(L to R) Max Verstappen, Red Bull; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2022

Verstappen vs Hamilton again in Abu Dhabi? Six F1 finale talking points

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The 22nd and final grand prix weekend of the 2022 season sees Formula 1 arrive at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi for the conclusion of the first season under its much-changed rules.

While the year may have belonged to Max Verstappen and Red Bull, the world champion will head to the final race knowing he will be facing fierce competition – both from the two resurgent Mercedes, and his own team mate.

A 2023 F1 title fight preview?

Less than 12 months ago, the heavily-revised Yas Marina circuit was the scene of a championship conclusion so dramatic and controversial that it does not require yet another re-tread ahead of the sport’s return to Abu Dhabi.

But while the outcome of the most shocking finale Formula 1 has ever seen has long since been determined, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will arrive at the circuit one year removed from their showdown with their rivalry as alive as it perhaps has been ahead of any weekend during this 2022 season.

(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2022
Poll: Was Verstappen’s penalty for Hamilton collision correct?
Hamilton and Mercedes have been no match for Verstappen and Red Bull throughout the majority of the season, as evidenced by Verstappen securing his second successive title in record-breakingly dominant fashion. But last weekend Mercedes managed to score an important first win of the season to boost their morale to a high that they will ride through the long winter into 2023.

During an eventful race at Interlagos, Verstappen was involved in two major flashpoints. The first occured at the restart following the early Safety Car period, when he and Hamilton collided at the apex of turn two, the pair refusing to give any more room to each other than they had at so many points throughout their infamous 2021 duel.

While Verstappen was blamed and penalised for the incident, it would have served to remind him of the kind of robust, wheel-to-wheel battles he can expect more of should Mercedes’ resurgence continue into this weekend and beyond. Mercedes have proven more of a threat to Red Bull over the last three rounds of the season than Ferrari have done and there’s no reason to assume that will not continue to be the case this weekend.

But it’s the re-emergence of Hamilton as a threat for victory which makes this weekend’s race such an enthralling prospect, particularly given what happened last year. No other pair of drivers have a rivalry quite as fierce as these two, and a final duel would serve to whet appetites for 2023.

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Red Bull pair see red

Race start, Interlagos, 2022
Poll: Rate the race: 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix
The other major flashpoint of the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend occured on the radios at Red Bull, where Verstappen made it clear to his team and the world he does not consider it his job to hand over positions to Sergio Perez under any circumstances.

In Abu Dhabi last year Perez performed the role of wingman to a peerless degree, holding up Hamilton at a vital moment to allow Verstappen to close crucial ground. Without that, the infamous conclusion to the race might have played out differently.

But after Verstappen flat-out refused to obey his own team’s request to move aside and allow Perez to reclaim a position he had handed over to him at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the once harmonious relationship between the two Red Bull drivers appears to have suffered major damage. Having been thoroughly beaten by Verstappen through the course of the year, Perez will now be more motivated than he has ever been before to go into business for himself and try and score a psychological blow before they head into 2023.

This is not the end Red Bull wanted to a season which has otherwise been a major triumph. Team principal Christian Horner needs to cool tempers, but it remains to be seen whether Verstappen truly is prepared to help Perez secure second place in the drivers championship – and a first-ever one-two for the team.

Farewell, Sebastian Vettel

As the site of the final grand prix of the season for the vast majority of its 14 years on the Formula 1 calendar, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has regularly become the venue where retiring veterans bid farewell to the sport. Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen, even Fernando Alonso was treated to a retirement party when he originally departed from the sport at the end of 2018.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2010
Retiring Vettel made history in Abu Dhabi
This year, four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel will race his 299th and final grand prix at the Yas Marina circuit. Sooner than many might have expected for a driver in his mid-30s, Vettel has decided that he has other callings beyond the race track and so will say a warm goodbye to his Aston Martin team, his fellow drivers, the many across the paddock who hold him in such high regard and millions of fans across the world.

While it may have been over three years since Vettel’s last grand prix win and nine since his fourth and final world championship, Vettel’s achievements though his Formula 1 career place him among of the very best drivers in history. With 53 victories, 57 pole positions, 38 fastest laps and a tally of titles matched by only four other drivers, Vettel’s place in the F1 record books is assured. Despite the remarkable success of Verstappen early in his career, Vettel still stands alone as the youngest ever world champion.

Fittingly, the Yas Marina circuit is where Vettel clinched his first title during the final race of the dramatic 2010 season. Despite never leading the championship through the year, Vettel controlled the race to snatch the world title from under Alonso’s nose. But while Vettel went on to win the next three championships, Alonso is still looking for the elusive third that he could have won that fateful evening.

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Shootout for sixth

With the chance of a victory or even a podium highly unlikely, Vettel will likely have a more realistic goal in mind – helping his Aston Martin team beat Alfa Romeo to sixth place in the constructors’ championship.

Just six points covers the battle for sixth
The fortunes of these teams have contrasted starkly over the year. Alfa Romeo began the season with regular doses of solid points, amassing over 50 through the first 10 rounds. Aston Martin struggled for pace from the start of the season, only scoring their first points of the year at the fourth grand prix in Imola before a gradual trickle of points began across the middle third of the championship.

But as the races went buy and Aston Martin developed more and more upgrades for their car, their performance level gradually improved until points were a regular occurrence. Eventually, the two teams arrived in Brazil with just four points separating them in the standings. With a few million more Euros going to whichever team finishes in sixth, the contest is about much more than just bragging rights.

Last weekend’s race at Interlagos demonstrated just how close it is between the two teams, with Valtteri Bottas holding off Lance Stroll by just a single second at the chequered flag to extend Alfa Romeo’s advantage by one vital point to six heading into Abu Dhabi. That gives Alfa Romeo a crucial advantage with one race to go, but with Alfa Romeo having suffered far more reliability concerns throughout the season, Aston Martin know they will have to push their rivals until the very final corner of the final lap until their cars wilt under the intense spotlights.

Other places could swap in the finale. Haas will be disappointed that Kevin Magnussen’s sprint race pole position in Brazil only led to them taking a single further point, leaving them two ahead of AlphaTauri in the contest for eighth place. McLaren’s hopes of beating Alpine to fourth were badly hurt by their double retirement on Sunday, and the blue team now have a 19-point advantage.

The same gap separates second-placed Ferrari from Mercedes, which is remarkable given the former had by far the quicker car at the beginning of the season. If one of the Ferraris drops out on Sunday, Mercedes could still compound their rival’s championship disappointment by displacing from the runner-up spot.

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Can Sargeant seal his F1 future?

After a delay of over two months since the penultimate round of the Formula 2 season in Monza back in September, the final round of F2 action will take place at the Yas Marina circuit this weekend. Felipe Drugovich has already ensured that the title is no longer in play, having sealed the championship with an entire round to spare, but there is plenty of intrigue heading into the final F2 races of the year.

Sargeant needs sixth place to secure an F1 seat
Sauber junior driver Theo Pourchaire looks set to secure second place in the series with a 29-point lead, but the spotlight will be on the driver sitting third in the standings – Logan Sargeant. The Williams junior is due to become the first full-time Formula 1 driver from the United States next season when he is promoted into a race seat. The only obstacle is that Sargeant must secure the required superlicence points this weekend to qualify.

Fortunately for Williams and Sargeant, all he requires to reach the 40 points he needs is to come away from Abu Dhabi with a top six finish in the F2 standings. That position is currently held by Enzo Fittipaldi, who is six points behind Sargeant and level on points with both Jack Doohan and Jehan Daruvala.

The final race weekend of the F2 season will also see the debut of Zane Maloney, who will be stepping up from this year’s FIA F3 championship to race for the same Trident team he competed for this season. Having won three races and secured the runner-up spot in the standings, this weekend will be a major opportunity for the 19-year-old to show he should be promoted to full time F2 competition in 2023.

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Drugovich and O’Ward debut in busy practice for rookies

Having beaten some well-supported drivers to this year’s F2 championship title, Drugovich earned the attention of Aston Martin. They made him the first member of their new driver development programme and this weekend he will get the opportunity to drive a 2022 F1 car for the first time in Friday’s first practice session, having already sampled their 2021 machine at Silverstone.

Champion Drugovich will drive in first practice
But Drugovich is not the only one set to make their practice debut at Yas Marina. McLaren SP IndyCar driver Patricio O’Ward will emulate rival Alex Palou by stepping in for Lando Norris during the first hour.

Sargeant will also get his third run on a Friday for Williams by taking over Nicholas Latifi’s FW44, while Alpine junior Jack Doohan will occupy Fernando Alonso’s seat for his second practice outing after the Mexican Grand Prix at the end of October. Also expect to see Robert Shwartzman in Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Ferrari and Verstappen giving up his RB18 for Liam Lawson.

As ever, all guesting drivers will gain one extra superlicence qualification point each if they cover 100 kilometres in the session. With little risk of rain and acres of run off at every corner, the Friday practice drivers will be hopeful they will be able to get the 19 laps they need under their belt to earn that useful bonus – Sargeant especially.

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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29 comments on “Verstappen vs Hamilton again in Abu Dhabi? Six F1 finale talking points”

  1. Farewell to Ricciardo isn’t mentioned?

    1. Only champions are worshipped here

      1. Ricciardo isn’t retiring though…

        1. Yes he is. He doesn’t know it yet perhaps.

    2. Dan Ricciardo goes to Merc next season along with George Russell. And good riddance.

      1. Keep crying those salty tears.

  2. With some luck Verstappen will just race 1 round and then get back to the pits and let Checo do his magic. Let’s see how good he is in the “best” car of the grid.

    1. The ‘best’ car, designed exclusively for someone else….

      1. Welcome back… I have missed reading your comments

    2. Not as “best” as the Mercs of 2014 to 2021

      1. That’s way too generic! Not as strong as the mercs of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2020, definitely stronger or as strong as the others.

  3. If Mercedes can overtake Ferrari in the final race, Aston Martin can overtake Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri can overtake Haas, the entire top eight in the championship will be identical to 2013.

    1. And if Enstone can fend off McLaren. Cool stat @f1frog!

  4. Maybe Max has sort of secret contract how to boost audience numbers. Even if he doesn’t, hitting Lewis is no brainer no matter what your goals are. I mean literally, no brain-er…

    1. well, if he is delusional like armchairexpert then, yes, yes-brainer.

    2. Why would he want to hit Hamilton? Hamilton will do that for him if there’s a chance, like he has many cars over the years.

  5. If Hamilton and Verstappen are in close proximity, there will be an “incident”. Verstappen is obsessed with Hamilton and will do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t win a race. Watching them is like watching Senna on Prost or Schumacher on Hill all over again, and as a sports fan it’s not something I want to see – I want clean racing where people respect the rules, even if they don’t respect each other. Verstappen has a serious psychological problem when it comes to Hamilton, and he doesn’t care that it no longer matters. If crashing is what it takes to stop him, then that’s what he’ll do, you can bet your house on it.

    Looking forward to next year: Let’s see how much assistance Perez is willing to give his “team mate”.from now on. My prediction: None whatsoever.

    1. That’s an interesting take. What I saw for the majority of the season was Max racing other people with no incidents and Lewis having collisions. The latest Brazil collision looking a lot like the one in Spa against Alonso.

      1. Going around the outside at Spa Hamilton was the one coming from behind, gets in front and then turned in. Brazil he was already in front.

        The difference I think is the stewards believe Verstappen may not have been in full control.

    2. Sometimes it’s not healthy to overdo the fandom because it means really strange perceptions.

    3. You really don’t consider the risk perez takes doing that, do you?

  6. A 2023 F1 title fight preview? – Hopefully.
    Red Bull pair see red – I doubt anything big will happen in the end.
    Farewell, Sebastian Vettel – I wouldn’t mind him singing again past the chequered flag like after his last Ferrari race.
    Shootout for sixth – P6 could go either way.
    Can Sargeant seal his F1 future? – Hopefully, but if not, Mick would likely become an alternative option.
    Drugovich and O’Ward debut in busy practice for rookies – Among the FP1 runners, only Sargeant & Pato don’t have an SL/are SL-ineligible.

    1. Well, it’s not obvious he’ll take the chequered flag, raikkonen didn’t if I recall.

  7. Could be a farewell to Mick too.

    1. Coventry Climax
      17th November 2022, 0:47

      Couldn’t resist a correction: Not could, but should
      To the extent that it’s not even worth mentioning.

  8. I don’t see how Max can help Sergio secure 2nd place in the championship now anyway. If Max is ahead of Sergio and Charles is behind them, then letting Sergio through makes no difference.

    If Max is ahead of Sergio and Charles is ahead of them, then letting Sergio through makes no difference either.

    No doubt Sky will bang on about it, but it’s a moot point… just like every year when they ask Max if he’ll help Sergio win the Mexico GP… it’s a non-question since Sergio is never in a position to win the Mexican GP anyway.

  9. Wild guesses or variable reckoning…

    Checo takes out Mad Max… (oooops…)

    Vettel winning his last race in F1, or maybe a podium?

    Ricciardo presumes a ride for 2024… (Who?)

    Stroll Jr. becomes team principal junior…

    Mercedes wins 1 & 2 again…

    Mick explores Indy.

    1. Again, people who suggest this or disobeying team orders, do you really think perez can get away with that and keep his job?

      1. @esploratore1 – “or disobeying team orders” “perez”
        Or do you mean Verstappen?

        I would say my post is wild guesses or variable reckoning. Maybe a bit of humor.

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