MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Abu Dhabi GP

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ABU DHABI – After 18 races and some frenetic battles at the front of the field, the 2014 Formula 1 championship will finally be decided in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Just as it has been all season long, it will be Lewis Hamilton versus Nico Rosberg at the front of the field, only this time, it is the final battle for the world championship.

Hamilton enters the final race of the year with the upper hand, leading Rosberg by 17 points. However, with double points on offer for the final race of the year, there is still plenty to play for.

As things stand, Hamilton only needs a top two finish to be sure of the title, with Rosberg seemingly pinning his hopes on trouble striking his teammate’s Mercedes. However, after two more troublesome title tilts in 2007 and 2008, Hamilton will know to take nothing for granted.

This weekend’s race sees a number of ‘lasts’ take place: Sebastian Vettel’s last race for Red Bull; Renault’s last race powering Lotus; Mercedes’ last race powering McLaren; Kvyat’s last race for Toro Rosso; Gutierrez and Sutil’s last race for Sauber – and probably the last time we will see Fernando Alonso driving a Ferrari, and perhaps even the last time Jenson Button will be racing in F1.

This is also the last set of MST predictions for this season – so be sure to check out what our writers think will happen under the lights in Abu Dhabi.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. This race should see Nico pick up the maximum score of 50 points and put the pressure on Hamilton for the title. Lewis doesn’t have to win in Abu Dhabi – he just has to finish second. My reckoning is that Nico will cross the line first, but with his teammate in hot pursuit just behind him.

Surprising finish: Caterham. Surprising in the sense that the team will actually race in Abu Dhabi. It’s a turn of events that very few could have seen coming, but alas, the team will line up on the grid on Sunday.

Most to prove: Lewis Hamilton. A controversial choice? Perhaps. After losing out in 2007 and 2010, Hamilton has his best chance yet of winning the championship heading into the final race of the year. It’s time for him to make it count and become a two-time world champion.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. This is one of Hamilton’s best tracks, and armed with the best car in the field, I think Lewis makes it an emphatic 11th win of the season and confirms his second World Championship, first with Mercedes.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn spoke of a better balance with the front end of his Ferrari in Brazil, and will be poised to be closer to his 2012 form than a year ago, when he retired from the race in what was ultimately his final start for Lotus.

Most to prove: Kevin Magnussen. McLaren is deciding its driver lineup post-Dec. 1. Even if Magnussen is retained into 2015, the youngster has been outshone of late by Jenson Button, who could well be headed for the exits. There’s many drivers uncertain of their 2015 plans and K-Mag could use a run to book-end the season that was as dynamic and outstanding as his Melbourne podium debut.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Nico Rosberg put in a superb effort to beat back Hamilton in Brazil, but it’s still the Briton’s World Championship to lose in Abu Dhabi. After everything Hamilton has done this season, he can’t cough up the title now.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. Lotus believes that their E22 will be a better match for the Yas Marina Circuit, and with their Frenchman talking of upgrades and more power this week, I figure he’ll be keen to take advantage of that.

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. With double points on offer for this final battle, he still has a chance to snatch the title away from Hamilton. But he can’t worry about him. All he can – and must – focus on is winning this race.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. After an absolutely dominant season, there is no way Hamilton is letting the championship slip through his fingers in the season finale at Abu Dhabi. Admittedly, he has struggled in the last two races at Abu Dhabi after winning there in 2011, but with the championship on the line, Lewis is the man to get it done.

Surprising finish: Sebastian Vettel. Having won three of the first five Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, including last season, Vettel would likely love to finish off the season on a high note. That’s particularly significant since Vettel has not won a race this season. If anyone is to beat Hamilton, which we still feel unlikely, it’ll be Vettel.

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. While he still has a shot at the championship, and has a strong past record at Abu Dhabi, Rosberg will come up short in Sunday’s season-ending race. Still, Rosberg has nothing to hang his head about. He’s enjoyed his best F1 season to date and presented a formidable challenge to his teammate. We foresee even bigger and better things ahead for Nico.