A look ahead to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the 2017 season. While the major honours are no longer up for grabs, there is plenty to play for in the tight Formula One midfield.
Focus on ... The fight for sixth
With the top five places in the constructors' championship set in stone, the attention turns to the fight for sixth place. Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas have been embroiled in a season-long battle and just six points separates the three teams going into this weekend's race at the Yas Marina Circuit. On the surface, finishing sixth or seventh in the constructors' championship is inconsequential, but for the teams, the difference in prize money -- an estimated £13 million between sixth and eighth position -- is crucial in terms of developing their cars and ensuring they are financially sound.
In terms of pure performance, Renault has led the way since Silverstone and should be comfortably in sixth place. A combination of poor reliability and only having one driver scoring regular points -- up until the U.S. Grand Prix, when Jolyon Palmer was dropped in favour of Carlos Sainz -- has meant Renault sits seventh. Finishing behind Toro Rosso -- which runs the same Renault engine and currently operate on a smaller budget -- would be deemed as a disappointing campaign.
Toro Rosso still maintains sixth place going into Abu Dhabi, despite scoring just one point since Singapore. Awful reliability and regular mid-season driver changes have impacted the Italian squad severely, but despite that it is still in a position to score its best constructors' championship finish since 2008.
Haas is also still in the fight, six points off Toro Rosso and two points behind Renault. Unlike in 2016, Haas has two drivers who have scored points. While the Haas car still doesn't perform consistently compared to its midfield rivals, both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have done a solid job in 2017.
So, who is the favourite? Renault needs to out-score Toro Rosso by five points in Abu Dhabi due to the fact Toro Rosso's best finish is a fourth, while Renault's best result is sixth. If Renault was to out-score Toro Rosso by four points, rather than five, then Toro Rosso would finish ahead due to a better result to its name in 2017.
Renault has the strongest package out of all three teams and both Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg have delivered throughout 2017. As seen in Brazil though, scoring good points can be difficult if the top five teams and McLaren perform as expected. Typically, Haas performs best at low downforce circuits -- Abu Dhabi is a medium downforce circuit, which doesn't rule Haas out entirely but it's hard seeing it outscore Toro Rosso by six points. Renault is in the best position to score points in Abu Dhabi, but with Force India, Williams and McLaren all likely to be in the mix, the French manufacturer faces a big task.
In need of a win
During qualifying, Valtteri Bottas looked back to his best in Brazil. An outstanding lap in Q3 saw him displace Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets to take his third pole position of the season. A poor start ultimately meant he was unable to convert it into a victory, but all weekend Bottas was close in terms of performance to teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Finn will have his work cut out this weekend though with Hamilton's outstanding record at the Yas Marina Circuit. Bottas hasn't won since the Austrian Grand Prix in June and has admitted in the run-up to this weekend's race that he needs to prove himself if he is to remain a Mercedes driver in 2019 and beyond.
Another driver who is desperate for a win is Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen has not stood on the top step since his return to Ferrari in 2014 and with the title battle over between teammate Vettel and Hamilton, Ferrari will surely allow Raikkonen to fight for the victory should he be in contention on Sunday. The Finn took a memorable victory in 2012 -- his first of two for Lotus -- with the infamous team radio message: ''Leave me alone, I know what I am doing.''
The end of the road
Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the end of Felipe Massa's Formula One career. With 11 grand prix victories, 16 pole positions and over 40 podiums, Massa bows out of F1 with his head held high. His final home race at Interlagos showed he still had the speed and determination to race against the very best as he fended off Fernando Alonso for the duration of the 71-lap race.
To the delight of many, this weekend is the final time McLaren will run Honda engines under its current deal. Since McLaren and Honda joined forces again at the end of 2014, it has been nothing but failure and disappointment for all involved. As McLaren moves to Renault power for 2018, a resurgence up the F1 grid seems inevitable in 2018. Honda teams up with Toro Rosso from 2018 and with less pressure and scrutiny, the Japanese manufacturer might just get it right moving forward.
As these two journeys come to an end, will Sunday's race be the final time we see either Pascal Wehrlein or Marcus Ericsson at a Formula One grand prix weekend? Both drivers' futures have yet to be resolved and with Ferrari seemingly putting Sauber under pressure to put two juniors -- Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi -- in the car for 2018, it's possible Sunday will be the end of the road for Wehrlein and Ericsson.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is favourite to take a fourth victory in Abu Dhabi at 5/4. The four-time champion has had great success at Yas Marina, winning in 2011, 2014 and 2016 -- he retired while leading in 2009 and 2012. Sebastian Vettel has also taken three victories and is likely to be Hamilton's nearest challenger. Kimi Raikkonen is 18/1 to take his first win for Ferrari since 2009. Renault's poor reliability means Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly are favourites to be the first drivers to retire at 8/1 each, while Fernando Alonso is 50/1 to give McLaren-Honda its first podium since the 1992 Australian Grand Prix.
Situated in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates is subject to sweltering heat all year. With the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix taking place in the evening, temperatures will be cooler than earlier in the day, placing less stress on the cars and tyres. Conditions will remain hot and dry throughout the weekend.
With overtaking opportunities few and far between at the Yas Marina Circuit, qualifying is key. Lewis Hamilton's form in qualifying in 2017 means it is hard to predict anything other than a Hamilton win on Sunday. Mercedes will not have it all the their way though, with the tight and twisty final sector likely to play into Ferrari and Red Bull's hands. Mercedes is unbeaten in Abu Dhabi in the hybrid area and we expect this streak to continue into next season with Hamilton taking the win at the final race of the season.
Available tyre compounds: Soft, super-soft, ultra-soft.
The circuit from a tyre point of view:
Abu Dhabi is quite a varied track in terms of speeds and corners, so the teams tend to run a compromised setup with medium downforce.
As the grand prix starts in the late afternoon and ends in the evening, track temperatures fall quite notably during the race,
Like Brazil, the track runs anti-clockwise.
Wear and degradation is reasonably contained on the smooth surface.
With plenty of acceleration and braking over the lap, traction is the main consideration.
Overtaking tends to be difficult at Yas Marina, so strategy and qualifying are especially key.
A two-stopper was the most popular strategy last year.
Source : http://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/21513995/abu-dhabi-grand-prix-preview-win-midfield-scrap