Last chance for Bottas to avoid a winless year: Six Abu Dhabi GP talking points

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Can Valtteri Bottas avoid an unwanted milestone? Will Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso – not to mention a few others – depart their teams on a high?

And will we get one last twist in the 2019 F1 driver market? These are a few of the talking points for this weekend’s season finale.

Can Bottas avoid a win-less year?

Arguably Bottas should be heading into the final race of 2018 with two victories under his belt. A puncture caused by debris robbed him of victory at Baku and Mercedes’ team orders in Russia meant he had to surrender the lead to his team mate. You could also add China to the list of races he was unfortunate not to win.

‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ aside, his tally of wins for the season nonetheless reads zero out of 20, with just one race left. Can he put that right at Yas Marina, where he scored his most recent victory 12 months ago? On paper he should have a good chance.

Mercedes have fared better on slow corners since their struggles at Spa. Hamilton may be at a disadvantage because of the damage his power unit suffered in Brazil. And while the team avoided using their ‘spacer’ rear wheels while the championships were still up for grabs due to a fear of a protest from Ferrari, with both trophies now locked up that is no longer a concern.

But if Bottas fails to win this weekend, he will become the first driver since Michael Schumacher six years ago to complete a season for Mercedes without winning a race.

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The many goodbyes

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2018
Alonso is saying goodbye for now at least
Following a season of upheaval in the driver market many drivers head into the race knowing or expecting it will be the last for their current teams – or possibly in F1 entirely.

Kimi Raikkonen will bid farewell to Ferrari and Charles Leclerc will do likewise at Sauber as their pair trade races. Daniel Ricciardo will exit Red Bull, no doubt hoping to grab a last podium finish which would be his first since Monaco.

Sauber will also say goodbye to Marcus Ericsson. McLaren are saying goodbye to both their drivers too and it seems likely Williams will be too. Lance Stroll is definitely is on his way out, the expectation being that he will replace Esteban Ocon at Force India.

Verstappen versus Ocon

The pair shook hands after their two clashes in Brazil – the first one on-track caused by Ocon, the second off-track instigated by Verstappen. But have these career rivals really put their differences aside? We’ll find out tomorrow when they are due to appear in one of the official pre-race press conferences.

You can take your pick from the likely discussion points around this one. Why did Verstappen feel the need to ‘defend’ his position from Ocon going into turn one? Did Ocon really think his rival was going to leave him ‘racing room’ when he was a lap down? And is the FIA’s penalty for Verstappen likely to have any effect at all on him?

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Million-dollar midfield fights

Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Sochi Autodrom, 2018
Sauber could shock Force India
The top three positions in constructors’ championship are set but there rest are up for grabs, at least mathematically. Each position potentially means a difference of millions in prize money.

Haas need a very good weekend – even better than the one they enjoyed in Austria – to have a chance of unseating Renault from fourth place.

But how Force India’s fortunes have changed. Two races ago they looked nailed-on to beat McLaren to sixth. But stumbled badly in Mexico and only took a single point in Brazil. They could still make it if they get a points windfall at Yas Marina – but if they aren’t careful they could lose seventh to the threatening Saubers.

Another ‘extreme deg’ race?

Pirelli’s softest tyre selection is back this weekend. Does that mean we’re going to see another race of extreme tyre degradation with drivers being told 50 times to save their rubber, as we did in Mexico?

Kubica closing on Williams drive?

Rumours continue to surround the second seat at Williams, currently occupied by Sergey Sirotkin. Robert Kubica, who will drive Sirotkin’s car again during first practice this weekend, has been linked to the place in what would be a long-awaited comeback for one of F1’s most popular drivers.

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2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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59 comments on “Last chance for Bottas to avoid a winless year: Six Abu Dhabi GP talking points”

  1. Looks like that last point has already been decided, at least according to Autosport:

    1. If that is really the case it will stop me from turning away from F1 next year. I was sick of watching a bunch of kids playing bumper cars. With Kubica on the grid, just seeing his progress is enough.

      1. it just shows williams not ready to fight for position. they are trying to survive until new regulations come, until then give drive to those who brings more money.

  2. Motorsport reports Kubica’s deal with Williams has been finalized.

    1. Russell and Kubica will make a great pairing. Probably my favorite driver lineup for next year.

  3. Unless Santa brings them some performance upgrades then Williams are likely to still be fighting McLaren at the back so they may as well roll the dice on drivers. Should be a good mix of youth, experience, and plenty of hunger. Maybe they’ll turn it around in 2019?

    1. Unless Santa brings them some performance upgrades

      And money.

      Hard to believe that Kubica’s sponsorship would be able to match/replace Stroll’s investment, but one can only hope Williams have been focusing on their 2019 contender all this while (even better if they were using Stroll’s money to do so!).

  4. The teammate of the Champion not winning any race in a year…How many times has it every happened before ? And when was the last time ? Webber ?

    1. Someone commented the other day that the three most recent people to do this were Webber (2013), Barrichello (2001) and Berger (1990). I imagine that there must be more…

      1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
        21st November 2018, 12:14

        which is wrong already since Verstappen, lehto and Herbert failed to win for benetton in 1994, whilst Schumacher became Champion

        1. @justarandomdutchguy They can probably be excused since there were, well, three of them. None of them got a clear run at the full championship that year. It is, however, a good point.

          1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
            21st November 2018, 17:57

            They can be excused. Verstappen was a rookie, Lehto coming back from an injury and all were also new to the team; the B194 was reportedly a very tricky car to drive and the team heavily favored Schumacher.

            What does remain, is the fact that none of them crossed a the finish line in first, and for this statistic, that’s all that matters.

    2. @webtel, Keke Rosberg (Nico’s dad) was F1 World Champion in 1982 with a single win. His team-mates at Williams, he dad 3 during the season) had none.
      Then in 86 Keke Rosberg was the team-mate of Alain Prost at McLaren. Prost was champion that year and Rosberg had no wins.

      In 1990 Senna was champion and Berger, his team-mate at McLaren, didn’t win a single race.
      In 94, Schumacher was champion, had 3 team-mates throughout the year that didn’t win any race.

      I didn’t look into the Schumacher Ferrari years and have the idea that all the subsequent ones had the team-mate of the WDC winning at least 1 race, EXCEPT, Webber in 2013, that was the last time this happened as you mentioned.

      1. @bakano
        Thank you very much. This was helpful.

    3. I also didn’t look prior to 82. Jumped there immediately because knew Keke was champion with a single win…

    4. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      21st November 2018, 12:12


    5. 2017 WDC: Hamilton – Teammate: Bottas – 2 Wins
      2016 WDC: Rosberg – Teammate: Hamilton – 10 Wins
      2015 WDC: Hamilton – Teammate: Rosberg – 6 Wins
      2014 WDC: Hamilton – Teammate: Rosberg – 5 Wins
      2013 WDC: Vettel – Teammate: Webber – 0 Wins
      2012 WDC: Vettel – Teammate: Webber – 2 Wins
      2011 WDC: Vettel – Teammate: Webber – 1 Win
      2010 WDC: Vettel – Teammate: Webber – 4 Wins
      2009 WDC: Button – Teammate: Barrichello – 2 Wins
      2008 WDC: Hamilton – Teammate: Kovalainen – 1 Win
      2007 WDC: Raikkonen – Teammate: Massa – 3 Wins
      2006 WDC: Alonso – Teammate: Fisichella – 1 Win
      2005 WDC: Alonso – Teammate: Fisichella – 1 Win
      2004 WDC: Schumacher – Teammate: Barrichello – 2 Wins
      2003 WDC: Schumacher – Teammate: Barrichello – 2 Wins
      2002 WDC: Schumacher – Teammate: Barrichello – 4 Wins
      2001 WDC: Schumacher – Teammate: Barrichello – 0 Wins
      2000 WDC: Schumacher – Teammate: Barrichello – 1 Win
      1999 WDC: Hakkinen – Teammate: Coulthard – 2 Wins
      1998 WDC: Hakkinen – Teammate: Coulthard – 1 Win
      1997 WDC: Villeneuve – Teammate: Frentzen – 1 Win
      1996 WDC: Hill – Teammate: Villeneuve – 4 Wins
      1995 WDC: Schumacher – Teammate: Herbert – 2 Wins
      1994 WDC: Schumacher – Teammates: Verstappen/Lehto/Herbert – 0 Wins
      1993 WDC: Prost – Teammate: Hill – 3 Wins
      1992 WDC: Mansell – Teammate: Patrese – 1 Win
      1991 WDC: Senna – Teammate: Berger – 1 Win
      1990 WDC: Senna – Teammate: Berger – 0 Wins

      1. 1994- Schumacher
        Schumi cheats in Adelaide to beat Hill. Turn 4??
        With all respect to Damon Hill, if Senna didn’t die this was a walk in the park once Newey got it going.

        1. @garns, bit random for you to suddenly want to go off on a rant about Schumacher, especially since you then bring in Senna – will you condemn him as a cheat for crashing into Prost so as to win the 1990 championship, especially given the pre-meditated intent behind Senna’s actions?

          1. Indeed, senna did worse stuff than schumacher when it comes to taking rivals out.

            Furthermore, to say schumacher cheated in 1994 is disingenous, he was DOMINATING that year and the only reason it got that close was that he was disqualified from 25% of the races.

      2. @banana88x @justarandomdutchguy – whoa, those are some comprehensive statistics. It is interesting to see how this was more common decades ago than today.

        1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
          21st November 2018, 15:08

          Lotus in particular had a habit of saddling a good driver (Clark, Senna, Rindt, Fittipladi) with a useless one. 1970’d been on the list if it wasn’t for Fittipaldi’s win after replacing the late austrian as first driver following Rindt’s demise.

          1. Beat me to it. However idk how much it really was about uselessness and how much about Lotus being able to produce two equally good cars. Hill and Clark was a strong lineup, but Hill bore the brunt of reliability in 67 it seems. Hill and Rindt was a strong lineup. Fittipaldi and Peterson, the prime example of winning the wcc but losing the wdc due to infighting. Peterson and Andretti. So, yeah, Lotus, but maybe not for the reason you stated

          2. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
            21st November 2018, 16:53

            John Miles, David Walker, Mike Spence, Johnny Dumfries and Satoru Nakajima weren’t really up to scratch though…

            I did not say they never employed strong line-ups. Andretti/Reutemann should’ve also been a strong lineup on paper, but they did more than once employ drivers who would most likely get no/less chance at other absolute top teams, or were used solely as 3rd driver

          3. @justarandomdutchguy, the thing is, in a number of those instances those drivers were deliberately being treated quite badly by Lotus and probably were a lot better than they were made to look.

            In the case of John Miles, in 1969 he was forced to drive the experimental Lotus 63 because Hill and Rindt had both refused to drive what they called “a deathtrap” and an utterly terrible car.

            Meanwhile, in 1970 Chapman would deliberately use Miles to test out new parts on his car for the benefit of Rindt. He didn’t really care if they broke because it was Miles’s car, and if they worked they’d be stripped off and put on Rindt’s car instead – Miles was seen as little more than “a sort of grease monkey”, and sometimes even had to resort to begging for money from Chapman because Champan paid him so little that he sometimes didn’t even have enough money to make it back home.

            Chapman often treated Miles pretty callously too – when Miles returned to the pits after the 1970 South African GP dripping with fuel because his fuel tank had constantly leaked during the entire race and soaked his overalls in fuel, Chapman’s main interest was in berating Miles for not being able to pass Beltoise.

            He’d suffered from multiple mechanical problems in the 1970 season, was ordered at times to deliberately sacrifice his performance to benefit team mates – for example, being ordered to tow Fittipaldi along during qualifying for the German GP to help Fittipaldi qualify – not to mention that, in the latter stages of the 1970 season, he was rather shaken when he only narrowly avoided being killed at the 1970 Austrian GP with the same brake shaft failure that contributed to Rindt’s fatal accident in the Italian GP just one race later.

            Incidentally, it is worth noting that Miles had warned Chapman that the way that he’d been running the Lotus 72 in that race was dangerous. Both he and Rindt had also been warning Chapman that the mechanics were being badly overworked and they were both noticing that the cars were not being prepared properly – especially with Chapman expanding to a three car team that season, with Miles’s car often being the last one to be prepared.

            In many ways, Miles felt that being let go by Chapman was, if anything, more of a blessing – the impression you get from his autobiography was that of a man who was rather depressed at the way that he was being treated, especially by the cold and somewhat brutal attitude of Chapman.

            With Dave Walker, whilst Dave certainly had flaws as a driver, Lotus also weren’t interested in trying to help Walker either. His car was clearly inferior to that of Fittpaldi – when you compare photos, you can see that Walker’s chassis was a much older version of the 72 than the one Fittipaldi had, and Lotus’s mechanics have admitted that, by the mid season, they really weren’t interested in Walker’s car.

            Some of Lotus’s mechanics have confirmed that Walker was often given older engines than Fittipaldi too – often given engines that were multiple specifications behind the latest DFV that Fittipaldi got, and a few that were overdue for a refurbishment, with the implication that Lotus were basically only entering Walker in some races in order to get his starting money.

            That was at least when they were even bothering to put his car together properly – there is a story that, when Walker turned up to the South African GP, he found that the mechanics had been more interested in using his chassis to smuggle bottles of wine out of Argentina and into South Africa (when he first sat in the car for practise, he found one of the bottles in the pedal box).

            As for Dumfries, when he entered Lotus, it was with the intention that he was not to challenge Senna. Senna made it abundantly clear when he went to Lotus that he was to be the sole focus of the team – he’d already vetoed their attempts to sign Derek Warwick (ruining Warwick’s career in F1) because he didn’t want another competitive driver, and he made it clear that the only driver he would tolerate was one who wouldn’t be allowed to compete with him and had to be no threat to him whatsoever.

        2. Decades ago, there were fewer races. Even the propensity to have 16 races only got going in the 1970s.

          1. @alianora-la-canta – good point, more shots at the win for the second driver.

        3. @phylyp
          Indeed. I was happy to see 1976 :-P

      3. @banana88x Bottas won three races last season actually.

      4. 2016 WDC: Rosberg – Teammate: Hamilton – 10 Wins

        I’d like to know who else has not won a WDC while winning 10 races. This list would appear to show generally what happened with the other driver in the best car, and the closest anyone came to 10 is Rosberg the Younger, with a measly 6.

        1. I am quite sure Hamilton is the only one so far @dmw, re-watched the 2016 abu dhabi race, crofty mentioned it a lot :) Of course, in the past, with less races available per season, the changes to win a race were also smaller. Maybe if we’d go ‘where his teammate won almost half of the races but was not champion’, or the well known statistic ‘where the WDC won less races than his teammate/closest competitor’ (in last guise, for example Rosberg 2016 and Hamilton 2008)

        2. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
          21st November 2018, 19:34

          The closest – and previous record holder – was Alain prost with 7 to Senna’s 8 in 1988

  5. But if Bottas fails to win this weekend, he will become the first driver since Michael Schumacher six years ago to complete a season for Mercedes without winning a race.

    Hamilton likely to match Schumacher on certain stats, Bottas likely to match Schumacher on another stat.
    Nice to see both Mercedes drivers are on track to fulfilling one of their job targets “Equal/exceed Schumacher’s achievements” :-)

    That said, Yas Marina has been happy hunting grounds for Mercedes in this PU era, hasn’t it? It’d be interesting to read an analysis of free practice to see if Ferrari or Red Bull can take the fight to Mercedes. I’m not too optimistic about Red Bull, that long straight could nullify their advantage in the slower marina bits.

    1. @phylyp
      You cant look at stats and compare a driver that raced 16 races compared to 21- around 30% more. Lewis will smash it on stats but it doesn’t mean he is better than Senna or Schumacher.

      Also its the better place at the better time- what if Lewis went to Red Bull rather that Mercs- another driver may now be compared to Fangio? Same skills, different car!
      So many could have won in that car!

      1. @garns – oh, that was just a humourous comment about how Bottas is likely to match one of Schumacher’s less-than-enviable stats, nothing else.

        (That said, I agree that it is hard to compare drivers, especially drivers from different eras, and even worse so by using black and white numbers)

        1. @phylyp too funny fella.

          Do you get to many races mate? I do a few, not so many this year, always great to talk F1, but to see it live so much better! but expensive!!!!! Liberty really need to look at this, a normal race weekend for a family is now way too expensive.

          1. @garns – I get to none! I found them too expensive to travel to and attend :-)
            TV/OTT is the only way I satisfy my kicks.

            I do have attending a race on my bucket list, though, let’s see if/when that comes to fruition.

  6. I find it interesting how the Baku story gets repeated over here so often… “Bottas would finish first until bad luck (tire puncture) robbed him the win”. That race was dominated by Seb Vettel until a bad timed safety car. For Seb it was a bad luck event similar to Lewis’ at Melbourne… My point is, Bottas was on course for a podium at Baku, “lucked into” the lead of the race after the RBR wrecked each other and then “lucked out” of the race by debris right after the same safety car period.

    Only at Russia he was dominating the race and earning a win. The other chance for Bottas to EARN a win was at Bahrain but he didn’t commit to the overtake when he had his chance.

    1. @dusty – yeah, in cases like this, I credit Bottas with either the Baku win, or the China win as a possibility, but not both. He was the beneficiary in one, the loser in the other, due to roughly similar circumstances.

  7. Vettel versus Verstappen and Leclerc
    Who will have the youngest pole sitter record after this weekend?
    Verstappen has a very small final chance to grab that (Leclercs is even a multitude smaller).

    Next year we’ll have some new candidates: George Russell until starting the European Season; Stroll has a full year, and Lando Norris has 2 years.

    1. New candidates, with an even lower likelihood of breaking that record. Unless, of course, Stroll pulls out another Monza 2017 out of his hat.

      1. Yes, verstappen is done with trying for that record btw, red bull at best can be competitive in race pace, not in qualifying. A shame he didn’t get that record, he had plenty of chances, his car didn’t help him as it’s weaker in qualifying, but as you can see ricciardo got 2 poles this year and one in 2016, he easily could have.

  8. @phylyp
    What is your country again?
    Surely there is a race you can get to. F1 can be done on a budget too, just let me know mate. I will help if you need with planning.

    There is nothing more exciting (for me at least) to see a start of an F1 GP it gets your heart racing its gold!!)

    PM me if you need mate.

    1. @garns – I’m in India. I missed the opportunity when F1 was here (I deferred it thinking I’d go after a year or two, once enthusiasm and prices waned, bad call), and now sadly Malaysia is also off the calendar (that would’ve been another alternative on a budget). With those off this list, I might just treat myself to a good venue like Spa or COTA (or if I can get over language anxiety, Suzuka).

      I can imagine just how inspiring the start of a race would be, the feel, sights and sounds. :-)

      1. Is singapore very expensive? Hm, and what about Baku – flight maybe expensive, not sure about the race @phylyp?

        1. @bosyber – Singapore – the flights are cheap, through low-cost carriers, accommodation is a problem, though, from what I hear. Baku – that’s a very good idea. 👍

          1. @phylyp @bosyber

            Singapore has the most expensive tickets on the calendar, more expensive that Monaco.
            And you are correct, its very expensive for accommodation and food. You can find places that are cheaper to eat but all in all its an expensive place.

            Vietnam is coming 2020 and I have never travelled there but it is a cheaper country to go to, maybe have a look at that one??

            Baku not too far from you either as bosyer says, but I have no idea about the cost of that one.

            If you got cheap flights, while its a bit further, you could do Melbourne on a budget. You can get cheap accommodation in town, 10 min taxi ride or tram to Albert Park. General Admission is very cheap, but I would not recommend that as grandstand tickets are pretty well priced as well. Its a great event to go to.

          2. Useful info @garns, hope it helps @phylyp find a race somewhere to visit soon!

  9. Can Bottas avoid a win-less year? – Yes, but time is running out quickly for him to achieve that.
    Another ‘extreme deg’ race? – I doubt it due to the low-deg nature of the Yas Marina Circuit, but we shall wait and see.
    Kubica closing on Williams drive? – Seems rather likely to happen.

    1. Kubica’s granny could get a drive at Williams if she brought enough money with her. Your granny too.

  10. Would be interesting to see if McLaren keep 6th place in WCC.

    1. @Chaitanya Quite likely they can due to how limited the chances for points are for every team besides Mercedes, Ferrari, and RBR.

  11. Hard to win if you keep being told to let your teammate past…

    1. That only happened one time where bottles was in a position to win… Get over it! Bottas had all season to get a win and choked. Nice guy deserves at least one win but don’t try excuse him on the basis of the odd team order.

      1. There is very good reason to excuse bottas this year: he should have 2 wins and hamilton 8, that’s more reflective of mercedes performance than 10-0, he’s not that bad a driver.

        1. He shouldn’t have two wins…? He earned one win. One time he failed to over take. Another time he lost a win through bad luck which wasn’t his to win in the first place. It was vettels bad luck that gifted bottle the lead. So again I can’t see how you can argue bottas deserved more than the one win… besides all that this still proves that only one potential victory was affected by “team orders” which is what I was initially replying to. Team orders made the difference of one win. Otherwise bottle was beaten comprehensively by Hamilton well before team orders came into play.

          1. He would have won in both China and Baku without bad luck. He did win in Sochi but had his win taken away by Mercedes.

            In a separate category is Bahrain, where he should have won if he had been able to overtake Vettel but was unable to do so. That one is all on him.

  12. If Ham wins or is second he will break 400 points this season – a record. Holds little meaning with the amount of changes to the points system over the years but there you go.

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