The 2020 F1 season concludes with Sunday’s Abu Dhabi GP and world champion Lewis Hamilton returns to the grid in a bid to sign off in style.
The 2020 F1 season has been a campaign like no other and although the Drivers’ Championship was clinched by Lewis Hamilton with three races to spare in Turkey, there is no shortage of intrigue for the finale in Abu Dhabi.
The early drama centred around whether Hamilton himself would be able to sign off his seventh championship-winning season in person. He missed last week’s dramatic Sakhir Grand Prix following a positive Covid-19 test, but Mercedes announced on Thursday that he had been cleared to return.
World Champion Reclaims Seat From Impressive Russell
Hamilton’s return to Mercedes has taken some excitement out of the race after George Russell really shook things up when replacing him last week.
Russell looked on course to claim his first F1 win in fairytale fashion when stepping up from Williams to replace Hamilton in the second Bahrain event. He qualified second to team-mate Valtteri Bottas but drove superbly on the Sunday, taking the lead at the start.
However, the races of both Mercedes drivers were ruined by a disastrous pit-stop blunder which saw the team fitting tyres meant for Bottas on Russell’s car.
Some small consolation for Russell was that the three points he gained for ninth place and setting the fastest lap were his first F1 points and he should return to Williams this weekend with a spring in his step and his reputation enhanced.
Russell did enough to suggest that he will claim a Mercedes seat in 2022 at the latest – and there is growing pressure for the team to find a way to get him in the car in 2021 if Bottas does not raise his game.
1/2 to return by scoring his 12th victory of the season – he has won the last five events he has started – and he looks a rock-solid favourite if there are no lingering effects of his illness.
Battle for Best of the Rest in the Balance
Two scraps to be best of the rest will be concluded on Sunday. Bottas leads Max Verstappen by 16 points in the battle for the runner-up spot. Verstappen made an early exit in Sakhir after qualifying third, so Bottas actually enhanced his chances of second place by coming eighth.
Third place in the constructors’ standings is also up for grabs with Racing Point now in great shape to claim the bronze medal thanks to Sergio Perez’s victory in Sakhir with Lance Stroll third.
He was at the back of the pack after lap one last week, but cannot be guaranteed to same safety-car assistance that helped him to victory this time. Perez is
6/1 for a podium finish this week.
Racing Point face a real threat from the McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, who are just ten points behind.
Renault are 22 points behind Racing Point despite Esteban Ocon’s second place in Sakhir, but all three teams should be lively contenders in the finale and any non-finishes could have a major effect on their scrap for third.
More Abu Dhabi Domination For Mercedes?
Mercedes have won the last six Abu Dhabi races, four through Hamilton, but Nico Rosberg was victorious in 2015 and Bottas won from pole there in 2017.
Hamilton also won at the track for McLaren in 2011 and their dominance in 2020 means they will surely be confident of adding to their tally on Sunday.