22 Nov 2018

Almost time to say goodbye to F1 drivers

10:11 am on 22 November 2018

Champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will be saying farewell under the Abu Dhabi floodlights this weekend and it could also be the last F1 outing for New Zealand Brendon Hartley.

Brendon Hartley.

Brendon Hartley. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Spaniard Alonso is leaving Formula One, while Raikkonen is moving from Ferrari to Sauber.

For Hartley his departure from Toro Rosso has been speculated about for some time as he's struggled to pick up points in his first year at the highest level.

The Palmerston North 29 year old has four points from the season and sits 19th in the standings.

Hartley has continued to say he still has a year left on his contract, but reports in Europe say he'll be axed as early as next week to be replaced by the Thai-British driver Alexander Albon.

If true, Hartley is likely to return to prototypes and Endurance Championship.

With both titles won by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, each celebrating their fifth, the focus of the season-ending race has switched to those who are moving on - even if only around the paddock.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Raikkonen's speech is unlikely to be long or emotional, Ferrari's 2007 champion generally preferring to say less and do more, but the 39-year-old will be back in Sauber overalls next year.

This weekend looks realistically like the Finn's last shot at victory, and success at Yas Marina would be a first for Ferrari who have not won any of the nine previous editions of the race at a circuit often short on thrills.

Alonso's exit - announced in August and much talked about since then - is likely to be permanent and his absence will be felt even if he has been scrapping only for meagre points with McLaren of late.

The two times world champion might have had more titles to his name with better fortune and more astute career moves but he has remained a racer to the end, even in an uncompetitive car.

A frustrated Fernando Alonso.

A frustrated Fernando Alonso. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The winner of 32 grands prix, including Monaco twice, Alonso won the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year with Toyota and is now targeting the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren to complete the 'triple crown of motorsport'.

McLaren team mate Stoffel Vandoorne is also bowing out, headed for a new start in the electric Formula E series, while Marcus Ericsson will switch to IndyCar after relinquishing his Sauber seat.

Monaco's Charles Leclerc is starting his last race for Sauber before joining Ferrari as Raikkonen's replacement alongside Sebastian Vettel.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo has his 150th race, all within the Red Bull family, to celebrate before saying his own goodbyes and starting afresh at Renault.