Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview


Will Seb win three Abu GPs on the trot; will Jenson consolidate P2 and will Felipe see anything in his mirrors…?

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place this weekend and will it be third time lucky for F1? We’ve had two very processional races around Yas Island on a ‘state of the art’ circuit that delivered few thrills and spills, just a lot of frustration. Especially for the team who have a big red shed at the hairpin end of the circuit.

Last year we saw the most dramatic of conclusions to an F1 season – not quite as good as Massa vs Hamilton in 2008 when we were down to the championship being decided in the final two corners, but that may never happen again – with four and realistically three drivers in with a shout at the last race.

The fact that the third most likely driver won shows you how gripping it was, even if we were short of on-track action. Fernando Alonso lost it purely because Ferrari were covering off the second most likely driver to win – Mark Webber – allowing Vettel to coast home while Alonso was stuck behind an unshiftable Petrov. This won’t happen in 2011 because we have two DRS zones. And Ferrari now have a “Red Bull-like front wing” that has helped them pick up some pace just when they said they weren’t developing the car.

Ferrari World next door to the Yas marina track is a fantastic edifice to the glories of motorsport. Perhaps this gives Ferrari chief Luca Montezemolo the confidence to dictate the F1 rules he wants to see in place to guarantee Ferrari’s continued participation – as he’s been doing this week.

We’ve had this so many times over the years. Montezemolo suggests that Ferrari are going to break away, then, when there is the shocked reaction we get the “Doh, I didn’t really mean it, my words have been taken out of context”. It’s a bit like soul legend James Brown’s old show where the doctors come on from the wings to drag him off, but he fights to go back on – it’s that self-consciously stagey.

The most disappointing thing about Ferrari World on Yas Island is nothing to do with the lack of variation in colour, but that the track doesn’t run through it. How cool would that be? To have an indoor motorsport theme park where motorsport history can actually be made inside.

It’s going to be no different to the tunnel at Monaco. Bernie keeps banging on about how the deafening noise is so special to F1. I said, BERNIE KEEPS BANGING ON ABOUT HOW THE DEAFENING NOISE IS SPECIAL… well imagine how loud it would be inside Ferrari World? If you take a look at the circuit, it’s not that far away.

Last year Sebastian Vettel made it two wins in two years in Abu Dhabi and you’ve got to imagine that this is going to be another case of: pole, win and fastest lap for the Red Bull driver.

Last year I also got told off by Jock Clear for writing that Nico Rosberg had pushed Schumi into a spin on the opening lap when replays showed that he got very close, but Michael had a spin of his own accord. This year, Michael’s opening laps from each race would make a great highlights package in themselves. Although Nico Rosberg supporters might well point out that this still only brings him back to just behind Nico who hasn’t imperilled himself by entering a corner alongside Kamui ‘The Endplate Collector’ Kobayashi.

There are still positions to be fought for in the Drivers’ table and Renault can virtually guarantee themselves 5th and Force India 6th in the Constructors’ table with strong races in Abu Dhabi. Sauber vs Toro Rosso for 7th looks likely to go down to the wire in Brazil. With the drivers it’s the race for 2nd place between Button, Webber and Alonso that is the most interesting. Given the dominance of the Red Bull car it will be a great achievement for either Alonso or Button to take P2 ahead of Mark Webber.

Last year Button came home third behind Vettel and Hamilton at Yas Marina and a similar result will all but hand Jenson the not-very-coveted-but-not-to-be-sniffed-at-either runners up spot. The other thing to watch out for, of course, is the latest instalment in the Lewis & Felipe soap opera. Will they kiss and make up? Will Felipe be able to see out of his mirrors again? In Suzuka he said he had no problem seeing everything in his mirrors, in India, nothing at all… no matter how many times he looked… What crazy madness is this?

Vijay Mallya will come under pressure to name his line-up for 2012 and no doubt they’ll be lots of Kim Raikkonen-to-Williams rumours now that Toto Wolff has been speaking about ‘negotiations’. Should that happen, then we could have Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello ‘unexpectedly available’ in 2012, probably fighting for the seat that Robert Kubica may one day come back to at Renault/Lotus.

With Trulli having already signed for Team Lotus/Caterham in 2012, Tony Fernandes has got to be thinking he could have picked up a better line-up than he’s got right now. He’ll also be hoping like hell there isn’t a freak result which robs him of 10th place in the Constructors’ championship. In Abu Dhabi we’re unlikely to get freak downpours that turn the grid upside down, but we’ve certainly seen it happen in Brazil.

At F1’s only day/night race the natural order should be maintained, but let’s hope that the Formula Rossa white knuckle ride – the world’s fastest roller coaster – in Ferrari World isn’t the most exciting thing happening on Yas Island on Sunday.
Andrew Davies