There were groans all round as we escapees from a British winter arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. The clouds might have been painted by John Constable in one of his gloomier moods, and there was wind and rain in the desert air.
“This is a bit off,” observed one Formula One mechanic. “The racing might be boring here but at least you can usually get a bit of sun before Christmas.” He spoke for many. This is the sunshine banker on the F1 schedule and the good weather at least puts everyone in a good mood before a generally anticlimatic race weekend.
The Yas Marina Circuit, which will stage the final round of the 2015 season here on Sunday, is surrounded by opulence. The place reeks of money. So it’s a pity the circuit, made up mostly of medium and low-speed corners, is essentially uninteresting.
The season is usually wrapped up by now too, which it is indeed on this occasion, though of course last season’s ridiculous double points race at least provided some drama. And there was excitement too in 2010, the second race here, when Fernando Alonso, the Red Bull pair of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber and even – mathematically – Lewis Hamilton all had chances of winning the title. In the end Vettel prevailed to become the youngest champion and claim the first of his four consecutive titles
Apart from that, though, there is little to remember from the six races that have been staged here.
So to jog our memory, Sutton Images put on an exhibition of special photographs here on Wednesday evening to mark those half-dozen races, in aid of the World Childhood Foundation. There is also a new F1 publication being launched here; Rev Grand Prix Journal. In F1 nothing stands still. Unless it’s a McLaren, of course.
But even though the action on Sunday might be less than compelling, there will be plenty of stuff going on in the paddock. There won’t be another race until Melbourne in March but a lot will have happened by then and a great deal of it will be discussed this weekend.
At the middle of everything is Renault, which is why everyone is pestering their chief executive Carlos Ghosn right now. There are suggestions he has an much-improved budget for next year. Lotus are still waiting for confirmation that Renault will take over the team for 2016.
Meanwhile Red Bull, who have looked in vain to Mercedes and Ferrari to give them a new power unit, and who were blocked by McLaren from turning to Honda, may be forced to mend their rift with the French company with whom they once had such a good relationship.
Engine talk will dominate the weekend, following the decision by the F1 Commission earlier in the week to reject the idea of a cheaper, alternative engine for next year. That represents a victory for the two strongest teams, Mercedes and Ferrari, and a defeat for the sport’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt, president of the FIA, which governs the sport. Forget what’s happening on the track – this power struggle has been the real contest in recent months.
The idea from Ecclestone and Todt was to run a cheaper power unit alongside the very expensive turbo hybrids. But if this ends up with the manufacturers lowering their engine prices most people will be happy. Nobody really wants a two-tier championship. The manufacturers, along with the FIA, will present a proposal by 15 January.
There might not be too much going on come race day, although Nico Rosberg’s upgraded challenge to Hamilton, with five poles and two wins recently, is worth watching, as is anything Max Verstappen does. But the politics are as compelling as ever. And the good news on Thursday morning was that the sun was shining once more.
This article was written by Paul Weaver in Abu Dhabi, for theguardian.com on Thursday 26th November 2015 11.07 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010