Formula 1 ventures back to the Gulf and this weekend sees the action resume once again with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. one of just three race left to decide the fate of the 2012 F1 season.
On the back of four straight wins, Sebastian Vettel has plenty of momentum to claim a third successive title. But as Fernando Alonso showed, his Ferrari still has plenty of race pace to challenge the Adrian Newey-designed machine that is so artfully exploited by Vettel.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the RichardsF1.com Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview…
|Date:||02-04 November 2012|
|Venue:||Yas Marina International Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates|
|Race Lap Record:||1:40.279, Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing RB5 (2009)|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 13:00-14:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 17:00-18:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 14:00-15:00|
|Race (55 laps, 305.355km)||Sun 17:00-19:00|
|Past Winners:||Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-26)||2011|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB6)||2010|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB5)||2009|
One of a brace of new venues to hit the Formula 1 calendar in recent years, the Yas Marina circuit looked – on paper at least – to take Grand Prix racing to a glitzier and more glamorous level.
And much of that is true. It has amazing facilities and architecture – its multicoloured Yas Hotel is truly something – a novel pit exit, and a twilight setting to make the backdrop all the more stunning.
But in terms of wheel-to-wheel action, the Hermann Tilke designed circuit has been an abject failure. Two crucial areas have come under fire since it made its debut on the calendar in 2009: it poses no challenge to drivers, and it offers next to no overtaking opportunities.
The three races held here to-date – all won in convincing lights-to-flag demonstrations – have been absolute snooze-fests, and the addition of new rules and technology have done nothing to improve the show.
Let’s take a look at our Yas Marina International Circuit Guide:
Yas Marina Talking Points
So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
The Form Guide
We have an enthralling championship battle on our hands, and – barring disaster for both – it’s a two-horse race between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso for the title.
One is armed with arguably the most complete technical package on the grid; the other is reliant on his almighty talent to haul back into contention on race day.
In what was an otherwise dull Indian Grand Prix last weekend, Alonso drove superbly to recovery from his third-row qualifying position. He swept by the two McLarens in the early laps, and then took advantage of a KERS problem for Mark Webber to limit the damage to Vettel with a second-placed finish.
But Fernando knows that it won’t be enough if he wants to claim the championship glory for himself. Simply put, the Ferrari isn’t nearly as complete a package as the Red Bull. It’s behind on crucial one-lap pace, and that puts it behind the eight-ball while Vettel can skip off into an early, and usually untroubled, lead.
Unless Ferrari can pull a rabbit out of the hat with a major technical upgrade in the coming races – and that’s assuming Red Bull is incapable of doing the same – then the red cars will have to rely on bad luck hitting the blue cars in order to come back into the picture.
As we saw last weekend, Red Bull isn’t averse to its own technical dramas. Webber had his KERS problem, and Vettel was fractionally slowed by a loose front floor splitter. It takes a minor slip-up, and Ferrari could be back in the game.
As Vettel suffered the indignity of a first-lap retirement here last year, Fernando knows only too well the disappointment that Abu Dhabi can bring. Recall the 2010 race, where Ferrari made the poor tactical decision to shadow Webber’s tyre stop strategy, and instead they dropped their gaze from Vettel, who came through to win the race and claim the most unlikely of championship crowns.
Both teams need absolutely perfect weekends in order to avoid championship failure. The tiniest of slip-ups will be all that it takes to completely change the status quo coming out of this weekend.
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The eighteenth round round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!
You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.
There were more changes in the points table following the Indian Grand Prix round, and the overall winner’s title still remains open to many people to claim. Again, we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?
To enter your predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fix!
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