SPY: Twilight: Breaking Down

And now, the end is near, And so I face the final curta… Oh, hello, Spy here, getting ahead of myself. It’s impossible not to. It has been a long season.

Back when the Team's adventure started in 2005, complete with a young and enthusiastic Spy*, the season was already five weeks over by now, and the race crew would’ve tossed the keys to the motorhome over to the testing crew and gone on holiday, bitching and moaning about how onerous the season with 19 races had been, and how exhausting it had been to end the year with three flyaways in a row. We now look back on our bewildering naivety and giggle.**

Some of the playful scamps in the media – mostly the ones who don’t come to races, admittedly – seem to be of the opinion that this weekend is a dead rubber. It just ain’t the way F1 works. There may be championship tables, and the top spots may already be settled – but this isn’t a league. Every grand prix exists on its own merits; everyone is going to be judged on how they perform this weekend.

There’s also a lot of minor placings to be decided – and they’re only minor if you’re not the ones deciding them. There’s a great deal of pride for the drivers in putting one over their team-mate in the final standings, and – if you wish to be mercenary about the whole thing – quite a few performance-based bonuses to be distributed around the paddock, depending on the finishing order in the Constructors’ Championship. Maybe not a vast sum for the lowlier placings but certainly enough to ensure no-one’s wandering out for a pitstop with a half-eaten scotch egg and a cup of tea on the go.

For us, there’s something beyond pride and a brown envelope – and not just because we’re finishing third whatever happens. There’s the sniff of a fifth victory in 2018 and winning is the best thing ever. In theory, Yas Marina doesn’t really suit the RB14 – but Brazil didn’t really suit it either, and it looked just fine at Interlagos. If we can start next season as well as we’re finishing this one, we’ll be dangerous.

Max has been the form driver in F1 for the last few weeks – but only because Daniel’s a magnet for bad luck. In his last race with the Team we’d like to send him off with a trophy.

As was the case with Sebastian Vettel, it’s worth pointing out that Daniel isn’t being exiled to St Helena, he’s moving next door. That’s not a figure of speech. Barring something rivetingly bizarre, Renault are going to be finishing fourth, so next year we’ll be pitlane neighbours. He’ll be close enough to Bluetooth that awful thrash metal he likes onto our garage sound system.

It is going to be weird seeing him in another team’s colours though. Daniel’s been a Red Bull driver since he had braces. Spy remembers his first test, and how it took half an hour for photographer Thommo to get him to stop laughing long enough to do a moody portrait in the back of the Jerez garage. He used to worry people would mistake him for Sébastien Buemi, and got really excited about living in Milton Keynes. It’s hard to imagine that person as a veteran F1 driver and opponent from a rival team when you’ve witnessed the look of terror on his face when he was first handed a baby to sign.

But people move on and change is in the air – though not just yet. First we have an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to win. There’s always a big crowd in the house for F1’s only twilight event. They’ve come to see a race and that’s what we’re going to give them.

* OK, a less old and slightly less unenthusiastic Spy

** Though it’s a nervous giggle, ‘cos everyone’s worried we might soon be nostalgically recalling the gentle stroll through the tulips that 2018 has been, if things go the way they look like going.