Fri, Nov 24, 8:21am by Staff Writer
With the Formula One drivers and constructors titles already decided, Daniel Ricciardo will be looking to make the most of his fast-improving Red Bull and turn around a series of disappointments at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Ricciardo’s last podium came at Japan in early October and since then he failed to finish in the US and Mexico before a fighting sixth-place in Brazil last time out.
Teammate Max Verstappen, meanwhile, has made the most of the quicker Red Bull set up – and a more advanced engine – to challenge the Mercedes and Ferraris and win the Mexican GP.
The Australian says Yas Marina has been one of his favourite tracks over the years and runs similar to Suzuka, where he finished third for a ninth podium of the season.
World Champions Lewis Hamilton has nine wins for the season and is chasing a fourth Abu Dhabi title.
Lewis is predictably William Hill’s favourite to win for Mercedes on Sunday at $1.80, ahead of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel on $3.60, teammate Valtteri Bottas at $7, Verstappen on $12 and Ricciardo a generous $15.
Verstappen’s successes has proved the improvements made at Red Bull are paying off and Ricciardo is hopeful he has a chance to benefit from them.
Ricciardo is yet to commit to Red Bull for 2018 and says he will make a decision on his future with the team once he sees how competitive the new-season car is.
But he says he’s impressed with the improvements so far this year and is looking forward to ending the season on a high.
“When you have so much time away from the car in the off-season it helps to sign off with a strong result as it makes you feel like you really deserve a break,” he said.
“I think we should have a strong car in Abu Dhabi. I said I want another win before the season is out and I think we have a decent chance of achieving that.”
While a win may be out of his reach, Ricciardo is on relatively short odds to claim a season-high 10th podium at $2.75.
The eight-year-old Yas Marina track located outside the United Arab Emirates capital features 21 testing corners and a long straight that offers plenty for good drivers.
But while the demanding race is held in the early evening, practice is conducted during the day.
“We practice in the daylight but race at twilight, which makes things more challenging,” Ricciardo said.
“You generally don’t look too much into the sunlight sessions because in the evenings, when it counts, the track cools down and the car changes so much.”
Weather for the desert race is forecast for a sunny 28 degrees Celsius, which will aid tyre grip but could potential add to the glare on some sections of the track.
The Abu Dhabi GP gets underway at 11pm Sunday AEST.
Suggested Bet: Take Ricciardo to make the podium: $2.75
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