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Blundell on F1: Time to settle the best of the rest

23rd November 2017

This weekend sees the 2017 Formula One season draw to an end at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and while the major honours are no longer up for grabs, there’s still plenty to play for in the midfield battle!

As Lewis took the championship honours in Mexico and with the top-five places in the constructors’ set-in stone, the only battle left is one of the tightest. Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas have been involved in a season-long fight for sixth place in the Constructors Championship and this weekend will we see its conclusion.

Just six points separate the three teams and with Carlos Sainz now at Renault and Toro Rosso supporting a new driver line up since Mexico, I think this is set for a thrilling conclusion that is almost too close to call. With all but five of Toro Rosso’s points scored by Carlos, and Renault’s performance leading the way since Silverstone, my money would be on Renault to snatch the sixth place in Abu Dhabi.

A driver who is in desperate need of a win is the ever-consistent Valtteri Bottas. An outstanding lap in Brazil saw him steal pole from Sebastian Vettel but ultimately a poor start cost him dear.  The Finn will have his work cut out if he is to outperform Lewis Hamilton this weekend, who has an outstanding record at the Yas Marina Circuit. Bottas hasn't won since the Austrian Grand Prix in June and has admitted in the run-up to this weekend's race that he needs to prove himself if he is to remain a Mercedes driver in 2019 and beyond.

Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the end of a Formula One journey for Felipe Massa. With 11 grand prix victories, 16 pole positions and over 40 podiums, Massa bows out of F1 with his head held high. His final home race at Interlagos showed he still had the speed and determination to race against the very best as he fended off Fernando Alonso for the duration of the 71-lap race.

This weekend also marks the final race of a difficult three-year relationship between McLaren and Honda with the team finally relinquishing the sub-par power unit in favour of the Renault engine for 2018. Since McLaren and Honda joined forces again at the end of 2014, it has been nothing but failure and disappointment for all involved. As McLaren moves to Renault power for 2018, a resurgence up the F1 grid seems inevitable in 2018. Honda teams up with Toro Rosso from 2018 and with less pressure and scrutiny, the Japanese manufacturer might just get it right moving forward.

Two drivers who will want to have a good weekend are Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson. Both drivers’ futures have yet to be resolved and with Ferrari seemingly putting Sauber under pressure to put their two junior drivers, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, in the car for 2018. It’s possible that Sunday could be the final race for both Wehrlein and Ericsson.

With qualifying paying a vital role in the result of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s form in qualifying in 2017 means it is hard to predict anything but another Hamilton win on Sunday. However, Ferrari and Red Bull will not be far behind even if Mercedes are unbeaten in Abu Dhabi in the hybrid era.