Abu Dhabi no dead rubber for Formula One’s mid-field

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

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    Toro Rosso are one of three teams desperate to seal sixth place. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

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    Formula One’s driver and constructor championships may have already been wrapped up in 2017, though the season finale in Abu Dhabi next week will be no dead rubber for the teams in the mid-field.

    First to fourth position on the constructor’s table have already been locked away and it is a surety that Williams will capture fifth, but the battle for sixth between Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas represents more than just intrigue.

    A mere six points are spread across the three rivals, with a maximum of 43 on offer at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It’s unlikely that either of the triumvirate will be achieving a victory, let alone a podium – though top 10 positioning will be vital.

    On paper, Renault appear to be favourites. They are the sole works outfit in this skirmish and have the strongest driver line-up in Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz. Despite this, reliability of late has been poor for the French team – raising question marks over whether they will seal the deal.

    Since Spaniard Sainz was promoted to Renault at the Japanese Grand Prix, the 23-year-old has only finished in the points once, in contrast to his form at Toro Rosso which was far more consistent.

    Hulkenberg meanwhile has endured a rotten string of four retirements in the past six races, which has also dented Renault’s charge in this back half of the season.

    Renault’s decline has simultaneously been echoed by the Renault-powered Toro Rosso outfit, who’ve only collected points once in the past five events – courtesy of the now departed Daniil Kvyat.

    Neither Pierre Gasly or newly crowned World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley have bothered the scorers, and Hartley in particular has struggled to even see the chequered flag.

    Well documented have been Toro Rosso’s recent woes, with the reliability of the Renault power-unit being the worst it has been all season. Abu Dhabi represents the final time that the Red Bull junior squad will dance with the French manufacturer, before its ostensible switch to Honda in 2018.

    Whether the reliability will be sorted for the final race at Yas Marina remains to be seen, though further pain may see the eighth placed Haas emerge as a serious threat – despite still being in that six-point window.

    Haas’ season has been largely inconsistent, regardless of the American outfit now having two drivers capable of scoring regular points. Consistent has been the moaning from Romain Grosjean about most facets of the car, though he leads teammate Kevin Magnussen in the driver’s table.

    Given the opportunity, Haas could be better placed than either of the Renault powered teams to steal that sixth place in the standings – if reliability continues to plague the opposition.

    Either team basically need both their cars to finish inside the points to guarantee themselves that alluring sixth place, which with it will carry a significant haul of prize money, for which the smaller teams all vie for intently.

    So while this may not be an affair at the front of the field, there will be six drivers from three teams come November 26, who’ll be battling as if they were fighting for the championship itself.