As with the end of any racing season, there’s a number of finales within a season finale up and down the grid. Such is again the case for the final round of the 2014 Formula One season in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Here’s a look through the grid on who/what we know is ending, likely to end or may end:
CONFIRMED LAST RACE
- Sebastian Vettel with Red Bull. Vettel’s reign atop the F1 world, which yielded four consecutive World Championships from 2010 to 2013 and 39 career wins (38 with Red Bull since 2009), will officially end after a six-year run. He didn’t win the title his first or last years with the team but won the four in-between. Not a bad haul.
- Daniil Kvyat with Toro Rosso. Think of this as Kvyat’s last weekend in university before graduating to the real world, where the pressure to perform will be greater. With Toro Rosso, he has one last shot to exceed his machinery… with Red Bull, the target shifts from simply scoring points to contending for race wins and podiums.
- Both Sauber drivers, with Sauber. With Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr confirmed for 2015, this is the last scheduled race for Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez aboard the difficult C33 chassis. Sutil claims he still has a 2015 contract, as does reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, so that could be a potential storyline over the winter – but for now, it’s about seeing whether the SUT/GUT pairing can avoid Sauber’s first scoreless season in its 20-plus year history of F1.
- Lotus with Renault. As my MST colleague Luke Smith outlined over the weekend, so ends a 20-year run between the team once known as Benetton and Renault before becoming Lotus, but not that Lotus, all the while having some variant of a Renault V10, V8 or V6. Sad this last year has been so fruitless for a team that won championships in both the 1990s and 2000s.
- McLaren with Mercedes. Along the same lines, 20 years of McLaren and Mercedes dating to 1995 ends this weekend before the team rekindles its Honda relationship. Seems hard to believe, but the team’s double podium in Melbourne this year is McLaren’s only podium trip in either 2013 or 2014. Another case where the ending hasn’t matched the title success in the 1990s. It’s also the final race for Sam Michael, the team’s sporting director, before his return home to Australia.
ALL-BUT-CERTAIN LAST RACE
- Fernando Alonso with Ferrari. All signs are pointing to the two-time World Champion joining McLaren, but the team’s driver announcement delay until 12/1 keeps everyone waiting.
POTENTIAL LAST RACE
- Kevin Magnussen or Jenson Button with McLaren. McLaren’s driver delay has done neither of them any favors. Button may be tired of being dragged along; Magnussen risks being in the same position Sergio Perez was a year ago as a young driver given an opportunity, then potentially at the point of losing it after just one season.
- Jean-Eric Vergne with Toro Rosso. The conundrum for STR is whether to follow its traditional path of having two young guns side-by-side or break tradition and keep the Frenchman, who’s had flashes of brilliance and generally driven better than his results would indicate. Vergne’s hopes to stay have risen in the last few weeks, but there’s still the uncertainty of not knowing for sure.
- Caterham and/or Marussia. While the hoopla for now with Caterham is its return for Abu Dhabi, many paddock insiders believe this is only temporary. The team’s administrator, Finbarr O’Connell, will be a popular name in news stories this offseason. Marussia’s last start at Russia was notable more for its Racing for Jules mantra. If the team can miraculously make it to Abu Dhabi, that would be one thing, but like Caterham, its long-term future is uncertain at best.