Abu Dhabi GP | The latest from the paddock
Here is a hearty summary of today’s events in the Abu Dhabi paddock.
This morning Robert Kubica was announced by Williams as George Russell’s teammate for 2019, making his official return to F1 after almost a decade. He was signed by Williams as a reserve driver and thereafter spent the current season getting more and more outings to get him competition-ready. Further speculations surronded the figure of Sergey Sirotkin, who is seeing himself out of the Formula 1 picture. The Russian is feeling downbeat and shocked, as he stated he “cannot believe” it is over for him. Earlier today it turned out that his backing sponsor SMP decided to part ways with Williams. The lack of faith in the project due to their poor performance and development rate led to the separation, and at the moment it is suggested that Sergey is not even going to get a side role. Claire Williams assured the team is finalizing the details concerning their reserve driver, whose name will be revealed next week.
Therefore, Sergey Sirotkin joins Esteban Ocon in the list of the drivers who did not manage to secure a 2019 drive. However, the Frenchman is having a number of opportunities, mainly on the Mercedes simulator. He is going to share such a duty with Stoffel Vandoorne, future Formula E driver affiliated to the German constructor. Similarly to his teammate, the Belgian is bidding farewell to F1 this weekend and will start his first electric racing campaign under Mercedes’ wing in Saudi Arabia.
Drama sprouts as Haas formally protested Force India to the FIA. The American team refused to comment on the matter, which appears to be about the new Force India using the car built by the old team. All entries are supposed to hold the intellectual property rights on the car, therefore according to Haas the British outfit violated the aforementioned rule.
Moving on to the FIA press conference, today’s most prominent media session was composed by two slots. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton took the spotlight, as plenty of questions involved the pair over their rivalries and memories on the track, now that the Spaniard is leaving F1 after 17 years. Rookies-to-be George Russell and Lando Norris were also there and talked us through their feelings and their approach looking towards next year. The second part featured the Ferrari duo, Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen. The latter two drivers commented on their Brazil falling out, as the Dutchman tried to explain his behaviour, blaming the overreaction on an excessive emotional rush, triggered by something he did not share and merely regarded as “something I did not expect to hear”. However, both drivers reiterated that they are bound to move forward going into the Abu Dhabi weekend. All eyes were on them, whereas a casual and carefree Sebastian Vettel chatted with Kimi Raikkonen throughout the presser.
There is indeed a much more carefree attitude at Ferrari, as we saw this morning with Laurent Mekies, Mattia Binotto and Maurizio Arrivabene roaming around the paddock. The whole outfit is indeed eager to wrap it up and build things anew with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel for a potential title assault.
On-track action is starting tomorrow morning, as the drivers are saving the last dance before focusing entirely on the 2019 season