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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel lock horns on the front row: Brazilian Grand Prix talking points

The penultimate race of the Formula One season has plenty of subplots to consider, despite Hamilton already wrapping up the drivers' title

Lewis Hamilton, right, and Sebastian Vettel will start on the front row for the first time since Belgium. Reuters
Lewis Hamilton, right, and Sebastian Vettel will start on the front row for the first time since Belgium. Reuters

The penultimate round of the Formula One season, the Brazilian Grand Prix, takes place on Sunday, with the action starting at 9.10pm UAE time.

World champion Lewis Hamilton starts on pole in his Mercedes-GP ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. Here are some things to watch for ahead of the race.

Hamilton v Vettel

Given they are the dominant pair in 2018, it's a surprising statistic that the Brazilian Grand Prix is the first time since Belgium in August that Hamilton and Vettel share the front row.

Vettel was perhaps fortunate to avoid a grid penalty for damaging a weighbridge during qualifying, but nevertheless will start second behind Hamilton.

It should be a fun first corner. Already crowned world champion, Hamilton will fancy his chances of controlling the race and claiming a 10th win of the year, if he can lead at the end of the first lap.

Vettel will want a repeat of last year, when he passed a Mercedes-GP at the start, in that case Valtteri Bottas on his way to victory.

With overtaking likely to be difficult, despite the long start-finish straight, the opening seconds of the race will likely be vital.

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Read more:

Lewis Hamilton beats Sebastian Vettel to Brazilian GP pole

Brazil and Abu Dhabi give Lewis Hamilton chance to end the one anomaly of his F1 career

WATCH: This is what it is like to race around the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit

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Ferrari’s constructors’ hope

Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth in Brazil and needs a podium finish to keep Ferrari's constructors' title hopes alive. AFP
Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth in Brazil and needs a podium finish to keep Ferrari's constructors' title hopes alive. AFP

Ferrari need to outscore Mercedes by 13 points to keep their constructors’ championship hopes alive heading to the season-concluding Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 25.

If Vettel can win the race and if teammate Kimi Raikkonen is also on the podium, then the Mercedes v Ferrari duel goes down to Abu Dhabi.

But Vettel must beat Hamilton, and Raikkonen, who starts fourth, must find a way of finishing ahead of the second Mercedes of Bottas.

It should make for an entertaining strategic afternoon as Ferrari seek to stay in the hunt for their first title since 2008.

Ricciardo’s charge

Daniel Ricciardo has two races left as a Red Bull Racing driver. Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo has two races left as a Red Bull Racing driver. Getty

It has been a miserable second half of the season for Daniel Ricciardo as mechanical problems and bad luck have hurt his hopes time and again.

It is hard to believe he has not been on the podium since he won the Monaco Grand Prix in May. The Red Bull Racing driver starts 11th on Sunday. He was sixth quickest, but had a five-place penalty for a change to part of his engine.

The Australian will make for entertaining viewing during the opening laps because he should quickly get back up to the top six, but barring retirements for his rivals, he is unlikely to do better than sixth.