So here we are – Abu Dhabi. After 18 rounds, as desired, the drivers title is still to be decided and double points have come in to their own. Lewis versus Nico is the main topic of interest but the possibility of this being the end of the F1 road for many is equally of interest
Lewis v Nico
Based on form in the first half of the season, this weekend would have been more naturally suited if the roles had been reversed: Hamilton the chaser, Rosberg closing it out. This is no longer the case with Hamilton showing a ruthless efficiency in his driving and Rosberg combining speed with hot-headed mistakes. Similarly the roller-coaster that has been the 2014 season for both not only sets up the title showdown but arguably will set them for the rest of their Formula 1 careers.
Should calamity strike now, you wonder whether Hamilton could handle psychologically losing the title? Cast your mind back to qualifying at the British Grand Prix and you wonder whether a man shell-shocked by losing pole position has sufficiently hardened in mentality to cope with losing a title at the last gasp. Conversely, this could be Rosberg’s best and only chance of a title. With Mercedes set to dominate for the next few seasons, Lewis Hamilton with title number two to his name would likely be in imperious form thereafter. Hamilton has shown great resilience and is better placed than any time this year to close it out but you still wonder if the events post-Spa played a destabilising role.
It is entirely moot but in another reality, would Hamilton have been so dominant post-Spa if Mercedes had not been so public and comprehensive in their criticism of Rosberg? If Nico had not received such a negative response, would the double points be inconsequential because the title battle would have still been only a few points difference? Whilst many still view that collision as an ‘act of war’ as Lewis put it recently, several experts from Alain Prost to Fernando Alonso have discredited the claim it was premeditated and deliberate.
In the end it will only be intervention by others or mechanical failure that will derail Hamilton’s title challenge. And on balance, a second title for Hamilton is the right result.
End of the road
Much has been said about Jenson Button and his treatment by McLaren. Perceived publicly to be left unaware and unprepared for what will likely be his last F1 race. For me, since before Brazil he has looked, talked and driven like a man knowing his time in F1 is done. Whilst the process perhaps isn’t ideal, it is the right outcome as I wrote about a while back.
Subject to some messy legal challenges, Adrian Sutil could find himself in a similar situation. Certainly less definitive but definitely overdue it has opened up the chance for Felipe Nasr which is exactly what midfield seats like Sauber’s should be used for. Adrian will land just fine in the DTM no doubt or perhaps join Jenson in sports cars and endurance racing.
Vettel bids farewell to Red Bull – for a while at least – and consequently confirms what we all knew about this being Alonso’s final race for Ferrari. There is something quite funny – and very Formula 1 – about Red Bull having already done the dirty on Ferrari by ‘announcing’ their line-up earlier in the season. Now Ferrari have effectively done the same to McLaren by confirming Alonso’s departure. Any opportunity to get one over on each other, and F1 teams will take it.
More interesting and worrying are the other potential ends of the road. Caterham are here thanks to their fan-supported crowd funding exploits. The decision to squeeze fans further to help a team survive is one I wholeheartedly disagree with. It will not likely save the team and only assist the administrator of the team – currently having a blast as team principal – sell the team for a higher price, and take a bigger cut as a result. Whether they survive in some shape or form, to become a stable team for the future is very doubtful.
Banco do Brasil sponsorship for Sauber – courtesy of Nasr – plus the default prize-money as a result of Marussia’s demise leaves them on a better footing for 2015. Given the events of 2014, assuming Sauber or even Force India are certain for 2015 is risky. Despite Vijay Mallya’s typically flamboyant and upbeat comments, you wonder how stable/liquid is the team for the medium to long-term.
These are the issues that Bernie should be focusing on as the season concludes instead of being mischievous around going back to V8 engines. Which is another story for another day…