x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Plenty of prizes and drama on offer in Abu Dhabi despite Red Bull’s dominance

Big money and rides for next season are also on the line in Abu Dhabi.

Even with his fourth consecutive drivers' title under his belt, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel can make still more history with a victory in Abu Dhabi. Mark Baker / AP Photo
Even with his fourth consecutive drivers' title under his belt, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel can make still more history with a victory in Abu Dhabi. Mark Baker / AP Photo

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to a Formula One season than simply the world championship title. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing have secured their fourth consecutive drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, but there is plenty more at stake this weekend.

Whether it is those fighting at the front or the back-markers battling for a share of the F1 financial pie, no driver or team will be leaving their mind at the beach when they pitch up to work at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend. Here are five key areas to keep an eye on:

Vettel chasing more history

The German, 26, may have become F1’s youngest four-time champion last weekend in India, but that does not mean that he will take his foot off the gas at Yas.

Should he win the three remaining races in Abu Dhabi, the United States and Brazil, the Red Bull driver will equal Alberto Ascari’s run of nine consecutive grand prix victories, which he achieved in 1952-53.

Battle to be best of the rest

Red Bull also secured a fourth consecutive manufacturers’ title last weekend. However, the battle behind them has always proved the more intriguing contest. Mercedes-GP racked up 136 points in five races earlier this year to sit second in the standings, but a disappointing second half has seen them fall back, though Nico Rosberg’s second place last weekend in India moved them back upto the runners-up spot, ahead of Ferrari and Lotus.

Only 28 points separate the three teams and, with millions of pounds at stake per position, every point is vital this weekend.

Racing for their futures

Felipe Massa already knows he will not be at Ferrari next season. With Kimi Raikkonen replacing the Brazilian in Maranello, the annual game of musical race seats is already underway. Nico Hulkenberg, Paul Di Resta and Pastor Maldonado have all been touted for a change of teams.

Each driver knows he must do his utmost during these last three races to ensure first that his seat is secure, and second that he can push for the move he wants.

Money at stake

The fight at the back of the grid is often overlooked, yet it is arguably the most important battle in terms of the future. Caterham and Marussia are both fighting to finish in 10th place, with neither having collected any points this season.

The lucrative 10th spot is worth an estimated US$25m (Dh91.8 million), while 11th place receives a smaller amount, that has not been announced as yet.”

Bernie watch

For each of the past four years, Bernie Ecclestone has travelled to Abu Dhabi to show face, talk business and enjoy the personal office that was built especially for him. This year, though, the F1 commercial rights owner’s attendance is in doubt. In Germany, he faces potential bribery charges.

Yesterday, Ecclestone, 83, and three other defendants began a case in London High Court where they are accused benefiting from misrepresenting the value of a portion of the F1 empire. He is expected to be in court next week, according to reports.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae