Daniel Ricciardo suffered a disappointing end to season 2019 on a personal level but team-wise Renault came out happy.
After starting seventh on the grid in Abu Dhabi this morning, the Aussie F1 star slipped down to 11th and failed to add to his points tally, leaving him to end the year ninth in the drivers’ standings — a far cry from where he was used to finishing with Red Bull.
But while Ricciardo was unable to go out with a bang the main thing for Renault is it held on to a slim lead over Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship to ensure it kept its fifth place.
Stream over 50 sports live & anytime with KAYO on your TV, mobile, tablet or laptop. Just $25/month with no lock-in contract. Get your 14 day free trial
Toro Rosso was just eight points behind the French outfit before the finale and ahead of the race the talk from Ricciardo and Co. was about maintaining that gap. Neither he nor teammate Nico Hulkenberg — taking part in his last race for Renault — could muster any points in the desert but fortunately for the Enstone team Daniil Kvyat only accrued two points for Toro Rosso with a ninth-placed finish.
That meant the Red Bull junior outfit stayed in sixth in the constructors’ standings on 85 points while Renault was a spot above on 91 points — still 54 points behind fourth-placed McLaren.
“It was quite a standard race for me today,” Ricciardo said. “We struggled a little on the hard tyre after the first stop, which was a shame, and at the end I tried to make up the ground on the faster tyre, but we just ran out of time.
“Although, looking at the bigger picture for us, it was a positive that we managed to secure fifth in the constructors’ championship, which was our goal coming into the weekend.
“We’re optimistic heading into the off-season and looking ahead for next season.”
HULKENBERG REFLECTS ON RENAULT BREAK-UP
Hulkenberg was 12th in Abu Dhabi as he ended a three-year stint with Renault, who have replaced the German in its driver line-up with Esteban Ocon for next year.
The 10-year veteran’s future in F1 is uncertain as he faces the possibility of not being picked up by a team in 2020 but even if his journey in the sport is over, Hulkenberg is happy with how things have gone.
“I’m feeling good — kind of relieved it’s all over,” Hulkenberg said.
“I’m happy that I’ve done a good race, I’ve thrown everything at it that I could. A shame not to get that point in the end, but that one-stop was hard to pull off, and at the end, my tyres were just degrading too much and I couldn’t hang onto it.
“In hindsight going into Q3 was maybe not the best thing, having to start on the soft. The people from (P11) onwards, they had a bit of a different strategy obviously and that paid off in the end.
“But a worthy final race for me, happy and relieved to cross the line with good feelings … (and) to finish the race in style. Felt good in my performance, so that was important for me, to finish in this way.
(Now I’m) looking forward to giving everyone a cuddle in the garage and grab a beer.
“This whole Formula 1 industry, it’s very unique. But I’m happy and grateful for my time here; met amazing people, made amazing friends and memories and I’ll look back on it with a smile on my face.
“Thank you to (Renault). Three years over, good years — not fantastic years, but still it was cool, fun at times. We had highs and lows and definitely have to say thank you to them.”
NORRIS FILTHY WITH HIMSELF
Lando Norris branded himself a “s*** driver” after slipping to eighth when Sergio Perez overtook him on the last lap.
The McLaren driver was outdone on Turn 11 as Perez made the most of his fresher tyres and Norris was upset at failing to hang on until the chequered flag.
“Going to sound like I’m pretty terrible now, but he did me round the outside, end of the back straight into Turn 11, after the GP2 pits,” Norris said.
“Yeah, I defended, went to the inside, he committed around the outside, he had much better tyres, I was a bit nervous of locking or doing something stupid, but I just wasn’t forceful enough.
“I didn’t change my mindset enough. I did the whole race being so calm and relaxed and looking after the fronts and the rears and driving slowly, and in this moment I needed to be aggressive and forceful and change how I was as a driver.
“And I didn’t do that, basically. I just kind of braked, I didn’t think, ‘He’ll be going around the outside, I need to release the brakes and give him less room’, I just was a s*** driver, basically, in my mind, because he was the one guy I had to beat today, and I didn’t.
“So, because of that I’m annoyed. But, yeah, the rest of the race was good, but it all led up to this one moment, and I failed in what I needed to do. That’s about it.”
Lewis Hamilton says he’s excited for an Abu Dhabi GP battle with Red Bull and Ferrari on Sunday, as the season’s champion lines up on pole position ahead of the in-form Max Verstappen in F1’s final 2019 showdown.
It will only be the second time Hamilton and Verstappen, arguably the season’s most consistent performers, will form the front row together this year, with fireworks expected in the last race of a compelling campaign.
Live stream the 2019 FIA Formula One Abu Dhabi GP on KAYO SPORTS. Every practice, qualifying & race live & anytime in HD. Get your 14 day free trial >
“There are three different teams starting on the first three positions, so I’m excited for people to watch,” said Hamilton.
“I think that’s great for the sport.”
Can Red Bull stop Mercedes?
“It’s great to see the team are continuing to push,” Hamilton told Sky F1 after his first pole in nine races.
“As much as it can still be frustrating, I’m still pushing.”
Hamilton, who wrapped up his title two races ago in Austin, hasn’t been alone in struggling somewhat in qualifying, with Mercedes as a team only securing one pole in eight since the summer break.
More often than not it has been Ferrari who have denied the world champions – but Red Bull, big improvers over 2019, were Mercedes’ main threat in Saturday’s Abu Dhabi shootout, as Verstappen eventually finished third, three-tenths off Hamilton, but moving up a place due to Valtteri Bottas’ race day penalty.
Mercedes have been mighty through the final sector at Yas Marina, although Red Bull, armed with a Honda engine which now appears a match for their rivals on the straights, are expected to push the Silver Arrows.
“I think more so on their engine, it’s impressive to see what the engine’s now stepped up to be,” admitted Hamilton. “You’ve got Ferrari, Honda and Mercedes.
“People can’t say we’ve got the best engine anymore, we are up there with everyone kind of on par and we’ll work as hard as we can to put it back to be the best engine next year.”
Like Hamilton, Verstappen will also be looking to cap off a superb year after emerging as Red Bull’s maturing and incredibly impressive team leader.
He feels it would be an upset to beat Mercedes, but is in the best position to attack Hamilton at the start.
“Mercedes is just very dominant around here and sometimes there are some tracks which just suit your car better than others,” he said.
“The start is always going to be important because it’s quite hard to overtake around here. But, still, a long race, a lot of things can happen.”
Are Ferrari in victory hunt too?
Ferrari would appear outsiders after lacking pace in qualifying, with the Scuderia struggling in that twisty final portion of the lap. But Mercedes still consider them a threat, particularly because of their straight-line speed advantage, and the fact they have split strategy with their drivers.
Leclerc will be the only driver from the top four starting the race on the quicker soft tyre, with Sebastian Vettel – behind his team-mate on the second row – joining Hamilton and Verstappen on the mediums.
“I think you can never write anyone off before a race,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told reporters on Saturday.
“I think Verstappen was the strongest in comparison to us on the long runs on Friday, but Ferrari are Ferrari. They are fast on the straights, that gives them an overtaking opportunity, and I think all of us will have a chance for the victory.”
Added to the intrigue is the fact Leclerc declared he was ready to take “risks” in order to overhaul Verstappen for third place in the championship, with the Monegasque currently 11 points behind the Red Bull.
“Yes, definitely [it’s still a race I can win],” he said. “I will take quite a bit of risk at the start. I need to take some risk and need to finish in front of Max for the championship, so I will give it all and see what happens.”
Bottas will also be one to watch, with the Finn recovering from the back of the grid in a fast Mercedes with a fresh engine.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.