Preview 10: Abu Dhabi GP
Date published: November 19 2014
Everyone’s crossing their fingers that the final ‘showcase’ race of the season doesn’t turn into a double points fiasco.
It’s the final countdown for the 2014 World Championship and like two prize-fighters about to step into the ring, both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are psyched up. Lewis: “I honestly feel like I’m fighting for my first world championship all over again. Sure, I’m older and maybe a little bit wiser than I was back then. I’ve learnt a lot in the years since 2008 – but I’m still the same driver. I still have the same hunger, the same will to win, and I’ve been giving it everything I’ve got from the word go this season.”
Nico is 17 points behind Lewis but the win in Brazil was the boost he needed. Nico: “The gap is smaller than before and I absolutely believe I still have the chance to take the title in Abu Dhabi. It won’t be easy, but I’ll be on full attack – just as I have been all season. Although this has been my first year fighting for a world championship, I’ve never felt more comfortable than I have done this year.” If Nico wins and Lewis comes third, it’s Nico’s title.
One factor that might prove crucial in Abu Dhabi is Nico Rosberg’s ability to manage his brakes. In previous races, such as Monza and Sochi, Nico has had problems getting his braking right, allowing Lewis to overtake him and often flatspotting his tyres. Interlagos had few of the big stops he will experience at the Yas Marina circuit – and that’s where the title could be won or lost.
The 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the only time in F1 history that double points will be awarded for a race. It was introduced by Bernie Ecclestone to try and ensure that the title was decided at the last race (for which the organisers pay a premium) but as we’ve seen, that would have happened anyway. It’s unlikely that double points will feature in 2015, making this race unique.
Unlike races at the often rain-hit Interlagos circuit, the weather at Abu Dhabi won’t be a variable in the title decider. It is predicted to be sunshine all the way with temperatures at 29C or 30C on all three days. However the most crucial running time for setting up the car will be Free Practice 2 when temperatures are falling.
Williams’ head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley says the team are going to concentrate on the final, street-like sector of the track. “Abu Dhabi has a great mix of long straights with high straight-line speed, big braking and a tight twisty section at the end of the lap. Our main focus is going to be on the third sector and getting the balance right there, which is always difficult due to the changes throughout the weekend with the temperature. You get a large variation in temperature throughout the sessions. It’s important to focus on the dusk to early evening track as that is the time the race will take place.”
McLaren have told the press that they are not going to make a decision between Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button over the course of the weekend, so that the issue doesn’t cloud the championship decider. This won’t help Sky or BBC who might have been preparing ‘Farewell Jenson’ features. Many in the pitlane think it’s a shocking way to treat the fourth most experienced F1 driver of all time.
It will definitely be a farewell from Sebastian Vettel to his Red Bull team as he heads off to Ferrari in 2015. “I personally have very special memories of the Abu Dhabi circuit and race; it was here in 2010 that I became world champion for the first time in my favourite F1 car, the RB6. That was a weekend I will never forget and this year the race will mark another big moment in my career; my last race with Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Of course it will be an emotional weekend as we have great memories together, but I’ll enjoy the weekend with the team and with a bit of luck maybe we’ll get a final podium.”
Will Caterham actually make it to Abu Dhabi with two contracted drivers? They’ve already announced Kamui Kobayashi, but after Marcus Ericsson severed all ties with the team there is still an unconfirmed vacancy on the other side of the garage. Andre Lotterer turned it down and Spaniard Roberto Merhi believes he’s got it. But then again Adrian Sutil believed he had a 2015 contract with Sauber…
The usual ‘End of Term’ fever of the last race will be tempered by the fact that teams are staying on afterwards to test, but there are quite a few ‘last races’ down the grid.
Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull,
Fernando Alonso for Ferrari,
Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez for Sauber,
Daniil Kvyat for Toro Rosso,
Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen at McLaren
Gary Paffett (as long-term test driver) at McLaren.