By Alan Baldwin
Lewis Hamilton will find his number is up in lights in Abu Dhabi, and that can only be a good omen as the triple Formula One world champion seeks to end another dominant season on a high this weekend.
The number 44, the one the Briton has on his Mercedes, figures prominently on roadside illuminations as the United Arab Emirates celebrates the 44th anniversary of its founding on Dec 2, 1971.
The return to Yas Marina will also bring back fond memories for the 30-year-old who clinched his second title by winning at the circuit last season and can take his 50th career pole position this weekend.
“Last year, this place brought probably the most intense weekend of my life. I didn’t sleep much through nerves and not knowing what was ahead,” the race favourite recalled.
“But this time around there’s no pressure, so I’ll be well-rested and aiming to go out on a high.
“A lot of British fans come out to Abu Dhabi so it’s like another home crowd for me. To win for them and show how grateful I am for the fantastic support I’ve had all year would be the best way to end an incredible season,” he added.
Another win would also be his 11th of the season, matching his 2014 tally.
For Mercedes, regardless of who wins, a 12th one-two finish from 19 races would also be the icing on the cake by breaking their own record set last year.
With first and second assured in the championship for the second year in a row, and the constructor’s title retained, there is also the hope of seeing both Mercedes drivers battling wheel to wheel.
There was none of that in Brazil two weeks ago, or in Mexico, as Mercedes made clear that their priority was to secure second place for Nico Rosberg.
“We will not be backing off — and an entertaining battle at the front between our boys for one last time in 2015 will be the ideal way to show that,” said motorsport head Toto Wolff.
Rosberg will be aiming to continue two sequences of his own, the German chasing his third win in a row and sixth successive pole to go into the winter with at least some bragging rights.
“I’ve had two really great weekends now in Mexico and Brazil, so I’m heading into the final race on a massive high,” he said.
Rosberg started on pole in the day-to-night race last year but a mechanical failure dashed his hopes.
“Of course, it will be close as always with Lewis and we saw a big push from Ferrari in Sao Paulo, so it won’t be straightforward. But I’m up for a battle and hopefully we can put on a great show for the fans to end the year,” he said.
With little movement in the driver market and familiar lineups for 2016, there will be fewer farewells than usual in the paddock’s end of term atmosphere.
Abu Dhabi will be Frenchman Romain Grosjean’s last race for Lotus before moving to the new Haas team while Manor Marussia principal John Booth and sporting director Graeme Lowdon are leaving the tail-enders.
Renault’s future in the sport may also become clearer, with the manufacturer set to take over Lotus — whose name looks destined to disappear again.