Formula 1

Abu Dhabi GP

Ah, the last race of the season. While it didn’t mean much in terms of championships it’s always bittersweet. The winter silly season will be less about which drivers sign where (although I’m anxious to see if Manor survives and signs Rossi… or will he be a reserve Ferrari driver now that Gutierrez has a seat with Haas?) and more about whether other teams can catch Mercedes and to some extent Ferrari. Will Renault buy out the Lotus team finally and what will that look like next year? Will Red Bull and their diva attitude let them figure out their engine supplier now that they took their hard line stance without first lining up a back up plan?

But I digress. I’m sure there will be lots to discuss without any racing going on, so how about Abu Dhabi? Rosberg won the last race of the season to make a point starting out next year. I still think he’s being quite smug about it–like those 3 races somehow mattered more than not winning the championship 2 years in a row. I will, however, give him credit for a blinding qualifying lap that basically set him up to win the race. Hamilton thought he had it in quali and out of nowhere Rosberg flew in after him almost 2 tenths faster.

The race is always a beautiful scene starting late afternoon, into dusk, and finishing under the lights. They say the track and complex all in cost $1.3 billion and I’d say it’s money well spent. Overall, it wasn’t that crazy. Probably because Alonso did everyone a favor and took out Maldonado on the opening lap. I think it’s crap he got a penalty for that–Alonso and the Sauber made contact previously fighting for position in the corner, a fair racing incident, and it looked like Alonso didn’t quite have it back under control when he hit Maldonado.

For team performances:

Mercedes:

Rosberg had a great start and Hamilton had a pretty terrible one. That set the tone for the entire race. There were moments where I thought Hamilton had enough to hunt down Rosberg but in the end the tires didn’t give him what he needed. I appreciate the competitive drive for Hamilton to ask his team to stay out and turn his strategy into a one stopper, but I agree that there’s no way he would have made it to the end of the race with those Pirellis. Plus it probably would have opened up another can of worms from the FIA if a tire had blown. Pirelli would have pointed fingers, and Mercedes doesn’t need that headache going into the winter.

I also wonder how that team dynamic is going to work out over the long term. Having that kind of resentment grow between two drivers (of which I’m assuming is the case based on my own overly competitive nature) can’t be good for them. Will they stick with their German/Monaco-ian because he’s the fan boy and let Hamilton get fed up to find another team, like McLaren did with Prost? Or will they reach a point where they say goodbye to Rosberg in hopes of finding a more suitable second driver who’ll support however many more championships Hamilton can win? I just think one of those drivers will leave… and not under good circumstances in the next year or so. But I was dead wrong about the Haas drivers, so what do I know?

Ferrari:

Vettel had a terrible qualifying but definitely made up for it on race day. He leap frogged through that field like they were standing still. Kimi taking 3rd was great for him. I think he’s fine with being a number 2 driver but I’m sure he still gets tired of all the backlash of being a former champion that doesn’t seem to fight for the win. Something tells me he understands his job and that’s to get the team as many points to support the team’s championship chase. They look to Vettel to win the races, except when he’s in the back of the pack and then they’ll tell Kimi to push and Vettel to get out of the way… just like they did today. It’s a good team strategy and one they’ve stuck with your decades so I don’t really understand why people are surprised by it.

Williams:

Poor Bottas and that release. That cost him finishing the year well, and Williams in general seems to have issues when it comes to their pitting. They had a couple of slow tire changes, the Bottas release into Button’s rear end destroying the front wing, etc. I know Sir Frank Williams’ health has been a concern this year more than usual so I’m starting to wonder how well that team can function without him, despite Claire’s best efforts. I don’t think she’d do anything poorly, in fact I think she’s a great team principle, but there’s an odd dynamic at play when they founder of a team (or business for that matter) has less influence.

I hope they continue to show promise and progress into the winter and can continue being a team to contend with powered by Mercedes.

Red Bull:

Kvyat dominated Ricciardo today. He has an amazing fight in him and I like that he never quits. Of course, it’s impossible not to like Ricciardo, he’s always so grateful to be there. I kind of wish both drivers were with a team I loathed less. I will not get past their antics–4 years of absolute domination followed by 2 years of struggling and they think it’s okay to whine about it and demand the rules be changed or they’ll pack up their toys and go. Put your nose down and get to work instead. You bought your way into success when you got into the sport and now you’re mad others are doing the same thing? Um, no.

Toro Rosso:

Carlos Sainz got after it. He made it hard for some of the bigger drivers to get past and he stayed in the fight until the end. It was a bummer he finished in 11th.

Force India:

Perez really blossomed this season as a driver. He finished 5th today and the ego seems to be under control. His year at McLaren seems to have been a lesson in humility and it’s great to see that he took it and learned from it instead of blaming his problems on something/one else. Hulkenberg finished 7th and added points for the team.

That’s what stood out today for me. Again, the silly season will be interesting to follow but for new reasons. Here’s hoping COTA doesn’t get dropped off the calendar at the last minute like Germany did this year, and here’s hoping McLaren among others have more fight for Mercedes next season. As much as I love them winning since I’m a Hamilton fan, it’s still more exciting racing to see things more about the drivers and a little less about the cars’ advantages.

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