The curtain came down on a thrilling Formula One season in Abu Dhabi as the 2018 campaign drew to its emotional close.
Full of farewells, close battles and crowning of two junior World Champions, here is what F1 learned from the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso Bows OutEmbed from Getty Images
This weekend would likely be the last ever time that we would see Fernando Alonso in a F1 car and he certainly went out in style.
Although McLaren has been uncompetitive for majority of season, Alonso is the second driver after Michael Schumacher to record two clean sweeps of teammates in Qualifying head to head.
Unlike Schumacher’s whose came in consecutive seasons (1992 and 93), Alonso’s two whitewashes came exactly a decade apart after he thumped Nelson Piquet Jr. in 2008 and now to Stoffel Vandoorne ten years later, again in a year ending in ‘8’.
Raceday meanwhile brought disappointment as the Spaniard failed to score points and lost tenth place in Drivers Championship.
Despite that cruel luck, Alonso however is ‘proud’ of his achievements, saying; “All my career I have always been fighting, sometimes in competitive cars, sometimes not, but I’ve never given up.
“I am proud of what I’ve achieved and for having raced for the best teams in the world.”
Hopefully we will see Alonso back in F1 at some point but for now, its adios and Buena Suerte as he aims to complete the triple crown.
Ricciardo’s Last Stand
Whilst Fernando Alonso bowed out of the sport, Daniel Ricciardo was waving goodbye to Red Bull after five seasons as he prepares to join Renault next season.
Having endured torrid reliability this season, Ricciardo seemed set for a strong weekend based on his pace in Friday Practice but FP3 saw the reliability gods decided to spoil the party briefly with mechanical trouble.
Qualifying went the usual way of Mercedes and Ferrari but Ricciardo maintained his 100% record of out qualifying his teammates around this circuit from over the past eight trips to Abu Dhabi.
One thing that Ricciardo isn’t ‘ecstatic’ about though is failing to finish on podium, having led part of the race only to finish fourth after using too much too soon of the supersofts.
Although he is understandably disappointed now, to lead the race on his 100th and last start for Red Bull is something that most drivers would only wish for when reaching that milestone for one team so Ricciardo has plenty to be proud about from not only this race, but also the last five seasons.
Now, can he replicate his success at Enstone with Renault next season?
Leclerc Proves His WorthEmbed from Getty Images
If there were any people still doubting Leclerc’s potential ahead of his promotion to Ferrari next season, he proved his worth with a stunning weekend.
Having initially sat out FP1 before enduring tricky second and third practice sessions, Leclerc surprisingly produced the goods when he needed it most to land himself eighth on grid and at points, fastest during first two sectors.
He then followed up with a stunning start to get himself up to P4 as result of Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement before making an early stop under Virtual Safety Car, when a possible podium could of been on cards if any of other top drivers ran into reliability trouble.
Having fell down to 14th after his stop, Leclerc produced a brilliant recovery to seventh despite Sergio Perez pushing him throughout latter stages.
In end, the young Monegasque just about held on to give Sauber their highest constructor finish since 2015 by matching their eighth place from that year whilst they also collected their highest points total since 2013 when gained 57 points that season.
Ferrari therefore are gaining an absolute talent in Leclerc who looks ready to go for the title, so Vettel better watch out as we could well have a huge inter team battle at Marnaello next season.
Williams Fizzle OutEmbed from Getty Images
After a disappointing season, this weekend didn’t offer Williams any salvation as preparations for 2019 begin.
Throughout the entire weekend, both Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin have amongst the slowest with one car finishing bottom in every session, which sums up their seasons and raises questions about what Robert Kubica and newly crowned F2 champion, George Russell can do next season in the car.
Kubica in fact had a FP1 run out but struggled as evidenced by finishing over four seconds off Max Verstappen’s pace, highlighting just how terrible this car has been as this season fizzles out on a whimper as Stroll and Sirotkin both move on to pastures new.
Future is Bright
Formula One wasn’t the only racing series to draw to a close this weekend for 2018 as junior categories, Formula Two and GP3 both crowned their new champions as the future looks bright for F1.
This year’s top three are all set to graduate as George Russell joins Williams, after having followed in Charles Leclerc’s footsteps of taking GP3 and F2 titles in consecutive seasons before joining a customer of their parent F1 team.
Lando Norris will also be racing in the top tier next season with McLaren but made it a British 1-2 for the first time in the GP/F2 era, as no country has achieved a championship 1-2 at this level since 2004 when Italy achieved that feat in the old Formula 3000 series (just before being renamed GP2 for 2005).
For those pedantic fans, you could argue that its a British 1-2-3 as Alexander Albon races under a Thai racing license despite having been born and raised in Great Britain. Either way, he is also set for promotion to Toro Rosso if they successfully buy him out of his Formula E drive with Nissan.
Nyck de Vries and Antonio Fuoco meanwhile are amongst F1 backed drivers who have impressed but look set for another season in F2 next season.
Over in GP3 which was celebrating its last ever weekend, Renault backed Anthoine Hubert sealed the title after ART GP teammate, Nikita Mazepin slipped up in race one by collecting a five second time penalty after going off track. Mazepin of Force India soon corrected his error by winning the second race through a calmly measured drive.
Ferrari backed, Callum Ilott meanwhile finished third whilst Sauber’s test driver, Tatiana Calderon continued her strong form with a fifth consecutive points finish.
If most of these continue their rise then, Formula One will definitely be in safe hands come next decade.
Missed any of the first ten race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend/s.
- Great Britain