And now, the end is near; and so I face the final curtain… Yeah, well, here we are, the last stop for 2016. Not a vintage year for Red Bull Racing, more like the house red in the local pizzeria – but who doesn’t enjoy those?
We’ve competed fiercely in the very serious business of racing and had a good laugh while doing it. We’ve won a load of trophies, got back to winning ways after an unwanted sabbatical, and flung Max Verstappen at the front of the grid like a boisterous kitten let loose in a coop full of nervous pigeons. It’s been good, hasn’t it?
Yas Marina isn’t a particularly good circuit for a dramatic championship finale* but it’s a nice place to go to end a long, hard season if you’ve got nothing at stake. The paddock is convivial; the facilities are superb and work is a ten minute walk from the hotel. After a couple of tough races, Abu Dhabi is a stroll in the park. They even air-condition the garages.
TV are working very hard to sell this weekend as an epic title-decider. It doesn’t feel very climactic though. We’ve got to where we expected to be: It has the potential for theatre – but no-one’s really expecting any.
Except, perhaps Nico Rosberg. A very senior engineer of Spy’s acquaintance (not one of ours) once confessed that, despite his driver being a virtual shoe-in for the title, he spent the fortnight before the final race unable to sleep, stuck in a feedback loop of imaging all the horrible things that could happen. So bad a case of the yips did he have that it never occurred to him that his guy might win, which is why his team-mates were pretty surprised when at the chequered flag, he started running around and yelling in a manner more usually associated with having a weasel run up your trousers. Maybe Nico’s in that situation (not the weasel bit): thinking about what could go wrong.
But probably not. He’s a bright lad.
Spare a thought for Merc’s crew though. There’s no better feeling than your driver winning the title at the final race… unless the bloke he beats is also your driver. We’ve been there, done that. Seb creaking over the line to beat Fernando at Interlagos was magic; Seb winning at Yas to pip Mark (and Fernando, and Lewis) was… confusing. When your guy is having the worst day of his professional career, cheering and popping champagne corks feels a bit wrong – but you want to do it anyway ‘cos hey, your other guy won. It’s why the party in 2010 probably wasn’t as good as the one in 2009 where we finished the year with a 1-2 that had absolutely no consequences attached. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another one of those this weekend?
Anyway, one final set of headlines for 2016
Max Verstappen quits F1, moves to CERN
After his drive in Brazil, Toto Wolff believes Max Verstappen is redefining physics – so obviously his future lies at CERN playing with the Large Hadron Collider. It’s very fast, very powerful, features lots of overtaking and is so dangerous it might suck the planet into another dimension. It’s a perfect fit. And ‘Max Verstappen’ sounds like an excellent name for a mad scientist. If only he could grow a beard…
What’s going to happen now? Can McLaren survive without a shorts curfew? Will Ron launch Project Five? Nobody knows – but why let a lack of facts get in the way of some excellent idle speculation? Spy’s guess is that, as the lights go down in Abu Dhabi a hand will shoot through the tarmac on the start-finish straight. Like the end of Carrie, but with perfectly manicured nails.
Bernd Mayländer in running for vacant Manor seat
With Esteban Ocon off to Force India, Manor need another driver with good Mercedes connections and an excellent F1 record in the wet. Who better than Bernd, who led half the race in Brazil in treacherous conditions and, as usual, didn’t put a foot wrong.
Maximum attack from Nico!
(Unless that involves any sort of risk. In which case, minimum attack from Nico.)
Bigger, better, faster, more!
Like the circus, F1 arrives in town, wows everyone for a couple of days and then departs in the middle of the night leaving a big mess behind – but with a promise to return next year with a show more spectacular than ever. That’s the message from Abu Dhabi. 2017 is going to be faster, wider, closer and more physical. At least that’s the plan…
*it’s not going to rain, there isn’t a vicious corner waiting to bite, there’s plenty of run-off, and enough space to preclude the possibility of getting Bernoldi’d