Abu Dhabi: Almost 12 months after that dramatic end to the 2021 Formula 1 championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, drivers have returned to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit for the conclusion of the 2022 campaign, albeit in very different circumstances.

This time last year, Verstappen and Hamilton arrived in the UAE capital on equal points in the championship with one race remaining.

Red Bull’s Verstappen eventually won his first world title in somewhat controversial fashion, at an eventful Grand Prix that saw race director Michael Masi make a controversial call that resulted in Verstappen pip Hamilton winning by one round.

“I don’t really think much about it. I don’t have many thoughts about the last race here,” said seven-time world champion Hamilton on Thursday.

“I’m not necessarily focused on the things behind me and I’m also trying, not controlling, but trying to be the best I can be going forward, in the days ahead.”

This year, Verstappen defended his championship title, securing his second consecutive title with at least four races.

Although the championship is already decided, there is still plenty to look forward to this Formula 1 weekend in Abu Dhabi, and plenty to unload from a busy media day at Yas Marina Circuit.

Max hits on “disgusting” abuse

While we are used to seeing drama between Red Bull and Mercedes, the latest drama this time was inside the Red Bull camp after Verstappen refused to abide by team orders in Brazil last weekend.

With Sergio Perez battling Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for second in the championship, Red Bull asked Verstappen to let the Mexican teammate pass him at Interlagos – a request Verstappen was unwilling to fulfil.

The Dutchman said he had his reasons, which were discussed internally within the team, and lashed out at Formula 1 fans on social media, as well as members of the press, for criticizing his decision not to let Perez through without knowing the full facts; Facts he is still unwilling to reveal publicly.

“After this race of course I look very bad in the media. But they don’t have a clear picture either,” Verstappen told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“To put me down right away like that is ridiculous to be honest. Because they don’t know how I work on a team and what the team values ​​about me. So all the things I’ve read are disgusting.

“Even more than that, they started attacking my family, they were threatening my sister, my mom, my girlfriend, and my dad. And for me, that goes too far when you don’t even have the facts of what’s going on. And that definitely has to stop.

“If you have a problem with me, that’s fine, but don’t go after my family because that’s not acceptable.”

He added, “Once there is something negative to highlight, it is disgusting to be a part of that.”

Chico denies any wrongdoing by Monaco

Verstappen admits that discussions “in hindsight” within the team about potential requests to back Perez’ bid for P2 should have happened earlier and that they come to Abu Dhabi with a better understanding of everyone’s position.

“I’ve never been a bad teammate to anyone, I’ve always been very helpful and the team knows that. I always put the team first because at the end of the day it’s a team effort. What we learned from that is we have to be more open and we just have to communicate better with each other.” each other “.

Meanwhile, Perez believes things are back on track within the Red Bull camp and is confident he can count on his teammate’s help should he need it this weekend.

“I think we are adults and we will be able to put this behind us and we will move forward,” Perez said Thursday.

There was speculation that Verstappen’s complaint related to the race from Monaco earlier this season, and there are rumors that Perez crashed on purpose during qualifying, an incident that prevented his teammate from completing his lap.

Perez denies any suggestion he deliberately crashed, saying the “rumors are false”.

“Everyone makes mistakes in Monaco, in public in qualifying. It’s not like it was done on purpose,” he added.

Red Bull have never finished in a championship with their drivers ranked first or second, and Verstappen says, “If we can achieve that, that would be great. Certainly if the opportunity is there to help, as a team we will do it.”

Leclerc hopes to finish on top

Ferrari’s Leclerc is out of fourth place in Brazil and comes into Abu Dhabi on equal points with Perez, although he is ahead of him in the drivers’ standings due to his race win tally.

Monegasque admits things have been good for him the past few races, but he is keen to secure P2 with a strong finish at Yas Marina.

“Brazil was good but unfortunately because of the first lap incident it was all about getting back in front, but the pace was there,” said the 25-year-old.

“I hope we are strong enough to fight for the top positions. We are obviously fighting for second place in the Drivers’ Championship and also second in the Constructors’ Championship, and after having had very difficult years in 2020 and 2021, it will be good to be back fighting at the top.

“Although our goal is to fight for the championship at the end of the day, after these two difficult years it would be nice to be in second place.”

Emotional farewell

The sport will prepare to bid farewell to one of its biggest icons in Sebastian Vettel, as the four-time German World Champion prepares for the final race of his Formula One career this weekend.

Tributes have been pouring in on Vettel since he announced in July that this would be his last season in Formula 1 and drivers are preparing to swap their helmets with the Aston Martin Ace for the last time.

Two-time world champion and Vettel’s longtime rival Fernando Alonso posted a touching message on his Instagram, wishing Germany good luck for what’s to come and revealing a special helmet design he will wear in honor of Vettel this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

The helmet features the German flag stripe that Vettel has raced in since 2015 and the words “Dunky Sipp” on both sides.

See you later, not goodbye Riccardo

Fan favorite Daniel Ricciardo will miss his Formula 1 seat for next season but the Australian is hopeful he will still be in the paddock in some form or form in 2023.

“Mentally, I don’t treat it like it’s my last race ever. It could be. I know nothing is guaranteed in the future,” said Ricciardo, who will be replaced by Oscar Piastri at McLaren next year.

“I’ll enjoy it and take it for what it is. I’ve got a penalty, and I’m only better when I have penalties. I already asked for a five-place penalty but three of them will, so here we go,” laughed Ricciardo, who clashed with Kevin Magnussen In Brazil last weekend.

Speaking of his future, the Honey Badger said: “Nothing is certain. But progress has been made. I hope you get to see my good looks again next year, to some extent.”

“Mick’s gonna get another shot.”

Also leaving the circuit after that last race of the season in Abu Dhabi is Mick Schumacher, who has just received the news that he will not be driving for Haas next year and will be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg.

Schumacher posted a message on his Instagram after the announcement, saying he would fight hard to get back on the F1 grid, and signed with the letters “PTW” – which means “prove them wrong”.

“PTW, it’s pretty much been what I’ve been saying for most parts of this year,” Schumacher explained.

“I felt like saying that because I think I want to prove everyone who doesn’t believe in me wrong because I know what I can do. I’ve proven it in the junior classes and I don’t see any reason why I can’t do it in Formula One.”

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon is sure Schumacher will get another chance to return to the pinnacle of motorsport.

“I think he will work hard with his team to come back,” the French driver told the 23-year-old.

“I’m out of the sport and I know how I feel two years out. But the hard work and dedication, just being here every time there was a car start, that’s the thing that got me back into the sport and I’m sure he’ll get a chance again and I wish him the best.”

Russell is keen to keep the momentum going

Mercedes driver George Russell is still in top shape after winning the first race last week in Brazil, but the Briton is keeping his feet on the ground and postponing the festivities until Sunday evening in the UAE capital.

“I’m very proud of this achievement. It’s something I’ve worked for my whole life and what you dreamed of as a kid,” Russell said.

“Certainly the confidence is high and the morale within the team is thriving but I don’t suddenly feel like a transformation overnight.

“I feel like we’re going for it [this weekend in Abu Dhabi]. I think since Austin, the car has been doing really well, maybe even better than we could have hoped.”

The drivers prepare to welcome their new teammates

After two years with Albin, Ocon and Alonso will part ways with the latter taking Vettel’s place at Aston Martin next season, and Pierre Gasly forming an all-French squad alongside Ocon.

Despite some tension between Ocon and Alonso over last weekend’s drama in Brazil, the Frenchman had nothing but positive things to say about the two-time world champion.

“I think we can be happy with what we’ve done over the past two years with Fernando, trying to develop this team, and we’ve done that,” said Ocon.

“In 2021, during the year, we really went ahead and delivered, at times, 125 percent of what the car was capable of and we really delivered on a lot of occasions. And this year we created that fourth place together, and it didn’t finish.” distance.

“I don’t know how you say it in English, ‘il ne faut jamais vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué’ (Don’t try to sell a bear’s skin before actually killing it). I think we can be happy with what we’ve created and I’m sure it’s He will leave a good legacy for what’s to come.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen has mixed feelings about Schumacher’s exit from Haas, and the imminent arrival of Hulkenberg.

“It’s a two-sided thing, because on the one hand, it’s exciting to come in for someone like Nico, with all his experience and ability. On the other hand, I feel bad for Mick because I know what that feels like, I’ve been in that situation myself. I think he’s done a good job this year,” he said. The Dane, who scored an incredible pole position for Haas in Brazil last week “I love him as a person too, and I think it’s easy to feel bad for him.”

“F1 is tough but it’s also possible to get it back; I’ve done it twice. Hopefully he can keep fighting and trying to get it back on the grid.”

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