Ok, we can all admit that 2015 hasn’t been a vintage year for Formula One. Dominated by a fantastic and ruthlessly efficient Mercedes team who thoroughly deserve retaining both their titles, the most exciting action in 2015 has arguably taken place away from the racetrack. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll enjoy the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as much as the next Motorsport fan, for exactly what it is, a great spectacle, a description which would also be fitting if you had to summarize the 2015 F1 season. ….
With all but two teams (Lotus and Toro Rosso) virtually assured of their finishing positions in the constructors championship there remains little to play for when the red lights go out at the final race of F1 season on Sunday, something which will hopefully produce more exciting racing, given that other than the few intra team battles which are still to settle most drivers have little left to race for. With those matters in mind, here are four questions we’d like to see answers for come the checkered flag on Sunday.
Will Abu Dhabi finally be the weekend when we receive official confirmation of Red Bull’s 2016 engine plans? The F1 paddock is still waiting on official confirmation of what is rapidly turning into 2015’s worst kept secret, Red Bull’s 2016 engine woes. If as expected, Red Bull pull off one of the most dramatic U-turns in F1 history and remain with Renault engines (possibly unbranded) into 2016 then Ricciardo’s and Kvyat’s drives will be confirmed for another season. Considering Ricciardo ran the upgraded Renault engine in Brazil (admittedly to very little effect), the continuation of the partnership seems inevitable, it’s just a matter of when the official word will come. More interesting however, is how Toro Rosso will fare with 2015 Ferrari engines next year. On occasion this season, Red Bull’s “B” team have found themselves in direct battles with the four time champions, and if Renault don’t make significant strides over the winter, the two teams could find themselves slightly closer together come the start of 2016.
Nine points separate Lotus and Torro Rosso in the constructors championship, and a big scoring weekend for Toro Rosso (like in Hungary) could see the Italian outfit jump above Lotus in 6th place in the table. With 6th place said to be worth an estimated extra £10m in prize money, the Enstone team, (although almost certain to become Renault next year) could desperately do with the extra income. Verstappen and Sainz have performed exceptionally this season, and had it not been for woeful reliability in his car, Sainz could have been much closer to Verstappen in the table, an in turn Toro Rosso to Lotus. A strong drive from Grosjean in his last race for the team is all Lotus should need to secure their position in the table in what has been a difficult year for the former champions, a decade on from when they won the title with Fernando Alonso.
Just one point separates two generations of Finnish drivers in the championship table. Bottas and Raikkonen have had their fair share of spills in recent races and they head into 2015’s final weekend on 136 and 135 points respectively. Williams went well at Yas Marina in 2014, with Massa taking 3rd on the podium, and the track should suit their slippery FW37 more so than Interlagos. Bottas will be keen to retain his 4th place in the championship from 2014 whilst Raikkonen will be eager to finish an “average” by his standards season with a strong result. The perfect foil for Vettel to stamp his authority on the team, Raikkonen needs to finish above Bottas to ensure he heads into the winter on the strongest possible footing.
After consecutive victories in Mexico and Brazil, can Nico Rosberg complete a stunning resurgence and head into 2016 a reformed driver? Rosberg seems a different man following Austin. Visibly unhappy after Hamilton’s title win, (we’re sure you’ve all seen and heard about it) Rosberg has responded in dramatic fashion with controlled wins in the two following races. Include the German’s five consecutive pole positions then you could be forgiven for thinking that the balance of power is slowly (very very slowly) shifting in the Mercedes camp. Of course, with the championship wrapped up with three races to spare you could argue that Lewis has taken his foot off the accelerator slightly but by his own admission in Brazil, he was beaten fair and square. Hamilton will be desperate to reverse the current trend at Mercedes, a sign off 2015 in the way it started, dominant, assured and freakishly fast.
We’ll be back tomorrow with our Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying prediction.