We’ve reached the end of the 2022 Formula 1 season but there are still big battles to be decided at the final race of the year. On the weekend Vettel bids a fond farewell to F1 and Hamilton
hopes to keep his win streak going, here’s what to watch out for at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!
Hamilton’s Abu Dhabi redemption?
Mercedes’ W13 is now a race winner thanks to George Russell, who took his maiden Grand Prix victory last weekend in Interlagos. It was a breakthrough result for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton securing their first 1-2 finish in over two years. The question now is whether Mercedes can challenge for another big result in Abu Dhabi – and whether Hamilton can get ahead of his teammate.
Of course, very few F1 fans need reminding what happened last time the sport was in Abu Dhabi for the 2021 title decider. Hamilton doubtlessly still feels aggrieved by what happened at Yas Marina Circuit last year – so what better place than Abu Dhabi to pick up his first win of the season and continue a unique statistic. Every year since 2007 has featured at least one Hamilton victory. This weekend is the seven-time champion’s final opportunity to keep the streak alive.
Can Mercedes catch Ferrari?
After Ferrari’s 1-2 result in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, you’d be highly surprised to hear they are trying to avoid dropping to third in the standings as the season reaches its conclusion.
And yet, here we are.
Mercedes have closed the gap to the Scuderia massively in recent races and their 1-2 result in Sao Paulo last weekend means that there are now just 19 points separating the two teams. Mercedes have played down their chances of repeating last week’s 1-2 result in Abu Dhabi but a 20 point turnaround could be achievable, especially if Ferrari run into the kind of trouble which seems to have haunted their 2022 season.
Will Verstappen help Perez in the battle for second?
The major talking point last weekend was Max Verstappen’s defiance of team orders, not allowing his team-mate Sergio Perez to pass him for sixth place at the end of the race to help the Mexican’s battle for second in the Drivers’ Championship. As a result, Perez and Charles Leclerc head into the final race of the season tied on 290 points.
The reasons for Verstappen’s refusal are unknown but are rumoured to centre around an incident earlier in the season at the Monaco Grand Prix. Red Bull say Verstappen will yield to his team-mate this weekend should he need to but whether the Dutchman can be trusted to do so remains to be seen. Expect fireworks if any orders are disobeyed!
Who’ll come out on top in the battle between Perez and Leclerc? Neither driver has the best record at Yas Marina. Perez has retired from the last two Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, while Leclerc has scored just a single point here since his last podium at the event in 2019. It could be a very close deciding race between the pair.
The end of the road for Vettel
There’ll be a few fond farewells over the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend. The biggest of all is for four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who bows out of Formula 1 after an illustrious career.
Vettel may not have had the opportunity to reap many rewards during the final two years of his career in largely uncompetitive Aston Martin machinery. Nevertheless, the German has shown flashes of brilliance, including his podium finish at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix and sixth place finishes this year at Baku and Suzuka. A solid points finish in Abu Dhabi – a track at which he has not scored since 2019 – would be a fitting end to Vettel’s career.
Farewells for Ricciardo, Latifi and more
Vettel isn’t the only one waving goodbye as the sun sets in Abu Dhabi. Nicholas Latifi’s Formula 1 career also comes to an end with his place expected to be filled by Logan Sargeant in 2023. Aside from a ninth place finish in Suzuka, it has been a largely anonymous year for the Canadian.
Consistently out-performed by team-mate Alex Albon, it’s no surprise to see Williams taking a chance on fresh blood in 2023.
Also stepping aside in 2023 is fan favourite Daniel Ricciardo. He’ll take a year out, most likely as a reserve driver, as he looks for a way back on the F1 grid in 2024. The results have been
underwhelming for the Australian in 2022, with only six points finishes compared to his teammate’s 16.
Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso will also be departing their current teams after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Gasly, the Red Bull junior team’s most experienced driver, heads to Alpine next year, while Alonso fills Vettel’s slot at Aston Martin. Having not scored at the last four races, Gasly will be hoping to leave the team with a final points result, while Alonso will be looking to build on his impressive fifth place finish last weekend.
Championship positions still to be decided
It may be the end of the season but the end of year celebrations cannot begin just yet for some teams, who are still vying for all-important championship positions. Just five points stand between Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo in the battle for sixth, while two points separate Haas and AlphaTauri in the battle for eighth.
If you look at previous form in Abu Dhabi, you could suggest that the battle for sixth is very much all to play for. The Aston Martin team has scored points in all but one of the last 11 Yas Marina races, while Alfa Romeo have scored only once at the track since 2013. However, in the 2022 season, Alfa Romeo have scored more points than Aston Martin in the last two races and there has been just one race weekend on which Aston Martin have scored more than five points.
The battle between Haas and AlphaTauri is equally intriguing. Kevin Magnussen took the shock result of the season last weekend as he secured the first pole position of his career – but Haas have not had strong results in Abu Dhabi. The team has scored here only once in their six appearances, while AlphaTauri have scored in all of the last three Yas Marina races – including with a best-ever double top five finish in 2021. Expect a hard-fought weekend in the lower half of the Constructors’ Championship!