Formula 1 lessons from Abu Dhabi: Dominant Verstappen makes his threat come true

The farewell to Sebastian Vettel determines the last Formula 1 weekend of the season.

Formula 1 lessons from Abu Dhabi: Dominant Verstappen makes his threat come true

The farewell to Sebastian Vettel determines the last Formula 1 weekend of the season. In Abu Dhabi, however, most are certain that the German will return to the paddock. Max Verstappen, the defending champion, is fully present in this. He achieves what he had announced big. But the pressure is growing.

As a nobody from the southern Hessian province, Sebastian Vettel entered Formula 1 in 2006, leaving it as one of the greatest. Not only because of enormous sporting successes, including four world titles and 53 victories, but also and precisely because of his human qualities. Without exception, every driver colleague and every team paid homage to "Seb", who always wore his heart on his sleeve, on this weekend overflowing with emotions. The 299th race in Formula 1 is also the last for Vettel. The four-time world champion fights again with great zeal and finishes tenth in the 3098th point of his career.

"There was a very special kind of energy the whole weekend among the drivers, in the paddock, and there were good vibrations from the outside too. Of course you're very, very grateful for that," said the 35-year-old, who addressed the tens of thousands with a speech Thanked fans at the Yas Marina Circuit. "Of course I'm a bit sad, but I'm also looking forward to new tasks, more time with my family." Formula 1 loses a personality and one of its living legends. The scene regrets his withdrawal, but quite a few see him return soon. If not as a driver, then maybe as a team boss or consultant. He could do that too. Because Sebastian Vettel is not someone who only thinks up to the next corner.

An unnecessary crash with Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, a five-second penalty and finally 16th place: Mick Schumacher leaves Haas without points in the last Grand Prix. "In the end we didn't have the speed and accordingly we were pretty much passed over from the beginning", the 23-year-old described his race for the US team. "I tried to enjoy the laps as much as possible, the car didn't feel great." After two years, Schumacher will be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, who will be the only German with a regular cockpit. Mercedes is very interested in Schumacher as a reserve driver. "I take a lot of positives and negatives with me, which makes me a stronger driver," he said. On Sunday he confidently stated that he would have a regular cockpit again by 2024 at the latest.

Max Verstappen made good on his threat. Compared to his first title year, he has improved again, has become more consistent and seemed untouchable at times. 15 wins in 22 races is a remarkable record. However, this also had to do with the fact that the competition quickly ran out of steam (Ferrari) or was never in title form (Mercedes). The overall picture could be different next year. At the end of the year, Mercedes put pressure on at least certain types of track. "I enjoyed working with the whole team and achieving something like this year," said Verstappen. "But I know that it will be difficult to repeat something like that. That will be a very good motivation to make up for it next year." But Red Bull will have to pay for its violations of the budget cap in 2023: The world champion team hardly has any more tests in the wind tunnel, according to their own estimates this could cost up to half a second per lap.

Lewis Hamilton couldn't wait to finally park the Mercedes W13. The record world champion and this year's company car have never warmed to each other. In his 16th year in Formula 1, the most successful driver in the history of the series went without a win for the first time. And for the third time he had to admit defeat to his teammate in the annual accounts. However, George Russell revealed that he was more than just a great talent. The 24-year-old is a world champion of tomorrow - if the car allows it. And that, Mercedes believes, could be the case in 2023 if the positive trend continues. In any case, the gross design flaws of the W13 seem to have been eliminated.

Whether Ferrari will also be at the forefront can be doubted. At the beginning of the year, the Reds were still the beneficiaries of the new regulations and left their mark on the first races. But the cushion on Red Bull was quickly used up. Development stagnated, and the Scuderia command post made hair-raising tactical mistakes. Team boss Mattia Binotto goes into the break badly counted, Ferrari is exploring the market for alternatives. Another hot winter threatens the most glamorous and emotional of all racing teams. In the past, that rarely boded well for the coming season.

Sebastian Vettel, Mick Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi and Daniel Ricciardo are out of the Formula 1 regular cockpits for the coming season. Vettel ends his career at Aston Martin and Latifi is without a racing team after leaving Williams. Schumacher (Haas) and Ricciardo (McLaren), on the other hand, can still catch up on their careers. The German has sparked interest from Mercedes as a reserve driver, while the Australian is about to return to Red Bull, where he is set to take on representative duties next year. New in the driver field for 2023 are Oscar Piastri (McLaren), Nyck de Vries (Alpha Tauri) and Logan Sargeant (Williams), Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) is back.

(This article was first published on Monday, November 21, 2022.)

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