Big names absent as nine F1 drivers skip post-season Abu Dhabi dinner

The F1 2023 grid pose for their annual end-of-season photo.

The F1 2023 field pose for their end-of-season photo on the Abu Dhabi grid.

The F1 drivers arranged an Abu Dhabi dinner for a second year over the weekend, though it was not as well-attended as last season.

All 20 drivers attended a meal last year in tribute to Sebastian Vettel as he geared up for retirement, and the grid arranged another dinner this time around at the season finale, with 11 drivers in attendance this time.

Zhou Guanyu shared a picture from around the table, which included Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in attendance, but without Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris.

11 F1 drivers attend end-of-season dinner in Abu Dhabi

Posting a photo on social media that was later shared more widely, Zhou was joined by Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon, George Russell, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll as the drivers marked the end of the 2023 campaign.

Looking back at last year’s driver dinner on a recent episode of the Beyond the Grid podcast, Pierre Gasly spoke fondly of the whole grid’s goodbye to Vettel.

He said it was an evening that will stay with him for the rest of his life, and that the rare shared experience of being a Formula 1 driver gave the drivers the opportunity to open up to each other in a way that they have rarely been able to do when they are on the grid together. recommends

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“I’ll remember that moment forever. It was the first time in five years we all got together,” Gasly reminisced.

When it was put to him that the drivers let their guard down for the night, the Alpine driver agreed and added: “That’s what made it so authentic, and that’s probably one of the very few times you’ve seen the real side of people and drivers.

“You’ve always got closer relationships with certain drivers, but it’s almost like on that dinner, from the moment we closed the door, we all took our cap off our heads, and we’re like, ‘Okay, now, it’s just ‘you get whatever you see’.

“Can be Lewis, can be Sebastian, Daniel, everyone came up with all sorts of random stories I’m not going to tell here, but it was just hilarious, and it was great to see.

“At the end of the day, we’re all racing drivers, we all want to beat each other. You get a bit of banter, you get a bit of fight, sometimes it goes slightly beyond the limit but, at the end of the day, we’re all humans, just normal people with a life which is quite extraordinary.

“Lewis was great, Seb was great, Yuki made us laugh so much and the fact that everyone kind of opened up and, and just accepted, ‘okay, this is our night, and let’s just enjoy it.’

“By the end of it, we all looked at each other and we said: ‘Why didn’t we do it earlier? Like, why did we wait five years to make that happen? So let’s just make sure that we get to do this again, sooner than later.’”

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