Preview 10: Abu Dhabi GP

Thursday 31st October 2013

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The corner that awaits...

The corner that awaits...

By way of a change, Andrew Davies looks at ten things that might grip our attention at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

1.Ross Brawn besieged with questions about what he'll be doing next year.

In 2013, the lack of genuine competition in the drivers' championship has driven the media to constantly look at the driver moves and the engineer moves. It's a wearying process. At first it was the Red Bull drive, then it moved on to the Ferrari drive, and after that the Lotus drive. It's shifted on to what Ross Brawn will be doing next year. Behind it all is the false belief that we want to hear drivers and engineers constantly denying what they may have agreed behind closed doors all weekend.

Instead of doing a proper job and analysing F1 or bringing us closer to the sport, the BBC seem hell-bent on this mission to get drivers to say things they're only going to say when they're allowed to. Kimi Raikkonen paraphrased it perfectly when he told reporters - "Of course I'm going to tell you as soon as I know, because then you'll go away."

What is the point in continually asking questions for which you already know the answer. It's brainless. What is Ross going to be doing next year? He's said he's going to wait till the end of the season to work it out. Will that stop people asking questions about it? No. Have we heard all this before? Yes.

If you like adding up, count the number of times a BBC interviewer asks a question which the interviewee cannot give the answer.

2.Felipe Massa taking a last nostalgic look at Ferrari World.

Next year it will be Kimi and Fernando's faces plastered all over Ferrari World and taking rides on the world's fastest roller-coaster. Time to get the home video out. Felipe Junior's presumably not big enough yet (and Ant Davidson is still not big enough to pass the minimum height limit).
This weekend Ferrari should beat McLaren's record of scoring points in 64 successive grands prix.

3.Kimi Raikkonen enjoying himself. Though don't expect to see too many outward signs.

This is the track where Kimi finally won a race last year and we had more tetchy radio talk - free of expletives this time. Kimi thinks Abu Dhabi has "too many corners" but there are compensations: " The hotel is walking distance from the track which I like."

On a separate Lotus issue Eric Boullier has apologised for the outbursts on team radio last week. We have always had swearing on the radio, in fact one of the items that escaped to broadcast was Juan-Pablo Montoya shouting "****ing Raikkonen." about ten years ago. This is a high-stakes business and we are given an amazingly close insight into teams by eavesdropping on team radio, so we should expect this kind of thing. Did Mercedes apologise after Lewis said, "these tyres are ******" the other week. Don't think so. Fans are lucky to be granted such intimate access and if the downside is the odd swearword in the heat of battle, so be it.

What was most interesting was the relationship between (trackside operations director) Alan Permane and Raikkonen, and the fact that it wasn't his race engineer Mark Slade on the line. What Alan said was far more honest and to the point than "come on, Seb, this is silly..."

4.Teams could try to get away with a single stop.

Pirelli are taking medium and softs, like last time out in India. Paul Hembery says: " Tyre wear and degradation isn't especially high here: last year, when we also nominated the medium and soft, most drivers just stopped once. As the compounds are generally softer this year we'd expect two stops this time, although it's quite possible that some teams might try just one. We will have to wait for the Friday running until we have a clearer picture of the time difference between the two compounds."

5.Whether McLaren's improved form in India will continue

They may be banging on the podium door soon, McLaren are showing signs that they can compete with the big boys again after Checo took P5 in India. They will be joining a very lively battle for P2/3/4 in the constructors' championship (see below).

6. Can Merc pull away from Ferrari, can Lotus catch and pass the Scuderia?

This is the battle which we know will go down to the wire in Brazil and which three sets of accountancy teams will be stressing about. Mercedes are re-asserting themselves and Lotus are coming on strong. The irony is that Kimi Raikkonen could help lose his next-year-employer a shed load of cash by performing well in the last three races.

7. Have the organisers done something about overtaking?

For a circuit that was designed from a blank piece of paper the Yas Marina has few overtaking spots and one of the reasons is that the long straights lead onto very tight chicanes where cars find it difficult to run two abreast. Which always brings contact. Given the huge investment in infrastructure, you wonder why that's the thing they left out... Yes, the lights on the hotel are very pretty. And yes, it's a full capacity again, all 34 seats have been sold.

8. A Safety Car upsetting the strategy.

We didn't get one in Japan or India, so it's about time. The turn at Yas Marina that comes just after cars emerge from underneath the hotel has always threatened to turn into a Montreal-like Champion's Wall. Sooner or later someone is going to lose it big time going through there during a race.

9.Pastor Maldonado getting increasingly angry.

It's been threatening to turn ugly at Williams all season and with Bottas now getting the edge on Maldonado, Pastor's packing up his PDVSA toys and heading off to a new team. Carbon fibre moulding divisions at Sauber, Lotus and Force India are holding their breath - 2014 could be a big year for overtime.

10. A serious mechanical problem for Sebastian Vettel's car.

Mark's had a serious puncture followed by a Sutil-generated oil fire, a KERS failure and an alternator failure in recent races. The law of averages caught up with Alonso in India and surely it has to catch up with Sebastian Vettel sooner rather than later.

Andrew Davies

Spa, Spa, Glorious Spa

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