Abu Dhabi GP Preview: All eyes on Ferrari at season-ending showdown

Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will aim to show they really have put their crash in Brazil behind them when the Formula One season concludes in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

The team-mates have been fighting to be Ferrari's lead driver all year and that resulted in a collision at Interlagos, where a crash on lap 66 ended both men's races.

Team boss Mattia Binotto called the incident "a silly action" and, in an attempt to move on prior to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ferrari claimed Vettel and Leclerc have buried the hatchet.

"Since last Sunday, Mattia and the drivers have spoken every day, as they would normally do anyway," a Ferrari spokesperson told BBC Sport.

"There was no official summit nor video conference. The air is now fully cleared and we are focusing on Abu Dhabi."

With Lewis Hamilton having already won the title and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas assured of second, Ferrari may not have a driver in the final top three as Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who claimed his third win of 2019 in Brazil, currently sits third.

While Ferrari are attempting to display a united front, Verstappen's team boss Christian Horner conceded he was grateful he does not have to contend with an issue like Leclerc and Vettel's battle for supremacy.

"I'm glad it's not my drivers," he told Autosport.

"It's always a difficult situation. Race drivers are fiercely competitive animals, and there is often a conflict between what is right for the team and what is right for the individual."

For his own part Leclerc, who trails Verstappen by 11 points, admitted he will miss the buzz of racing when the 2019 campaign comes to a close.

"Most of the paddock is probably looking forward to enjoying their holidays," he said.

"From my perspective, I am actually pretty sad that I won't be feeling that adrenalin rush behind the wheel for the next few months."

TALK OF THE PADDOCK

The Yas Marina Circuit may be the site of Nico Hulkenberg's last F1® race, even though the 32-year-old insists he is not retiring.

Hulkenberg's seat at Renault will be taken by Esteban Ocon for 2020 and the German knows it is unlikely he will land with a team for next year at this stage.

Despite a decade in the sport, Hulkenberg is yet to claim a place on the podium and the former Force India and Sauber driver's highest finish this year was fifth in Italy.

However, his likely absence from the grid in 2020 has not gone down well with compatriot Vettel.

"The fact that a driver like him doesn't have a seat is very bitter," Vettel told Marca.

"It's an example of the fact that some things are wrong in Formula 1®. I hope he comes back because he has the potential to be here and I don't want to be the only German."

RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times AEDT)

Friday 
FP1: 8.00pm-9.30pm AEDT

Saturday 
FP2: 0.00am-1.30am AEDT
FP3: 9.00pm-10.00pm AEDT

Sunday
Qualifying: 0.00am-1:00am AEDT
Race: 0.10am AEDT

F1® FACT

In the 10 editions of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen is the only driver to have won a race despite not starting on the grid's front row. The Finn did so from fourth in 2012.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Valtteri Bottas
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Nico Rosberg

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 387
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 314 (-73)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 260 (-127)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 249 (-138)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 230 (-157)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 701
2. Ferrari 479 (-222)
3. Red Bull 391 (-310)
4. McLaren 140 (-561)
5. Renault 91 (-610)

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