The 2014 Formula 1 season comes to a for gone conclusion at the picturesque Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi this weekend with the two Mercedes AMG F1 drivers the only ones in contention for the prestigious crown.
And in the two practice sessions scheduled on Friday, it was Lewis Hamilton who drew first blood, topping Nico Rosberg by just one tenth of a second. It has been extremely close between the championship protagonist all season long and going by their practice pace, it seems that the trend will only continue during the twilight race.
Kevin Magnussen was the best of the rest in the McLaren with the team testing a new Peter Prodromu designed front wing for the upcoming season. The Dane’s time was eight tenths slower than Hamilton’s benchmark of 1:42.133.
In fourth place came the Red Bull of four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel with the German lapping the Yas Marina Circuit in 1:42.959.
Not for the first time this season, a panel of a Williams Racing car's engine cover fell off on track, forcing Valtteri Bottas to return to his garage. The British team eventually sorted the problem and both cars ran trouble free in FP2 with Bottas fifth fastest and Felipe Massa tenth quickest.
Between two Williams runners came the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, the Ferrari driven by Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. Once again, the STR9 proved quick on a single lap with both drivers in the top 10 in FP1 and the Russian also matching the big boys in the afternoon session.
Force India having now fixed an apparent mechanical problem with their car were 11th and 13th fastest with Sergio Perez leading the Silverstone based outfit.
Coming into the weekend, one of F1’s worst kept secrets was finally revealed when Ferrari announced that Sebastian Vettel will partner Kimi Raikkonen for the 2015 season as part of three year deal with the German. Vettel has always desired to race for Prancing Horse one day and a poor season with Red Bull only served as a trigger behind his move.
The announcement also means that Fernando Alonso’s five year tenure at Ferrari comes to a premature end with the Spaniard most likely to return to McLaren next season. The Spaniard continued to puzzle the media when quizzed about his future, saying “I don’t know where I will be[next year].’’
Fans will have to wait until at least for the 1st of December before McLaren announce the drivers who will begin a new F1 era with Honda. The Japanese multinational car company tested their 2015 power unit for the first time last weekend on the MP4-29-H, taking advantage of the ‘filming days’.
Also, in the news was Caterham F1's crowd funding project which was announced to ensure the team returns to the grid at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The Leafield outfit successfully raised 1.9 million out of the total 2.3 million with the shortfall met by certain investors. The administrators of the team said that it was important for the team to race in the Middle East to please the potential investors for the next season and beyond. As of now, there is no guarantee that the team will be on the grid in Australia, come March 15th.
Regular driver Kamui Kobayashi will be behind the wheels of the Caterham CT05 at Yas Marina and will be joined by Britain’s Will Stevens who makes his grand prix debut after finishing sixth in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 series.
Unarguably the best news came from France when the family of Jules Bianchi announced that the Frenchman - who suffered a serious head injury in a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix - is out of an artificial coma and has been transferred to a hospital in his home country. While the 25-year-old is able to breathe unaided, his condition remains critical but stable.