Abu Dhabi - Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team will be
aiming to end an already-triumphant season on a high while the chasing pack
scrap for points, positions and prize money at this weekend's season-ending Abu
Dhabi Grand Prix.
Much more than pride will be at stake for the middle and
lower order teams, as they seek to finish strongly and boost their 2018
budgets, in the twilight showdown at the Yas Marina circuit.
Hamilton has already wrapped up his fourth drivers' world
title and Mercedes their fourth consecutive constructors' championship, but
team chief Toto Wolff said the team are determined to win in Abu Dhabi for the
fourth year in succession.
"Regardless of what stands in the trophy cabinets back
at base, our focus is always on the next race and the next championship,"
"Our goal in Abu Dhabi is quite simple: to give the
best of ourselves, to extract the maximum from our 'diva' in her final race and
"We saw promising pace in both Mexico and Brazil,
circuits where we had expected to struggle more than we did, and this is a
positive sign of the progress we have made in understanding our difficulties
"But we have not been on the top step of the podium
since winning in Austin and we are determined to change that in Abu
Hamilton was the victor in Texas a month ago and, like his
team boss, wants to end his season strongly with a 10th victory this year.
"I'm going to give it everything in Abu Dhabi," said the Briton, who
has seen rivals Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari win
the last two contests.
Vettel will also be keen to impress again and clinch second
place behind Hamilton in the drivers' championship. He goes into the weekend
with a 22-point advantage ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri
And Verstappen, buoyed by high praise from Mercedes
executive chairperson Niki Lauda, will be a threat as he seeks a third win of the
season. Three-time champion Lauda last week described the 20-year-old Dutchman
as the best young driver to enter F1.
"In all my many years in motor racing, Max is the most
fantastic young driver I've ever seen, no doubt," said Lauda. "He
impresses me - he is aggressive and fast. The only thing I would tell him is to
keep his feet on the ground."
While the championship is already decided, the leading
drivers may well also be challenged by their team-mates Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen
and Daniel Ricciardo.
While they scrap at the front, it will lower down the field
that some of the most ferocious battles are likely to take place.
The Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas teams are separated by six
points, and an estimated payout of around $12 million, in sixth, seventh and
eighth places in the championship.
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul, whose outfit are two
ahead of Haas and four ahead of Toro Rosso, said: "This race is almost a
championship in itself."
As the tension eats up the midfielders, it will be an
emotional release for Williams' Felipe Massa again as he competes in his final
race before retiring.
The 36-year-old Brazilian said: "I'm looking forward to
it and plan to enjoy every moment, to finish my Formula One career on a high
F1 may also bid farewell to the Sauber drivers Pascal
Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, tipped to be replaced next year, and to the
McLaren are to be powered by Renault next season while Honda
will supply Toro Rosso.
The final race of 2017 may also prove the final event with
fully open cockpits on the cars before next year's planned introduction of a
'halo' closed cockpit protection system.
Formula One world championship standings ahead of Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the 2017 season:
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 345 pts (champion), 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 302, 3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 280, 4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 200, 5. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) 193, 6. Max Verstappen (NED) 158, 7. Sergio Perez (MEX) 94, 8. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 83, 9. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 54, 10. Felipe Massa (BRA) 42, 11. Lance Stroll (CAN) 40, 12. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 35, 13. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 28, 14. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 19, 15. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 16. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 13, 17. Jolyon Palmer (GBR) 8, 18. Pascal Wehrlein (GER) 5, 19. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) 5
1. Mercedes 625 pts (champions), 2. Ferrari 495, 3. Red Bull 358, 4. Force India 177, 5. Williams 82, 6. Toro Rosso 53, 7. Renault 49, 8. Haas 47, 9. McLaren-Honda 28, 10. Sauber 5