The Formula One season is finally drawing to a close. It all started eight months ago in Melbourne, and will end in Abu Dhabi this weekend. There have been controversies, bitter press conferences and historic moments. Lewis Hamilton won his fourth world title thanks to a spectacular second half of the season, and we witnessed important seasons for veteran Kimi Raikkonen and wonderboy Max Verstappen.
Abu Dhabi rivals Monaco for glitz and glamour. It’s facilities are astonishing, and make for some video game-esque aerial shots. Holidaymakers like to visit Abu Dhabi, the weather is still perfect in late November. Luxurious and laid back make for a fitting scene to end a season that has had such episodes of tension and pressure.
To call the circuit nothing special would be kind. While it is the best place to spectate a grand prix (okay, it’s a close run thing with Monaco), the track is characterless. Long straights should make it a perfect place for overtaking with DRS, but even then passing cars is tricky.
Drivers have not rushed to applaud the design of this track. It is purpose built, it should be one of the most varied, exciting formula one tracks in the world. It is not, it is nothing more than a bog-standard design that sucks the life out of the racing.
As a result, qualifying speed is almost guaranteed to turn into points. Barring any technical difficulties or strategy misjudgements, the fastest cars on Saturday will be able to hold their positions. Lewis Hamilton is at 3/5 to notch another pole, which is a very good price. The Mercedes cars will enjoy the long straights, making 15/4 on Valtteri Bottas to get pole decent value if Hamilton makes another qualifying error.
The speed of the Red Bulls will be interesting to see on a track like this, too. Verstappen is at evens to qualify in the top three.
The money is there in Abu Dhabi to reinvent this track. Until they do that, we are unlikely to see any thrilling races in the season-ending showpiece. Unfortunately, while the Formula One coffers continue to be topped up by weekends like this, we are unlikely to see any significant change to the racing.
For a sport so determined to make sure it remains entertaining, a race like this one to end the season is a severe disappointment. Should the Mercedes survive the first corner, this could be another procession at the front. Hamilton to win his 10th race of the season is at 17/20.
Looking ahead to next season, the 888sport Formula One betting markets unsurprisingly have Hamilton as title favourite. Little can be predicted until we get some clues from testing, but Verstappen at 7/2 is already one to consider. With a bit more fortune and a car that is expected to be more competitive in 2018, the flying Dutchman could throw a spanner into the Hamilton-Vettel title contest.
I will be crossing my fingers for another upset in qualifying to provide some Sunday intrigue. After that, all attentions will be turned to preparations for 2018, to see whether Mercedes can extend their dominance.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*