Ferrari have a lot to prove in F1 season finale
ABU DHABI – World champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team would be excused if they decided to take things a little easy at Sunday's Formula One season finale in Abu Dhabi while rivals Ferrari will have plenty to prove.
The Scuderia has never won a race at the Yas Marina course and want to end another somewhat disappointing season on a high after a collision between their drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc two weeks ago in Brazil.
In addition, teams are already preparing for 2020 which marks the last year before sweeping regulation changes in the sport.
"Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the start of the 2020 season in many ways, with most teams trying out ideas for next year during Friday free practice," Vettel said.
Vettel and Leclerc were ordered for talks at the Ferrari headquarters ahead of the season-ender as team principal Mattia Binotto insisted the team "must make sure that something like that doesn't happen again."
Ferrari have just three wins this season as they failed again to seriously challenge Mercedes who ran away with the drivers' and constructors' world titles for the sixth straight year.
Binotto praised a fightback after the summer holiday "with three race wins in a row and a run of six consecutive pole positions, as well as our win in Monza" but what they really want is to finally win the drivers' crown again they last lifted through Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
"Of course finishing second will never be good enough for Ferrari and we are looking ahead to a very intense winter to keep building as a group. The aim is to come back stronger to be up to the challenges that await us," Binotto said.
Vettel has three wins in Abu Dhabi from his term at Red Bull where he won four world titles. But Hamilton is the record winner with four top spots at the night race on the 5.554km course, and with another success would move within seven of Michael Schumacher's record 61 race wins.
Vettel also faces finishing behind a team-mate for only the second time in his career (the other being in 2014 behind Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull) as Leclerc ranks 19 points ahead of him.
But the impressive Ferrari debutant Leclerc will not only want to keep Vettel at bay, he also still has the chance to finish the season in third by reclaiming that spot he lost through the Sao Paulo collision with Vettel.
Leclerc is 11 points behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen into fourth due to not finishing in Brazil - with Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas long assured of first and second.
Abu Dhabi also marks the last F1 race for now for German Nico Hulkenberg who has received no new contract at Renault and failed to find another team.dpa