Mercedes have taken a clean sweep of victories at the Yas Marina circuit in the hybrid era and can be fancied to top the podium once again at this weekend’s season-closing Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2019 (Race: 8:10am ET Sunday).
Mercedes have dominated at Abu Dhabi since the introduction of the current engine regulations for the 2014 season, winning all five races, recording three one-two finishes and locking out the front row in qualifying on all five occasions.
Of course, they have also dominated at a wider level in the hybrid era. With both of this year’s championships already wrapped up, Mercedes and its drivers have claimed all six of the drivers’ and constructors’ titles in that time. Lewis Hamilton confirmed his sixth drivers’ championship (including one at McLaren) two races back in the United States.
This year’s title was largely won during the first half of the season, when Hamilton won eight of the first 12 races. He has only won twice across the eight subsequent races but will be hopeful of rounding off the year with another on Sunday. Hamilton recorded his fourth victory at the Yas Marina circuit at last year’s Grand Prix, and with a package that should run well, he is the worthy favorite with the top recommended US sportsbooks to triumph on Sunday.
Hamilton finished seventh in Brazil two weeks ago after receiving a post-race penalty for a collision with Alexander Albon that cost the Red Bull driver a maiden podium. Their clash was one of many occasioned by a pair of late safety cars that caused mayhem behind the victor Max Verstappen and led to a number of surprise finishes near the front.
Verstappen was dominant all weekend, claiming pole position and going on to take his third race win of the year. The relative altitude at the Interlagos circuit hampered Mercedes and seemed, as in Mexico, to benefit the Honda power unit, converting the Red Bull into the quickest car in the grid, at least in the hands of Verstappen.
Behind him, things got interesting. The two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel clashed, ending both of their races. The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas retired with an oil pressure issue, and with Albon and Hamilton also removed from top-six contention, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz were both able to claim their first-ever podiums in second and third for Toro Rosso and McLaren respectively.
The Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi came home fourth and fifth in the team’s first top-six finishes of the season, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, Hamilton, the second McLaren of Lando Norris, Sergio Perez’s Racing Point and the other Toro Rosso of Daniil Kyvat.
Those results changed the complexion of a couple of constructors’ championship battles that already seemed to be over. Toro Rosso’s 19-point haul has moved them comfortably clear of Racing Point in seventh and to within just eight points of fifth-placed Renault. Alfa Romeo are now just 10 points behind Racing Point.
Renault could really do with a strong finish this weekend to see off that Toro Rosso threat, and in Nico Hulkenberg, they have a driver who always goes well at the Yas Marina circuit. He has finished in the top seven there in four of the last five years, including a pair of sixth-place finishes for Force India in 2014 and Renault themselves in 2017.
Sunday’s race will be Hulkenberg’s last at Renault and possibly his last in Formula One, with no race seat lined up for next season. He has a decent outside chance of ending on a real high with a top-six finish.
That 10-point gap to Racing Point is probably just a smidgen too much for Alfa Romeo to make up this weekend unless a number of the front-running cars suffer problems, but they are at least confident that they will have a car capable of getting into the points. They felt that much of the development work they had done in the latter part of the season hasn’t perhaps been rewarded as it might have been out on the track until their strong result in Brazil.
Raikkonen has been their primary points scorer this year, outscoring teammate Giovinazzi by 43 to 14, and is the most likely to get them into the top 10 on Sunday. The Finn won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Lotus in 2012, and has always gone solidly there. A points finish should be within his capabilities this time around.