The Formula One circus makes its final stop of the season in the Middle East for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points ahead of the last race of the year.
Alonso braced for “emotional” F1 farewell
After 311 starts (the second-most in grand prix history), 22 pole positions, 33 victories and two world championships, Fernando Alonso will bring the curtain down on his Formula One career in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The 37-year-old Spaniard will leave McLaren and F1 as one of the most complete drivers the sport has ever seen, but also with a feeling of what might have been. Indeed, despite being one of the best out there Alonso – who clinched the last of his two consecutive titles 12 years ago – has not won a race in more than five years, and last stood on the podium way back at the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.
A party will be thrown for Alonso by McLaren and race organisers in the paddock on Saturday evening. And Alonso, who has finished in the points just once in the last eight races, is braced for a testing weekend.
“Abu Dhabi will certainly be a very emotional race for me, as it will be the end of a long and happy 17 years in F1,” he said. “The time has come for me to move on, but I’m looking forward to ending the season – and my F1 career – on a positive note.”
Seconds out for Verstappen and Ocon
Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon will be thrown together in Thursday’s intriguing pre-race press conference for the Abu Dhabi race. Verstappen was last spotted shoving Ocon in the chest three times after their crash cost the Red Bull driver a probable win in Brazil.
He was subsequently ordered to serve two days of community service at the FIA’s discretion. Verstappen, 21, and Ocon, one year the Dutchman’s senior, will face the media alongside the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
A tale of two halves
Lewis Hamilton marched to the championship with two rounds to spare after a fantastic second half of the season.
The Mercedes star scored a staggering 220 (out of a possible 250) points from the last 10 races, 79 more than any other driver. Although Vettel topped the championship after the opening 10 rounds, he is only fifth in the standings over the second period of the year following a series of mistakes.
Behind Hamilton, Verstappen has enjoyed the best final half of the year and could leapfrog Valtteri Bottas for a final position of fourth, behind Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen, if he outscores the Finn by just three points in the desert on Sunday.
One hundred and out for Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo will take part in his final grand prix for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The Australian, who enjoyed a strong start to the year following wins in China and Monaco before enduring a series of mechanical failures in the latter half of the season, is taking the gamble of joining Renault in 2019.
It will mark Ricciardo’s 100th start for Red Bull after moving to the team from Toro Rosso in 2014. Raikkonen will also enter his last race for Ferrari before he re-joins Sauber and Charles Leclerc is appointed alongside Vettel.
Vettel and Schumacher to team up for Race of Champions
It was confirmed earlier this week that Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion Michael, will be partnered with Vettel for Germany’s entrant at January’s Race of Champions tournament in Mexico.
Mick, 19, won this year’s Formula Three championship and has already been earmarked as a future F1 star. Vettel and Michael Schumacher won the Race of Champions’ Nations Cup for six successive years between 2007 and 2012.
“I’m honoured to enter this competition which my father always loved and in which he set the bar very high together with Sebastian,” Mick said.