The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was almost completely devoid of action. I’ve seen Formula 1 have posted the race highlights on YouTube and there are more than seven minutes of them. That video must contain an awful amount of filler…
It’s a shame that a Red Bull/Max Verstappen win wasn’t quite the dramatic upset it felt earlier this season at Silverstone, and that a race with so much to talk about beforehand went the way it did.
And while there is something to lament there, I thought this also provided an opportunity to celebrate the things that the Abu Dhabi GP should have offered, but didn’t.
The worst thing about Abu Dhabi
It’s incredible that Formula 1 managed to pull off a full championship of 17 races, and even though Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominated it was packed with fun stories.
So to have all that end with such a whimper in Abu Dhabi with a boring race on a circuit that always disappoints is a really unfitting conclusion.
Imagine if the finale had been in Bahrain a week before? The talking point of George Russell’s shock Mercedes opportunity and heartbreak of his lost win, with Sergio Perez coming through to take a first victory for himself and Racing Point instead. Then heading into the winter with the intrigue of whether Russell has forced Mercedes to find a way to drop Valtteri Bottas, and if Perez’s victory combined with Alex Albon’s misery would yield a driver change at Red Bull.
OK, we have some talking points still and some unresolved issues.
But let’s be honest…it’s a huge shame the 2020 season ended the way it did.
Red Bull vs Mercedes
This race was not a good advertisement for Mercedes’ dominance finally being ended because it showed that any grand prix is rubbish if nothing happens!
Fortunately a fair few tracks on the calendar produce a better fight than Abu Dhabi’s circuit.
So if this is a sign of things to come for 2021, bring it on. There are reasons for and against that happening – Red Bull’s made good progress, never ended the season this quick before, and is carrying over most of its car for next year. But Mercedes hasn’t developed its W11 since Spa, so it could be primed for a massive performance step in 2021.
Either way it was good for Red Bull to end Mercedes’ control of ‘normal’ races. Hopefully the fight’s more entertaining next year.
Finishing 14th in a frustrating grand prix was a bad way for Sebastian Vettel to say goodbye to Ferrari but it was kind of appropriate in a miserable farewell season.
Unfortunately Abu Dhabi’s a bad place to try to make your mark. Anything Vettel wanted to do differently was left pretty pointless by the nature of the circuit. It punishes an offset strategy which is what Vettel ended up on.
Better for his Ferrari exit to be remembered for the incredibly kind words exchanged between team and driver, and the sweet parting gift of Leclerc running a Vettel tribute helmet – and the helmet swap that followed, complete with a little note for each other.
Grosjean saying goodbye
Like him or loathe him, Romain Grosjean has been a brilliant addition to F1 for many years. It’s a huge shame he didn’t get to say goodbye on his terms in Abu Dhabi.
Grosjean missed the race as a legacy of the burns he suffered in his horrific crash in Bahrain a couple of weeks earlier. His long-term recovery is absolutely the priority so there’s no doubt he made the right decision.
But it meant his last F1 memory will be that fiery crash, rather than something more befitting a multiple podium finisher who, on his day, was incredibly fast.
Grosjean made some silly mistakes in his time and his tendency to do so was an underlying weakness that stopped him consistently accessing the peaks that made him so spectacular.
And while he was ultimately at fault for the Bahrain crash, moving over on Daniil Kvyat, no driver deserves to leave F1 that way.
It would have been an emotional exit in Abu Dhabi, one that Grosjean would have deserved.