Hello Abu Dhabi, goodbye 2009
The 2009 Formula One season draws to a close this weekend with round 17 at the brand new Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The Hermann Tilke designed track looks promising - I've included the obligatory YouTube clip below - but the proof will be in the pudding.
While it's hello Abu Dhabi there are a good number of goodbyes to be dished out as the 2009 season comes to a close.
Giancarlo Fisichella is by no means the only F1 driver due to hang up his race suit on Sunday evening, he is the most likely not to be on the grid next year. The Italian has been in F1 since 1996 - his first race in Australia for Minardi - and these 13 years have been a bit of a roller-coaster, and 2009 has been no different.
After the embarrassing low of missing his pit box in the opening round down under he and the Force India team got their head down and put some serious development on the VJM02 car. You will remember the stunning drive in Spa, pole position and only being beaten by Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari KERS in the race.
Felipe Massa's ill-fate in Hungary lead to the opportunity of a lifetime for Giancarlo, a race seat in the Ferrari. However the opportunity of a lifetime has become the nightmare of nightmares, as this years F60 is difficult to drive and substantially different to the Force India tha t he left behind.
Despite his best efforts he has failed to score any points thus far, and must be prayi ng that will change in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Part of Fisichella's deal with Ferrari will see him stay on as test/reserve driver on 2010.
This is Fernando Alonso's final race with the Renault team - another partnership that has been up and down. The Alonso won both 2005 and 2006 titles with the French team, however left them for McLaren in 2007 only to come running back when it didn't work out. This time it looks certain though, while Ferrari have struggled this year they won't be down for long, and the Scuderia will build itself around the double world champion in pursuit of a Schumacher emulation.
The third part of the Ferrari driver hokey-cokey is Kimi Raikkonen. The 2007 World Champion is leaving the team after the Ferrari love went AWOL. Kimi is rumoured to be in negotiations with a couple of teams - the most likely being McLaren - however there is a real possibility that the Fin will bow out of Formula 1.
Robert Kubica probably wont be shedding too many tears at leaving BMW Sauber however as he transfers to Renault for 2010. The pole was visibly disgruntled with the team in 2008 when they failed to back his championship challenge. And this year's poor reliability and absent performance won't have done anything to heal those wounds.
The oldest man in the paddock, Rubens Barrichello hasn't signed a contract for 2010 yet, however it is hard to believe that one of the new teams wouldn't jump at the opportunity to snap his services up if given the chance. While he is tipped to move to Williams, the 37-year-old could just decide to retire on the back of his 2009 success.
It's a poisoned chalice that there will should be 4 new teams on the grid next year, because it is at the expense of the Sauber squad. BMW have completely shafted Peter Sauber and his experienced team in Switzerland by pulling the plug on them in such a away that despite a buyer being found they seem destined to disband.
Sixteen years of history will come to an end on Sunday afternoon unless one of the "Newbie 4" abort or a deal can be done. I'm not sure my anger is aimed more at BMW or the FIA.
As the fat lady is warming up it's probably fair to mention that this year has changed Formula One - for the better or worse we won't know for a little while yet. It's goodbye to many of the old guard; Max Mosley, Flavio Briatore and Ron Dennis - these three men have been instrumental in F1 in recent years and there is no doubt that their absence will alter the direction that the sport is moving.
It seems popular to knock 2009 as "below par", "not very exciting" and I cannot fathom why. We've had the fairytale of Brawn GP, "blah-blah-blah" from Barrichello, some fantastic racing, plenty of on and off-track action, a couple of scandals which all adds up to a pretty high score on the most important of measures: pub talk.
2009 has been great, and I hope that Abu Dhabi gives us the fitting end to an eventful year.
Free practice one starts in just 39 hours 46 minutes 24 seconds... 23... 22...