The 2019 F1 Season concluded in Abu Dhabi… So what did we get?
The 2019 Formula 1 calendar came to it’s normal finale at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were Champions once more. In spite of this, there were still some things to compete for. 3rd in the Drivers standing was still between Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. 6th was up for Grabs between Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, and Carlos Sainz. In addition, with the championship wrapped up, we could expect some more all-out racing. Did we get that? Well, sort of.
Qualifying about as we’d expect for the Abu Dhabi GP in recent Years. Mercedes ending up 1st and Second on the timing sheets, with Max Verstappen 3rd. Valtteri Bottas would not start in the P2 place he qualified however, as his Engine failure in Brazil meant he would be taking a whole host of PU Components and would be relegated to the back of the Grid in P20. This promoted the Ferrari’s to P3 and P4 on the Grid, respectively to Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari didn’t look all too strong, gaining nearly 0.2 Seconds in the first 2 Sectors but then losing nearly 0.6 in S3. Regardless though, it was Lewis Hamilton on Pole for the first time since Germany, and our grid was set for what would hopefully be an exciting Abu Dhabi GP to round out the 2019 Season.
Lights out came and Lewis Hamilton went. The Mercedes Driver easily leading away into Turn 1. Charles Leclerc got a better start than the Red Bull of Verstappen ahead and began to attack, using the superior straight line speed of the Ferrari to get past the Dutchman. Further back we had an incident between both Racing Point’s and the Torro Rosso of Pierre Gasly. Gasly suffered Wing Damage(To put it lightly) and would Pit, The slow wing change and resulting gap back to the field effectively ending his chances of 6th in the Standings then and there. In the midst of all this, Bottas made up places and the McLarens and Renaults fought it out. However, the race up front progressed into what we’ve come to expect from Abu Dhabi; A procession led by a Mercedes.
The Race then became more interesting for an unexpected reason; the DRS Detection zones malfunctioned and as a result, no DRS was available. The drivers would race for some 20-odd laps without it, and it was strangely close. The primary reasons for this being Vettel and Bottas. Vettel had a slow stop on lap 16 of 6.9 seconds, While Bottas was pushing through the Field. As a result, they both had to cut through without DRS. This became of note when they reached the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
The Renault’s have been good in a straight line all year, be it due to low drag or power, and the straights of Abu Dhabi were no exception. For several laps multiple Cars(Bottas, Vettel, Albon) could not pass a Renault in Abu Dhabi, And the 2010 similarities were rather obvious… Eventually the issues were sorted and Nico pitted but it was interesting to watch.
After this something else became noteworthy; Ferrari’s poor pace. Vettel was on fresh Hard tires by this point but suddenly began to fall away from Bottas, who was still on his starting tires. In addition, Charles Leclerc was being caught rapidly by Max Verstappen, who had made a notably longer first stint; 26 laps vs 13. Verstappen was even complaining of issues with his PU in this time, but he was still rapidly catching him. Verstappen made a brilliant move on lap 32 as they lapped George Russel, and he rapidly extended away from the Ferrari. Shortly after this Vettel pitted. His pace dropping him slowly back into the Red Bull of Albon. Leclerc also pitted for for Fresh tires as he had a notable gap back. With Bottas closing after his own stop however, it would be a close call. So this was the race up front. Vettel Pursuing Albon, and Bottas vs Leclerc.
Further back in the field, things were also beginning to develop. Sergio Perez drove a long first stint and was now pushing with Fresh tires. The McLarens were fighting the Renaults. Sainz needed a single point to secure 6th if Albon finished 6th on the Road. With Concerns over tire life, McLaren pitted Sainz, dropping him out of the Points. Norris stayed out,with Perez closing in. With P6 being at stake; The midfield suddenly looked rather interesting.
This all boiled down to a wonderful scrap in the closing laps. Vettel cleared Albon on Lap 54 of 55; Although he was not pleased with his defensive maneuvers. Perez attacked for several Laps before clearing Norris on Lap 55 to finish P7. Sainz secured his point and P6 in the standings on the same Lap. Unfortunately I can’t say much about the last 2; Hamilton crossing the line to win the Abu Dhabi GP took precedent in Broadcasting. Verstappen took P2 and Leclerc P3, chased by Bottas all the way to the line.
So that’s it for your 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Weekend. It was a good Race but nothing spectacular. Still, it wasn’t a horrible end to a Season filled with some great races. We managed to close out some story lines; McLarens and Sainz’s incredible season. Hulkenberg potentially leaving F1 for Good. And Lewis Hamilton still reigning supreme. So while it may not have been a thriller; I’d still say it managed to close the season well in the end.