By Neil Leverett
- 2018 Formula 1 season reaches climax in the UAE, as Yas Marina Circuit plays host to 21st and final race of campaign
- Lewis Hamilton set for victory parade, as Briton crowned World Drivers’ Champion for fifth time
- Returning Robert Kubica will be keen spectator as Pole signs deal to drive for Williams next season
ABU DHABI, UAE – The 2018 Formula campaign concludes this weekend, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton finally set to be crowned World champion for an historic fifth time.
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Hamilton set for fifth victory lap
With the finishing line in sight for yet another season of Formula 1, the motorsport juggernaut rolls into Dubai this weekend for its’ annual swansong at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
After sealing his fifth World Drivers’ Championship last month in Mexico, and winning a fortnight ago at Interlagos in Brazil, Lewis Hamilton arrives in the desert landscape for his fifth victory lap at the iconic venue in the Middle East.
With a staggering 81-point lead over fallen rival Sebastian Vettel coming into this weekend’s finale after his tenth win of the season in south America, this weekend will somewhat be a literal and metaphorical lap of honour, but the Briton still has to pass the chequered flag on race day this Sunday.
After cantering to title number four last year, the process of going through the motions is becoming a thing of habit for the 33-year-old, but knowing his official unveiling in defending the world title is still 55 laps away, Hamilton, the ultimate professional will be treating this weekend in the UAE like any other.
Could Red Bull upset Mercedes’ party?
Whilst Hamilton is set to turn Abu Dhabi into the party capital of the F1 world this weekend, much like season the Brit could be forced to take a step down from the podium in the year’s final race.
After Valtteri Bottas won on the same track 12 months ago, the Finn was again quickest in early practice for the race. But whilst Hamilton’s team-mate seems best set for a winning finish – his first of the season – Red Bull could also end a rather difficult season on a high.
Already this weekend we have seen both Max Verstappen and the departing Daniel Ricciardo speaking positively of the car’s new chassis and improved specs. Whilst Ricciardo himself will be keen to send a message ahead of next season with Renault, Verstappen meanwhile was positive in his team’s chances in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking to SkyF1, the Dutchman said:
“The car, definitely in the last sector and most of the corners on the track, is working really well.
We’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow, but at least today the car was responding,” continued Verstappen. “We don’t need to turn up or completely change the set-up because it’s working.”
Kubica keen spectator ahead of F1 return
It is not only Ricciardo who will be eyeing the final roar of engines ahead of March’s re-start. Having ended weeks of speculation over after test drives and weekends back in the paddock, Robert Kubica will rejoin F1 next season under the Williams umbrella.
The move sees the pole complete his rehabilitation into the sport, approaching eight years after a potentially life-threatening crash during a rally stage in Italy back in February 2011.
As a keen participant of off-road racing, Kubica was injured in a crash on the first stage of the Ronde di Andora rally, when his car left the road at high speed and hit a crash barrier.
Trapped in the car for more than an hour before rescue workers were able to extricate him, it was confirmed that he had suffered partial amputation of his forearm, compound fractures to his right elbow, shoulder and leg, as well as significant loss of blood. After further surgeries and operations, the condition of his hand was not clear for some time and as a result his return to F1 was in doubt for some time.
With a return to the cockpit now having been set, this weekend will see Kubica as spectator before one of the most talented drivers around gets his chance for motorsport redemption next year.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place this weekend, with final race of the season itself on Sunday afternoon at 1.10pm GMT.
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