonen is yet to lock up third place before he leaves Ferrari for Sauber over the winter.
All 20 drivers taking part in this year’s championship have clinched at least one championship point heading into this weekend’s season finale.