With the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships sorted, thoughts now turn towards the final race of the 2018 F1 season. There are retirements, movements, and for 2019, a return of a favorite son.
Robert Kubica will return to F1 next year, stepping up to race alongside new driver, George Russell. Having been with the then BMW Sauber team from 2006 to 2009, Kubica was also involved in rallying. A serious crash in February 2011, just weeks before the F1 season started, left him with a major traumatic injury to his right arm, an injury that still affects the limb’s mobility. Intensive rehabilitation since has built up his bodily strength and has provided some limited usage of his right arm
That usage is enough, though, for the Williams team, medical staff, and management, to sign the 33 year old Polish born driver to join them next year. Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams added: “I am delighted to announce that Robert will be stepping up to the role of Race Driver to partner George in 2019. All of us at Williams have been immensely impressed at what he has achieved, and it is a great credit to his strength of character and tenacity to return to Formula One.
Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo will part ways after this weekend. Ricciardo recently revealed that he had a moment of clarity in regards to his future with Red Bull, with the decision being “it was time for a change”. That decision came whilst aboard a jet coming into Los Angeles, with the Western Australian born driver musing “I’ve talked about rolling with the punches … but man, even I get sore after a while.“
Fernando Alonso leaves F1 after this weekend’s Abu Dhabi race. The move to IndyCar and semi retirement has the 37 year old as just one of thirteen drivers to have won Monaco and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’ll also leave as the only Spanish born driver to have won in Formula 1. Alonso has said that of his 32 F1 GP wins, it was the 29th, at Valencia, that was the most memorable. Marcus Ericsson also leaves F1 on a full time basis after this weekend, with a one year contract signed to race with the Schmidt Peterson IndyCar team, plus he’ll be a reserve driver for Sauber.
Yas Marina is the venue for the final 2018 F1 race. This year marks ten years since the 5.5 kilometer long circuit hosted its first round. Designed and built as part of a proposed resort venue on Yas Island, it now is home to seven hotels and a Ferrari theme park. The track itself is a stunning mix of straights, including a 1.2 kilometre long main straight, and 21 turns that offer plenty of action.
2017 saw Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas take the checked flag ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Ricciardo was classified as a DNF and will no doubt be hoping that history doesn’t repeat for his final race with Red Bull.
All teams have opted for the hypersoft tire for Abu Dhabi as the primary rubber.
Practice gets underway at 13:00 local time on Friday November 23, with qualifying late in the day, 17:00 on Saturday. Race start is 17:10 local on Sunday, November 25