Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton aiming to finish season on a high and other talking points

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After 20 races over eight gruelling months, Formula One heads to Abu Dhabi for the concluding grand prix of the season.

Here, we take a look at five key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race at Yas Marina Circuit.

Happy Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton was given a champion’s welcome when he returned to the Mercedes factory for the first time since sealing his record sixth championship earlier this month.

The 34-year-old was greeted with a guard of honour by the 900-strong staff at the Mercedes’ headquarters in Brackley following his coronation at the US Grand Prix in Texas.

The team’s latest success means they are ahead of Ferrari on six consecutive world title wins and they are showing no signs of slowing down just yet.

The Briton will bid to see out the championship with his 11th win of the season in Abu Dhabi, a track where he has tasted victory on four occasions.

Another Mercedes man hoping to end the campaign on a winning note is Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas. The Finn, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2017, was forced to retire with engine failure in Brazil and will be determined to seal his fifth win of the season.

Max is the man

The leading star of F1’s new generation is brimming with confidence and class.

Max Verstappen’s richly deserved triumph in Brazil, when having to fend off Hamilton for large spells of the race, and capitalising on his second pole of the season, was sublime.

There was a point during the summer when it looked as if the 22-year-old might emerge as a challenger for the championship – after he took two wins and a second place in a run of four races from Austria to Hungary.

Since then, the Dutchman crashed in Spa and Italy, and then made a mistake in Singapore and qualified lower than expected.

In Japan, he was taken out at the first corner and in Austin he came second behind Hamilton.

His stunning form this season reaffirms the continuous progress of the future world champion in the making. He will be one of the key favourites to win on Sunday.

Ferrari racing for pride

With both the drivers and constructors championships settled, there is only pride to play for Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at Yas Marina Circuit.

Vettel may not be able to finish third, but he has an outside chance of overhauling Leclerc to end the season as the Ferrari driver with most points.

It will be a tall order as the German currently trails Leclerc by 19 points. The last time he was outscored by a team-mate was back in 2014 when he was racing alongside Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

Vettel must either win or finish second with the fastest lap to avoid any chance of the Monaco man ending the season as Ferrari’s premier driver.

Whether Leclerc or Vettel shine, the Scuderia need to finish the season on a positive note.

Hulkenberg’s final F1 race?

After 61 Grands Prix, Nico Hulkenberg heads into his final race with Renault this weekend.

The German has scored 149 points across nearly four years with the French outfit and is aiming to finish his time in yellow with a solid points result in the capital.

After the race, Hulkenberg will be forced to hand his keys to Esteban Ocon for next season, a driver full of talent.

Without a seat for 2020, and with only one drive to be filled at Williams, it seems likely Hulkenberg’s 10-year F1 career is at the end.

During his time with Renault, the 32-year-old finished in the top-10 43 times, with his best finish being fourth at the 2016 Belgium GP.

The team also rose from 9th, 6th and 4th in the constructors’ standings during his time in the seat.

More excitement needed

Formula One’s season-ending fixture has come under criticism in recent years for its lack of action and failure to deliver an exciting race. Despite a spectacular setting at Yas Marina, drivers have felt the track isn’t challenging enough to be the final race on the calendar.

Hamilton called for changes to be made to the 3.4-mile circuit in 2017 while Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen labelled it ‘boring’ in the past.

Yas Marina Circuit joined the F1 calendar in 2009 and has acted as the season finale venue for every season except 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Hamilton converted his pole position into victory last season, for his fourth win in the capital.

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