The season is almost over but, first, we will enjoy the last Grand Prix of the 2014 calendar in Abu Dhabi. The Yas Marina Circuit will have the last word in Hamilton and Rosberg’s battle for the drivers championship.
Taking in account that this is the first time, and probably the last, that a Grand Prix will give double points to the drivers (adding even more excitement to the race) and with Lewis 17 points ahead of his German rival, here it is the variety of options they have to end the year being crowned as Sebastian Vettel’s successor:
- If Rosberg wins in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton must finish second to be champion
- If Rosberg is second, Hamilton must finish fifth or higher
- If Rosberg is third, Hamilton must finish sixth or higher
- If Rosberg is fourth, Hamilton must finish eighth or higher
- If Rosberg is fifth, Hamilton must finish ninth or higher
- If Rosberg is sixth or lower, Hamilton is champion
- Rosberg wins, Hamilton finishes third or lower
-Rosberg finishes second, Hamilton finishes sixth or lower
-Rosberg finishes fifth or higher, Hamilton doesn't score a point
Lewis is confident he can win. So far, his season has been stronger than Nico’s: 10 victories versus 5. But he is also cautious. As he said in the last race held in Brazil:
"There is zero comfort going into the next race. There are 50 points to gain [in Abu Dhabi] - that has never happened in Formula One before, and it just so happens to be this season.
"In the last race you never know what is going to happen, so I'm going into it to win."
The race in Yas Marina is a day-night race, where lights used to illuminate the circuit are switched on from the start of the event to ensure a seamless transition from daylight to darkness. Temperatures are lower, which allows Pirelli to bring the softer compounds.
Abu Dhabi will be the last race for Sebastian Vettel in Red Bull Racing, the team in which he has made history, and the last for Fernando Alonso driving in Ferrari. A mix of emotions in the paddock. Alongside the battle for the championship, there is also a tight fight for the fourth place between these two drivers and Williams' Valtteri Bottas. There is a minimal difference of just 3 points between the trio.
This weekend will be the fourth time in 7 seasons Hamilton is fighting for the drivers championship coming into the final round. He was first in the driver standings back in his 2007 rookie season, but the internal battle with his teammate Fernando Alonso hurt both of them and, at the end Kimi Räikkönen got the gold. Next year, in 2008 he secured his first and only title with a last-lap pass on Timo Glock in Brazil under very dramatic circumstances. Finally, in 2010 arrived to the final round in Abu Dhabi with few options, but, despite a podium finish, he had to conform to a fourth position in the standings.
A little bit of history
Yas Marina is yet another track of Hermann Tilke’s designs. It is part of the F1 calendar since 2009. The circuit held the season finale in 2009 and 2010 before being replaced by Brazil. Four years later it regains is place as the final round of the season. In 2009 both championships, Drivers and Constructors, were sealed in Brazil so Abu Dhabi GP was just a formality but in 2010 one could enjoy one of the best title deciders in the modern F1.
4 drivers were title contenders: Fernando Alonso, who held the first position, Mark Webber in second place, Sebastian Vettel being third, and Lewis Hamilton fourth. It was the first time since 2004, the drivers' title was not decided in Brazil and the first time in F1 history that four drivers had a chance to win the championship in the last race. Vettel had qualified first and Fernando Alonso third. The accident between Schumacher and Liuzzi brought out the Safety Car and Ferrari made a mistake with the strategy, pitting Alonso too early and making him exit the pits on traffic. He was unable to overtake Petrov, who was in front of him, and he finished the race in seventh position while Vettel took the race victory. The German consequently became the youngest driver to win an F1 championship, at the age of 23 years and 134 days. He still holds this record.
In 2012, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel led the World Drivers' Championship with 240 points; Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was second on 227 points. Behind Vettel and Alonso in the Drivers' Championship, Kimi Räikkönen was third on 173 points in a Lotus, with Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton on 167 and 165 points respectively. Vettel had set the third fastest lap in qualifying, but he ran out of fuel after qualifying ended. After race officials couldn’t obtain a mandatory one-litre sample of fuel for anaylsis, Vettel was forced to start from the pitlane.
The race was very exciting from Vettel's point of view. By lap 20, the German had fought his way up to tenth place. By lap 31, Vettel was up into second, about twenty seconds behind Kimi Räikkönen, who was running in first place after Hamilton retired from the race on mechanical grounds. The German, who took advantage of the safety cars, went down to fourth after his pit stop. Räikkönen managed to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who had the biggest comeback in a F1 race ever, starting from the pit lane and finishing third.
The layout is 5.554 km long. It is raced counterclockwise over a distance of 55 laps. The top speed is around 320 km/h while the averag is of 195 km/h. It is a long and demanding circuit, with long straights, hard braking points and generally slow curves.
The start/finish straight at Yas Marina is quite short, there is not much space to accelerate before the first 90º medium speed corner to the left. The speed now increases from 125 to 260 km/h in a short straight just before the second and third corners. The number 2 is open to the left and it is easy to have understeer. It will define how much front wing the teams will use. Corner number 3 is a parabolic-kind-of to the right, taken at 250 km/h. Then, before the ending of sector number 1, there is a very fast turn, considered as a straight, where drivers will get to 300 km/h.
Starting sector 2, there is a huge braking point at the chicane, first to the left and then to the right. After the chicane there is the first DRS detection point followed by the corner number 7, the slowest of the circuit; a 70 km/h hairpin left bound drive. Now it's full throttle time, with the longest straight of the layout. The drivers have permission to use DRS if they are under a second of the driver in front and the speed will go up to 330 km/h. At the end of the straight there is a good overtaking point at what is the corner number 8, taken at 80 km/h and followed by a 90º corner to the right. Drivers will find the second DRS detection point at the beginning of turn number 10, a fast drive to the left with a very open changing radius, in which the speed is up to 300 km/h.
Sector number 3 starts with corners 11, 12 and 13, a chicane left-right-left. Then, there are a few straight meters before heading to the curviest part of the circuit. It starts with turn number 14, 90º left-handed, a short-medium straight, a 275 km/h corner number 15 to the right and corner number 16 to the right again. Right there, a sequence of 3 90º corners right-left-left. A few moments to press the accelerator pedal before heading to the last 2 turns: number 20, a quite fast one to the right, and number 21, a bit tight to the right ending in the first straight.
Tyres and technical requirements
A medium-high downforce level is required to maintain good speed in the straights but also having to maximize grip in the last sector, the slowest one. Brake demand is also medium to high, especially due to turns number 5, 8 and 11.
Pirelli is bringing the soft and super soft compounds to Abu Dhabi. As Pirelli say, the supersoft compound is ideal for slow and twisty circuits, especially in cold weather, when maximum mechanical grip is needed. These tyres benefit from an extremely rapid warm-up time. The soft tyre strikes a very good balance between performance and durability. This is a high working range compound.
Jean Alesi commented on tyres performance at the Yas Marina circuit: “With the GP starting at 5pm local time, conditions change significantly during the race. This aspect does not cause particular problems in terms of loss of light: with artificial illumination the driver adapts very well. The greatest difficulty is dealing with the temperature drop, which has a significant impact on the track conditions and therefore on tyre performance.”
The fastest lap at Yas Marina, 1:40.279, belongs to Sebastian Vettel and it was made back in 2009.
The Abu Dhabi race has been won by Sebastian Vettel at three occasions (2009, 2010 and 2013), Lewis Hamilton stood once (2011) while Kimi Räikkönen also took a memorable victory in 2012. Will we see a new driver enter the list of winners at Abu Dhabi? Or will Hamilton take his victory number two at Yas Marina? Only time will tell.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 21 13.00h
FP2 Friday 21 17.00h
FP3 Saturday 22 14.00h
Qualifying Saturday 22 17.00h
Race Sunday 23 17.00h