‘I’m not sure they’re going to finish the race’

The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for the world championship crown hasn’t just captivated sports fans worldwide, it’s also been the talk of the paddock as their fellow drivers all weighed in on who they favoured for the title ahead of the big season finale in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Just as many F1 diehards are predicting a chaotic end to what has been a fierce duel between Hamilton and Verstappen, some drivers feel a collision between the top two at Yas Marina Circuit seems inevitable, given how tense their rivalry has got over the last few races.
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AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly is one of those concerned.
“I think Max will have the edge in the end. I’m not sure they’re going to finish the race but I think Red Bull and Max will get it,” said the Frenchman on Thursday.
George Russell, who is leaving Williams and joining Mercedes for 2022, said he “would love to” see Hamilton lift a record-breaking eighth world championship trophy, adding: “You can argue that they both deserve to win for different reasons, but hopefully it’s a clean and fair race and the best man wins.”

Alonso’s Secret Santa gift for Ricciardo

You can always count on Daniel Ricciardo to crack a joke, or 10, during any conversation and Thursday was no different as the affable Australian walked into his press conference with a temporary tattoo of Fernando Alonso’s face pasted on his arm.
When the McLaren driver looked at himself on the screen in front of him, he couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of the two-time world champion’s head painted just under his biceps.
“I just saw the tattoo,” said Ricciardo cracking up. “Fernando just got me for Secret Santa, and along with a nice bottle of red, he got me some temporary Fernando tattoos, it’s beautiful.”
Asked if he ever got a real tattoo of another athlete, who it would be, Ricciardo replied: “I mean, it looks pretty good. It’s the only athlete I’ve ever had tattooed on my arm, so I don’t want to knock him. He also has quite a nice tan as well; look he’s glowing in the sun. I’m going to stay loyal to my first: Fernando Alonso. Look, he’s beautiful.”
Lucky for Ricciardo, Alonso has given him a whole pack of Fernando tattoos!

‘I heard it’s a million dollars’

A new ‘Overtaking King’ award was announced by F1 this year and entering the final race of the season, Sebastian Vettel leads the charts with 127 overtakes, two ahead of Fernando Alonso 125 and six ahead of the retiring Kimi Raikkonen.
In Jeddah, the drivers realised they didn’t know what the prize was for winning the newly-introduced award but were determined to find out.
On Thursday in the UAE capital, Vettel was told he has taken the lead in the standings thanks to his 12 overtakes in Saudi Arabia last weekend.
“In that case, obviously it was good to start so far back,” said Vettel, who added jokingly: “I heard (the prize) is $1 million but I’m not sure, might just be rumours.”
Alonso later joked he was tempted to start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the pit lane to give himself the chance to add more to his overtaking tally. “I don’t mind that if you want,” Gasly chimed in, as he sat next to the Spaniard in a shared press conference.
Incidentally, Alonso told automobilsport.com that overtaking Gasly in Qatar “was the best (of the season) as it set us up for the podium nicely and I was determined to make a good start”.

Jackson, Jordan or Schumacher?

During Thursday’s media day, young F1 fans from schools across the UAE were given the chance to ask the drivers questions through video submissions. In the press conference of Vettel and Mick Schumacher, a young student called Nicole asked the drivers: “Did you become who you dreamed of being when you were young?”
Vettel came up with this thoughtful response.
“It depends on when. At some point I wanted to become like Michael Jackson, so I failed. At some point I wanted to become like Michael Jordan, I failed. And at some point I wanted to become like Michael Schumacher, so I also failed, but I think I got probably the closest out of the three,” said the German four-time world champion.
“I think it’s very difficult to answer that question, because you dream of being so many different characters when you’re young. But as I said, to Michael, I got very close, especially getting to know him and becoming a friend. So yeah, I think I’m happy with where I am.”

Sebastian Vettel

Image credit: Getty Images

‘We’re all a bit crazy’

During the frenetic race in Jeddah, Hamilton was heard on the radio saying that Verstappen was “f****** crazy” after the Dutchman had slowed down, at the request of his Red Bull team, to cede his position to his rival – a move a confused Hamilton did not initially understand.
On Thursday, Hamilton said it was a heat-of-the-moment statement and we shouldn’t read too much into it.
“Honestly, when we’re in the races, we’ll say all sorts of things because we’re in the heat of the moment, adrenaline is firing, your emotions are on edge, so yeah I would say that it’s a figure of speech,” said the Brit.
“I think ultimately as racing drivers we’re all a bit crazy to be able to do what we do, to take the risks that we do.”

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 09, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Image credit: Getty Images

Another classic Kimi moment

As the 42-year-old Raikkonen prepares for his very last F1 race, the Finnish driver was his typical dry-humoured self during his chat with the press on Thursday.
Asked by a journalist about his immediate plans with the family after Sunday’s race, a deadpan Raikkonen said: “Even if I know I wouldn’t tell you guys.”
The ‘Iceman’ will certainly be missed!

Kimi Räikkönen fährt am Wochenende in Abu Dhabi sein letztes Formel-1-Rennen

Image credit: Getty Images

Norris and Leclerc’s ‘boring’ life

Norris and Leclerc are two of the younger drivers on the grid but apparently during their free time, their life resembles that of an old retiree.
“I feel like mine is like a retired old man, in his 60s, playing golf, that’s my life pretty much,” said Norris, who turned 22 last month when asked by a young fan about his day-to-day life away from the track.
“Pretty similar to me, apart from an old man playing golf, I’m playing piano, but it is quite a boring life,” added the 24-year-old Leclerc.
“Every time I get home, the only thing I want to do is to try and relax at home because I don’t spend a lot of time at home, just staying with the family, playing piano, that’s it.”

Lando Norris (McLaren) - GP of Turkey 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

Quarantine awaits homesick Tsunoda and Ricciardo

Drivers like Yuki Tsunoda and Ricciardo haven’t been home, to Japan and Australia respectively, for a long time and they’ll have to quarantine first when they fly back before reuniting with friends and family.
“I’m planning on going back to Japan, finally. Last time I was there was January, so it’s been a long year, also I’m missing so much Japanese food and my friends, so it will be nice,” said Tsunoda.
“The Covid restrictions are getting a bit stricter compared to the last months in Japan, so I have to quarantine. That won’t be easy, but still I’m looking forward to it.”

Yuki Tsunoda of Scuderia AlphaTauri and Japan during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Image credit: Getty Images

Ricciardo, who will be heading home to Perth, said: “I'll be staring at a hotel room ceiling for two weeks. So I'm going to go home. I need to, I need to get home. But it's difficult, it is difficult to get back. Yeah unfortunately they're not making it easy, but it is what it is. And I'll do that. I need to, I need to get home, see family, friends.
“So once I get out of the four walls, I should still get hopefully three or four weeks with friends and family. And it's summer, so something to look forward to.”

Quote of the day

You need to eat an elephant bite by bite. Elephant, F1, for me seems very similar.
– Haas’ Nikita Mazepin came up with this one-liner when asked about the biggest lesson he has learned this year.
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