Dubai: The 2019 Formula One season comes into town this weekend at the F1 Etihad Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with two titles sorted but a plethora of questions left unanswered.
Lewis Hamilton has already bagged his sixth world Drivers’ title and Mercedes are showing up the rest with their six Constructors’ trophies on the trot, dating back to 2014.
While old hand Hamilton bagged another title, the season has seen a number of amazing future prospects thrust their way into the spotlight — including Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc.
But the biggest cloud probably hangs over the last name on that list. While Mercedes have been making merry at the top, Ferrari — the team Leclerc joined at the start of the campaign — are stuck in reverse, with Red Bull and their future champion-in-waiting Max Verstappen looming large in the rear-view mirror.
Ferrari are in trouble. Big trouble.
They pushed the boat out to take Vettel from Red Bull in 2015 but their wait for either a Drivers’ or Constructors’ title still stems back all the way to 2007, when Kimi Raikkonen triumphed.
Vettel’s human errors seen to be coming the norm rather than the exception for the four-time champion. Since Germany last season, rarely a race goes by without the erratic German causing palpitations in the Ferrari pit.
His days seem numbered in the red livery and while Leclerc has shown glimmers of the future, he still seems miles behind Hamilton and Verstappen.
A lot of this is through no fault of his own, as technical problems have cost him at least three victories this season, and his teammate’s chaotic driving cost him valuable points last time out in Brazil.
The biggest concern for the Italians is their team order. Earlier this season, Leclerc had to cede position to his German teammate under the direction of the team hierarchy. But the young man from Monaco is the better driver and last week’s coming-together clearly did not help matters for Vettel. Even then, the Ferrari bosses apportioned blame to both drivers when it is apparent it was Vettel’s error.
Changes need to be made for Leclerc to take the lead role — inevitably leading to Vettel’s departure from the team. But that seems to be the only way they can get back to the front row of the sport, rather than clinging on to their spent force of Vettel — a man who has failed to deliver them a title, despite being given preferential treatment and the world’s best technology.
Announcements always occur in Abu Dhabi as it is the season-ender and one of the flagship events. Many eyes will be on the Ferrari enclosure to see if a knee-jerk reaction occurs should Vettel mess up again.
Should the German depart, the biggest question in F1 is who will replace him …
Verstappen and Leclerc together would be fascinating but that looks very unlikely.
A realistic approach may be made for Norris from McLaren or Gasly from Torro Rosso, but with Ferrari showing no signs of getting into gear, these youngsters may do well to stay with their respective employers and wait for the dust to blow over in Italy and see where they stand.