The sun will set on the 2019 Formula 1 season as it draws to a close at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

After 21 races and nine months of intense on-track action, the curtain will finally fall on another campaign in the desert under the floodlights at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. 

Both world championships have already been sewn up by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton respectively, but there are still a number of things to sort before the chequered flag is waved for the final time in 2019 at the end of Sunday’s 55-lap race. 

Ferrari is looking to bounce back following a nightmare race in Brazil as Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc took each other out in what team principal Mattia Binotto described as a “silly” collision. 

A first victory in Abu Dhabi for the Scuderia would go some way in rounding out what has ultimately been another year of disappointment - amid its latest failure to beat Mercedes to a title - on a positive note. 

The ever-improving Red Bull-Honda partnership continues to blossom following Max Verstappen’s third victory of the season at Interlagos, having led home Honda’s first one-two in 28 years ahead of Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly in a shock second place.  

Returning Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who missed his first grand prix weekend since 2013, says his double-championship winning outfit has a “point to prove” in Abu Dhabi after underperforming in Sao Paulo. 

Mercedes is seeking a 15th win of the campaign at the season finale, though its hopes of maintaining its 100 percent record at Yas Marina in the the V6 hybrid era might be dealt a blow if Valtteri Bottas - who won the 2017 event - is required to take a grid penalty for an engine change following his retirement in Brazil. 

Having never previously won a race in the same season after already wrapping up the drivers’ crown, Hamilton ended 2018 in style with successive victories. Can he pull off a repeat this time around? 

The recently-crowned six-time world champion can score his 11th win of the campaign (and 84th of his career) in what will be his 250th grand prix start in Abu Dhabi. 

Duel to be ‘best of the rest’

Behind the anticipated battle for victory, the rest of the order still needs to be settled. 

With Bottas having already locked out a Mercedes 1-2 in the drivers’ standings, Verstappen currently sits in prime position to take third spot. The Dutchman holds a slender 11-point advantage over Leclerc, who is 19 points clear of Vettel and determined to end his maiden season at Ferrari ahead of his teammate.

Verstappen’s previous best finish in the UAE came last year with third place behind Vettel and Hamilton, while Vettel - a three-time winner in Abu Dhabi with Red Bull - has stood on the podium in Ferrari overalls on two further occasions in 2017 and 2016. 

Sixth place also remains up for grabs. Gasly is level on 95 points with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz but currently holds the position thanks to his higher-placed finish in Brazil (second to Sainz’s third). 

Alexander Albon could leapfrog the pair of them if he can recover from his late heartbreak of being denied a first-ever podium in Brazil with a strong result for Red Bull. 

The rest of the top 10 looks fairly settled, though Lando Norris could round out his rookie season by sneaking up from 11th if he can outscore Racing Point driver Sergio Perez by two points, while Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen is also in with a sniff of making the top 10. 

Renault feeling the heat 

Renault’s season has fallen short of expectations by its own admission, with the French manufacturer failing to improve on or even equal its achievements from 2018. 

The team can finish no higher than fifth after being beaten to fourth place in the constructors’ by arch rivals McLaren last time out in Sao Paulo. 

Poor reliability at the start of the year, coupled with a lack of any real development progress, has left Renault looking nervously over its shoulders at the emerging threat coming from Toro Rosso. 

Renault is just eight points ahead of Toro Rosso after the Faenza squad enjoyed a sensational result in Brazil with Gasly and teammate Daniil Kvyat amassing 19 points between them as the Frenchman claimed the team’s second podium finish of the year. 

Another double points finish in Abu Dhabi could be enough to lift Toro Rosso above Renault into fifth, which would mark its best-ever result at the end of a season in which it has already scored its highest-ever points tally. 

Nico Hulkenberg is one of two drivers who will say their goodbyes after the Abu Dhabi finale, with Robert Kubica also departing Williams at the end of his comeback season. 

Hulkenberg can help Renault clinch fifth spot in the championship before he makes way for new signing Esteban Ocon, as the out-of-contract German prepares for what could turn be the final race of his 10-year F1 career. 

 

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