Analysis: Five reasons why the Abu Dhabi GP matters

It may feel that way, but the Formula 1 season is not over yet. Jonathan Noble brings you five reasons why the Abu Dhabi finale is still relevant.

With Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes having long ago got their hands on the Formula 1 drivers' and constructors' championships, the tension has been taken out of the final few races of the 2015 season.

But even without much to play for in the title stakes, there are still plenty of reasons why this weekend's final race of the season in Abu Dhabi still matters.

Here then are the five things that will be important.

Rosberg vs Hamilton momentum

While Hamilton may be able to shrug off Rosberg's recent run of five pole positions and two victories as the simple ebb and flow of a season, there is no doubting that how the battle between them unfolds this weekend will have a big impact on the winter.

Rosberg would clearly like nothing more than to add another pole position and win to his tally, so he can head in to the off-season full of confidence that he has unlocked something, and proven that he can still deliver a run of form that can deliver him the world title he so craves.

He knows well too that more success for him this weekend will leave Hamilton facing fresh questions about what has happened in recent weeks, and a potential bit of soul searching over the winter to try to ensure that the form does not carry on in 2016.

It may be just another race victory in a season when Mercedes has been dominant, but knowing what it will mean for the winter months and the mind games ahead of 2016, this one will matter much, much more.

How robust can Ferrari's challenge be?

Ferrari took great heart from its performance at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where Sebastian Vettel's pace was enough to force Mercedes into three-stopping.

He was close enough to keep Hamilton and Rosberg on their toes, and afterwards team boss Maurizio Arrivabene played up the fact that it had been their one of the better performances of the year.

This weekend's race at the Yas Marina should give us a definitive answer on just how much progress the team has made, and whether or not momentum is with the team as it bids to deliver much more in 2016.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff is one of those convinced that the Ferrari challenge is coming.

"I am anticipating a robust challenge from Ferrari because they have done some clever moves, and they have definitely caught up," he said after Brazil.

"You can see that even towards the end of the race in Brazil, Sebastian was not very far away. When Lewis and Nico were pushing flat out, the biggest gap was seven seconds. That is not a clear cut dominant race win. I think we will have a situation where Ferrari will be a very important competitor."

Driver pride at stake

Although the top three places in the drivers' championship have now been decided, there is still a great deal of pride at stake further down the order, as drivers vie for an extra boost heading in to the winter.

Finnish duo Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas have had two collisions in recent races, so the fact that they are disputing fourth place in the drivers' championship helps serve up a decent amount of interest.

Raikkonen may have said at the last race that it wouldn't change his world if he didn't end up on top in this private battle, but you can be sure that Bottas would want nothing more than to end the year as top Finn, and break the Mercedes/Ferrari dominance at the top of the standings.

Further back, there is a fascinating battle for 10th place in the drivers' standings, with Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Max Verstappen all battling for a place in the top half of the field.

It may not be the most important thing that they have ever fought for but, for each of those three, ending the year in the top ten would be a great way to sign off their campaigns.

Is downforce now ruining the racing?

It was interesting to find out from Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe in Brazil just how quickly F1 cars have recovered the loss of downforce that came about when the new 2014 regulations were introduced.

With current cars not quite able to beat historic lap records, there has been a perception that the latest generation of cars are not powerful enough and not delivering enough grip.

The reality is very different though, and it is the only the fact that they are around 140kg heavier than F1's benchmark-delivering machines that is slowing them up.

"The loads we present at the moment aerodynamically are around historic highs," said Lowe. "There is a common perception that we have less downforce than in history, but we have the most or very nearly the most we have ever had."

More downforce, of course, means airflow is ever more critical, and has often resulted in cars being unable to follow each other too well. And that means overtaking becomes near impossible for cars that have similar performance characteristics.

In the last two races, Hamilton was complained about being unable to get on terms with Rosberg because he cannot follow him closely enough through the corners.

Are we getting back to an era where overtaking becomes the exception rather than the rule?

Abu Dhabi in the past, thanks to the arrival of DRS, has at least produced racing where overtaking is possible. If this weekend's event lacks such thrills, then it could be a warning sign that F1 could be braced for some tough times in 2016.

Deals to be done

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has become a big hit from the business perspective, with sponsors, and the big CEOs using it as a venue for important meetings.

This weekend will be no exception, as there remain plenty of big deals to be sorted that are vital if F1 is to look forward to 2016 full of optimism.

The key ones that will be grabbing everyone's attention will be what is happening at Lotus and Red Bull, as Renault closes in on a decision about its F1 future.

Red Bull wants to be in a position to announce its 2016 engine plans this weekend, while Lotus is hoping that Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn gives the final green light to a team takeover that will resurrect the French car manufacturer's works outfit.

In the background too will be Force India's hopes of luring Aston Martin on as a commercial partner, while the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's push for an independent engine will again likely be a hot talking point.

The action in the paddock will once again just as intense as that taking place out on the circuit.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Abu Dhabi GP
Track Yas Marina Circuit
Article type Analysis