Abu Dhabi once again brings the 2023 Formula 1 season to a close, and for seventh time in 11 finales at the Yas Marina Circuit, the championship has already been decided.
After hosting one of the most famous title showdowns in F1 history in 2010, when four drivers arrived in the UAE still in contention, Abu Dhabi slipped back behind Brazil until 2014 but has refused to budge from that spot since.
Unfortunately for the big-spending emirate, that’s coincided with one of the more uncompetitive periods in F1 meaning its hosted just three title-deciders featuring Lewis Hamilton against Nico Rosberg twice and Max Verstappen in 2021 – one of the most controversial grand prix ever.
Historically awful for creating exciting races, changes made to the track two years ago have improved things slightly, but Abu Dhabi remains a race F1 fans tolerate rather than anticipate.
However, it’s not all bad. Given the historic lack of on-track jeopardy around the event, it’s always had a sense of that last week of school before Christmas when the teacher just puts films on every day.
It’s a great place for the post-season test that takes place the following week, an archaic throwback of an event for new tyres and (ostensibly) young drivers that’s on the November 28 this year.
The now-traditional drivers’ Secret Santa only adds to the party atmosphere, while the weather is always predictable and temperate – will that continue this year?
Friday: Practice 1 & Practice 2
FP1 should see the hottest temperatures of the weekend, with 30 degrees Celsius greeting the 10 rookies taking part in the session, as teams cram to meet the free-practice quota.
However, many will already have racing in F2 by that stage, and it’s far from the hottest conditions F1 has faced in 2023. FP1 gets underway at 13:30 with second practice following three-and-a-half hours later to match the grand prix start time on Sunday.
There’s no chance of rain, and wind speed should be below 10mph throughout the day too.
Saturday: Practice 3 & Qualifying
It’s actually predicted to rain in Abu Dhabi. This is not a drill, this is not a drill. FP3 starts at 14:30, with around a 10-20 percent chance of rain throughout the session, so there could be one last splash to one of the soggiest seasons in recent memory.
It only rains around 30 days a year in the UAE’s capital city, and it’s still more likely to be dry than not, but what a spectacle that would be if there is a downpour!
It’s not going to be a wet qualifying though, any rain will definitely have disappeared by then, and the wind will have died down too. It peaks at 13 mph during FP1, but should’ve dipped back into single figures by the time qualifying gets underway at 18:00.
And temperatures will stay below 30 degrees throughout the day too, forecast for 26 Celsius for qualifying.
It’s lights out half an hour before sunset, at 5PM local time, when the temperature will still be hanging around just below 30 degrees Celsius.
Wind speeds will have picked up throughout the day and should be into double figures for the race too, giving drivers a bit more to think about on such a flat circuit.
However, it’ll be far from the most taxing conditions of the season, with no chance of rain either.
Tuesday: Post-season test
In a time where Liberty Media attempts to eek every possible drop out of F1 any time cars take to track whether on a show-run, test or Grand Prix weekend, the post-season test is a throwback to simpler times.
You’d be forgiven for not even knowing it’s going on such is the radio silence around it from F1, getting your hands on results for the day is difficult enough never mind trying to find out the details and success of each driver’s run plan.
It’s split into two with a Pirelli tyre test and ‘young drivers’ running – as if all that wasn’t disorientating enough, last year 41-year-old Fernando Alonso took part in the young drivers’ event, sporting a plain black race suit in an unbranded Aston Martin.
This year, temperatures will peak at 30 degrees from 1-3pm, wind speed is down from the weekend but gets a bit gustier throughout the day, topping out at 9mph around sunset. There’s obviously no rain either.