Abu Dhabi Grand Prix braces for deciders, farewells in milestone race

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix braces for deciders, farewells in milestone race
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One at the Yas Marina circuit last year.

Dubai - The Capital will also witness Alonso bid adieu with his 312th Grand Prix start.



By James Jose

Published: Wed 21 Nov 2018, 8:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Nov 2018, 10:19 AM

The freights of the 10 teams have arrived and have been unboxed and set-up in team garages for what will be their new home for the weekend.
The venue, as always, has undergone a spring clean and a fresh coat of paint has been applied. Yes, it is that time of the year again when the onset of a lovely UAE winter sees the jaw-dropping Yas Marina Circuit roaring to life with the sights and sounds of Formula One mean machines and the smell of burnt rubber on the dead-black tarmac.
Unfortunately, the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix over the weekend won't witness a championship decider for the second consecutive season with the 2018 World Championship, the 69th running, having been put to bed with the bullet-proof Mercedes wrapping up the Drivers' and Constructors' standings, in Mexico and Brazil respectively.
But then, there is still some things left to play for and, as the Grand Prix prepares to celebrate a massive milestone of 10 years in existence, the UAE capital will also be the setting for a farewell and good byes.
First up, the season finale will see an intense three-way shoot-out between Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen for third in the Drivers' Standings.
With Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton notching a fifth world title in Mexico and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel having to settle for second, the battle is on between Raikkonen, Bottas and Verstappen.
'Iceman' Raikkonen leads over his Finnish countryman by 14 points on the back of 12 podiums this season with Dutchman Verstappen a further 17 points adrift. Raikkonen has 251 points, while Bottas has accumulated 237 points. Verstappen is just three behind Bottas on 234 points. That should make for an interesting tussle as the final race of the season plays out.
Meanwhile, Renault face a fight on their hands from Haas for P4 in the Constructors' Championship. McLaren are up against Force India and Sauber for P6.
Abu Dhabi will also witness double-world champion Fernando Alonso bid adieu with his 312th Grand Prix start being his final one in 17 years in Formula One. It will be an emotional moment and McLaren will be giving a fitting farewell to the Spaniard, with the Woking-based team coming up with a special livery on his MCL33 car for the Grand Prix.
Alonso, who won back-to-back world championships in 2005 and 2006, with Renault is eyeing new pastures and is looking at a winning the famed Indy 500 to complete the 'Triple Crown' following triumphs at the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hourse of Le Mans.
"Abu Dhabi will certainly be very emotional race for me, as it will be the end of a long and happy 17 years in Formula 1. The time has come for me to move on, but I'm looking forward to ending the season and my F1 career on a positive note," said Alonso.
Meanwhile, 2007 world champion Raikkonen leaves Ferrari following a second stint to rejoin his first team Sauber, while Daniel Ricciardo says goodbye to Red Bull Racing, with the Australian joining Renault. Charles Leclerc has big boots to fill, with the Sauber driver being signed up by Ferrari.
The Grand Prix also marks the first time the new F1 logo will be seen with the old black and red one, that signified Formula One for the best part of three decades, used for the last time here, last season.
james@khaleejtimes.com 
 


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