Lewis Hamilton returning for the final grand prix of the 2020 Formula 1 season is not yet confirmed, so who will make the most of the seven-time world champion’s absence to win the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix if he does sit out the race?
Hamilton was forced to sit out the Sakhir Grand Prix a week ago due to being in isolation and although that period will come to an end in time for this week’s race, Hamilton must return a negative test before he can travel to Abu Dhabi and that could make the timing of his return difficult. Mercedes have not written off the prospect of him landing in the city in time for the final practice on Saturday, meaning he could take part in qualifying, but if Hamilton is forced to sit this out then George Russell will once again take his seat.
Russell almost took full advantage of his golden opportunity a week ago. The 22-year-old Briton should have taken the chequered flag in his Mercedes debut but was robbed of victory by a pit-lane blunder and a puncture, forcing him to settle for a ninth-place finish. It was an impressive performance by Russell though, and if he does get the opportunity to fill Hamilton’s seat again on Sunday then he will be a contender for victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas has been installed as the favourite but it has been a largely underwhelming 2020 campaign for the Finn, who finished down in eighth place a week ago, and therefore it is difficult to have much faith in him either. But one man we can have some belief in is Max Verstappen. The Red Bull ace looked prime for his second win of the season after a strong qualifying session a week ago, only to be forced out of the race early on thanks to a bad decision by Charles Leclerc, but he is determined to sign off in style this Sunday and he does have a solid track record in Abu Dhabi. That makes him an appealing option to be Sunday’s race winner if Hamilton sits it out.
Another appealing bet is to back Sergio Perez for a top-three finish. I did that a week ago and he went one further than that, capitalising on Mercedes’ blunder with Russell to take the chequered flag for the first time in his career. The 30-year-old Mexican has now recorded two podium appearances in his last three races and he has hovered just behind the top three on multiple occasions throughout the season, showcasing his consistency. Another top-three finish for him on Sunday would be a super end to his season and I believe he is good value for one.
Yas Marina is one of the newest circuits on the Formula 1 calendar having only debuted back in 2009, but it has already established itself as one of the most popular tracks with drivers thanks to its twists and turns. There are 21 corners on the 3.45-mile circuit and several drivers have highlighted the fact that every single one of them is unique, but not all reviews have been overly positive. In fact, Kimi Raikkonen once claimed the first few corners were “quite good” before going on to describe the rest of them with a vulgar term that I will leave to your imagination. Lewis Hamilton is the most successful drivers in this track’s history, having won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix five times, and his 2019 success made him only the second driver to string together back-to-back wins at this track.
Location: Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Number Of Laps: 55
Lap Length: 3,451 miles
Lap Record: Lewis Hamilton, 1 minute 39.283 seconds (2019)
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Winners
|2009||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Yas Marina|
|2010||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Yas Marina|
|2011||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||Yas Marina|
|2012||Kimi Raikkonen||Lotus-Renault||Yas Marina|
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Yas Marina|
|2014||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Yas Marina|
|2015||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Yas Marina|
|2016||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Yas Marina|
|2017||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||Yas Marina|
|2018||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Yas Marina|
|2019||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Yas Marina|