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Post-season spleen: still F1 rises

Fernando Alonso's F1 exit may have marked the end of an era, but the sport is in good hands for the future.

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Post-season spleen: still F1 rises
Fuente imagen: F1

The enchantment is over. As the race and the final interviews end, the paddock turns into a silent neighbourhood, with the flashy and bright floodlights fading in the moonlight. The sun has set on the 2018 season, whose initial picture seemed much different from its epilogue. Adding to that, 11 drivers disputed their 'last race' in Abu Dhabi, either with their team or their farewell race to the sport, which made the closing chapter of the season rather overwhelming.

Fernando Alonso earned the spotlight throughout the weekend at Yas Marina, having become a pivotal figure on the F1 grid, whose skills always made him stand out, not just amongst his current colleagues but in the history books as well. The Spaniard decided to prioritize different racing commitments, with the goal of winning the Triple Crown and being short of competitive options in F1. Countless drivers and motorsport personalities paid tribute to his character and career during the Grand Prix and even the Yas Marina Circuit ended up naming the Drivers' Briefing Room after him, making his tribute permanent.

As the chequered flag came down, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso put on an iconic show on the main straight, performing celebratory 'donuts' after their three-way parade. They built a gripping memory for everyone, as a tribute to the moments they shared on track. F1 is losing one of its brightest stars, but there is still life for the Pinnacle of Motorsports, as there are plenty of acts to look forward to in the near future.

The Old Faithful

First, Robert Kubica is making a sensational return to F1 with Williams. The Pole fought back following a career-ending injury and, after he managed to find adequate financial support and regain confidence with the new generation single-seaters. Kubica embodies resilience and endurance, as he managed to tackle the 'baby drivers' trend' and insert himself back into the market. F2 champion George Russell will be Robert Kubica's teammate, shaping a very polarized line-up at Williams. Although Williams is no longer in the position to race at the front, the Pole will be instrumental for the Grove-based team to start ascending and recovering from their tough times.

Baby boom unravelling

Though an F1 veteran will come back, the new generation is taking over, as I said before the baby drivers' trend is unstoppable. Charles Leclerc has been promoted to Ferrari, partnering Vettel, a move which ignited numerous speculations over the intra-team dynamics for next year. As many would think, Charles Leclerc's mental strength is not going to have him crushed by Vettel's experience and speed, although the German certainly plays a number 1 driver role. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the spunky and royal talent from Monaco will make a name for himself as a Ferrari driver.

The Bulls are locking Horns

Pierre Gasly is also advancing to Red Bull, where he will be racing alongside Max Verstappen. The Anglo-Austrian outfit will bear Honda power units from next year onwards, and we are all curious to see if the Japanese manufacturer will manage to maintain Red Bull's top team status, or if it will lose performance and make way for another team (such as Renault) at the forefront. Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso seat will be occupied by the returning Daniil Kvyat, who was released by Helmut Marko last year. The Russian was demoted twice at the advantage of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, as their careers took off to Red Bull, but he was brought back after the Austrian manager realised he was short of options fulfilling the SL requirements in the Junior Academy. Plus, Kvyat was responsible for sharing information about Ricciardo's Renault move, which paved the way for his return. Alex Albon owing to financial backing from Thailand made it to Toro Rosso, having conquered his own spot in the category, joining his long-time opponents and friends Leclerc and Russell.

Toto Wolff's design

On the contrary, Esteban Ocon will be sitting out of F1 for 2019, as Toto Wolff's plans imply bringing him back for a Mercedes seat in 2020, while he will keep on nurturing his talent through simulator and testing programmes. Therefore, there is already a chance for Valtteri Bottas to walk away from Mercedes, as his contract with the German team expires at the end of next year, acting as a 'placeholder' in the upcoming season. In the meantime Mercedes' advantage has been significantly reduced, with Ferrari making giant steps forward in terms of performance and engineering innovation. The Italian team may have been held back by mistakes and Sergio Marchionne's death, which has certainly affected their mood and spirit, but this added more fuel to the fire.

Is McLaren going to rise like a phoenix?

After a daunting year and a poor project, McLaren will feature an all-new line-up with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. Both drivers will be helping the Woking-based team bouncing back after years of problems, which piled up and turned into a 'lack of focus', as Zak Brown said. The American CEO stated that Toro Rosso's technical director will be moving to the team at some point this season, having secured a contract with the British engineer, after their technical department underwent a number of changes, on top of them Morris and Goss's departure. It is going to be a long ride on a bumpy road, but there is no other way than up after the team hit rock bottom, even when it had no excuses after divorcing Honda.

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