The pair finished 1-2 in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with Verstappen giving up his title to rival Hamilton with a rotten start to the season. The Red Bull racer has struggled to find his feet since, needing a recent push to get into the top six and then ending up seventh in Malaysia and Bahrain. So it will be interesting to see whether he can go one better in Abu Dhabi, following his memorable appearance in last year’s duel with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
One recent winner at Yas Marina, who could come under the most pressure from the chasing pack this year, is Fernando Alonso. The McLaren driver, who finished a career-best fourth in 2016, has not finished higher than fifth this season, despite the initial strong start to his deal with Honda. His team say it is simply because of weather and other issues beyond his control, but they must be worried, particularly as they are seemingly destined to be one of the teams battling for eighth place in the top 10 cars.
The race is being held in specially-commissioned Qatar Airways hospitality suites, to celebrate the country’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Among the trackside sites that will be displaying in-race statistics for each participant are Yas Marina Stadium, the royal family compound Al Rayyan, and a beachside venue, with the remaining games played on a seaside stage in Miraflores.
It would be surprising if neither Hamilton nor Verstappen goes on to wear the trophy after the contest on Sunday, although F1’s decision to wrap up both races on Friday has thrown the fact that even Abu Dhabi can be won by other contenders.