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Opinion

Five talking points from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Roar Rookie
2nd December, 2019
8

Okay Formula One fans – another race is done, another season is over and another decade is in the history books. It’s time to celebrate right? Perhaps not. Let’s get into the final talking points for 2019 to see what’s up and why Lance Stroll might have some company in this column next season.

A snoozefest race for a snoozefest season and a snoozefest decade
I always hate to be that guy when it comes to being a negative nelly, but this race really did sum up the season and the decade as a whole. There was some real potential for this to be a great race, with an interesting grid and some good early racing that was good to watch. There was even the added benefit of the drag reduction system being disabled due to a technical issue which saw a rare chance to see the natural ability of the best drivers in the world put to the test.

But in the end that all went out the window and the one thing that we all knew would happen eventually happened – Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton won. A perfect summary of the last season and decade.

Sure, there has been highlights and it all hasn’t been bad. But that is completely overshadowed by the sole fact that we end the 2010s knowing it has been the most one-sided decade in the history of the sport – and it’s a shame. Especially since the sport is at peak popularity and really gaining some traction in new markets and new generations who see this sport in the one way they do without perhaps knowing just how amazing it can be with a little more excitement.

Let’s just hope the last race of the 2010s was a closing chapter on this period in the sport – and that the Australian Grand Prix in less than 100 days gets us back into an era of Formula One that we will remember far more than simply for a silver car inevitably coming out in front.

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari celebrates during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

(Clive Mason/Getty Images)

DRS is overrated
I’ve always been sceptical of driver aids such as DRS and this race showed that it really isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to exciting racing. For 17 laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a ‘technical issue’ – later revealed to be from a data server crash – prevented the use of the system and made drivers actually use their own skill rather than that of a button on their steering wheel to give them an extra boost.

Now I for one was actually the most entertained watching the drivers genuinely race for those first 17 laps, knowing that it all came down to their own skills as a driver in wheel-to-wheel racing and seeing a variety of different styles against each other. There was something extra special with the likes of Max Verstappen – a renowned hard racer – speeding along and using his supreme talents more so than knowing it had the additional help of reducing some drag to increase top speed.

Also seeing someone like Valtteri Bottas having to not just rely on a faster Mercedes to work his way through the field was great to see – give the Finn some added props for being someone who often doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

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We all know that DRS is here to stay and isn’t going anywhere off the back of one short failure, but it was refreshing to see that drivers still know how to race hard and it perhaps should be something the powers that be look at in the future – especially when we inevitably change the rules to increase overtaking in the mid-2020s when the 2021 regulations don’t work as expected.

Pretty doesn’t always mean good
The Yas Marina Circuit really is the supermodel of Formula One. It’s incredibly beautiful to look at but incredibly dull under the surface – and that’s no disrespect to supermodels. I’m sure that there are some that are great under the surface and great to know. But given my life doesn’t really see me crossing circles that much with them, I can’t really comment. I will perhaps try and change that up slightly by asking the question of when was the last time we had a good race at Abu Dhabi? I’ll give you a moment to think.

What was your answer? None right? Yeah, me too – and that’s my point. In the ten years we have been coming to Yas Marina we have never had a good race there – 2010 perhaps was the closest, but even then it all really came down to the situation of a season finale and a certain Spaniard being held up by a certain Russian, rather than actually the race as a whole.

The circuit will remain on the calendar for as long as they continue to inject the millions and millions of dollars that they ultimately do into the sport. But if we are going to continue to come to Abu Dhabi, can we move it to a different slot on the calendar? Brazil is the perfect choice for a season finale and when we – hopefully soon – return to a season ending title decider I want the race to be a good one, and not just a pretty thing to look at with a dull interior.

Hibernation mode activated
Are we entering the most uninspiring off-season in recent memory? This isn’t another post for me to try and be negative – although clearly I’m failing bad at that – but look at what we have to look forward to ahead of 2020. Pretty much no changes to rules or regulations, only two driver changes for next year – that’s it. It seems weird to me that a sport such as Formula One actually has very limited changes ahead of a new season, but perhaps that isn’t a bad thing.

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We do really enter a hibernation of sorts next year, as pretty much everyone looks to 2021 for a new boost with all the changes that are planned. With that in mind it’s probably foolish to expect too much change at the top, however if Red Bull and Ferrari can keep their late season form into 2020, then perhaps we can actually have a genuine three-way fight that we all crave.
We also have two new races in 2020, with the new Vietnam race and the return of the Dutch Grand Prix. That is genuinely exciting, so perhaps we need to remember that and try and help this little black duck writing this column each race to put a smile on his dial.

Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Stroll watch adds another in 2020
Always time to check in on my man Lance Stroll. The positive? He made it out of Q1. The negative? Well, he didn’t finish the race. But I have to mention something even more positive when it comes to the little legend and that is the exciting prospect that he will be joined by another Canadian on the grid in 2019 F2 runner-up Nicholas Latifi. For this Australian Canadian lover, that makes me extremely excited.

It is the first time in the 60-year history of the sport that two Canadians will be in Formula One at the same time – incredible right? It also gives me even less space in 2020 to write about them, but you know I will make the most of it.

Let’s make 2020 a year for Canada to showcase that it is more than simply a home of the best food in the world in poutine, the second greatest sport in the world in ice hockey and the most entertaining former World Champion currently involved in spouting controversial opinions in Jacques Villeneuve. Help us Stroll and Latifi, you’re our only hope.

Goodnight 2019 and the 2010s. Let’s wake up in a new year and new decade with a smile on our face. See you in Melbourne.