And so it all ends here. The nineteenth and final race of the 2014 Formula 1 race will see a hotly contested Drivers’ Championship crown secured by either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
|2014 FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
|Date||21-23 November 2014|
|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 (53 laps)||Sun 17:00-19:00|
|Lap Record||1:40.279 (2009)|
|2013 Winner||Sebastian Vettel|
* All session times are quoted in Gulf Standard Time (UTC +04:00 hrs)
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 underground 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.
Of the five races held here to-date, three have been absolute snooze-fests, and the addition two DRS zones have done little to improve the show.
Rewind to 2013
Sebastian Vettel’s dominance of the 2013 season continued in Abu Dhabi – which last year held the third-last round of the championship – and last year’s event proved to be one of the German’s more dominant displays.
Having wrapped up the Drivers’ Championship title the week before in India, Vettel found himself outgunned by teammate Mark Webber in qualifying, with the soon-to-retire Australian delivering one of the best one-lap performances of his career to claim pole position.
That was as good as it got for Webber, who suffered another slow getaway that allowed Vettel to vault into a lead he would never surrender. Webber was stuck behind Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes until his first pit stop, and by the time he was free of the German he was over half a minute behind Vettel, who serenely cantered to his seventh win in a run of nine consecutive visits to the top step of the podium.
Rosberg finished third, holding off an ambitious Romain Grosjean in the closing stages, while Fernando Alonso claimed fifth in his Ferrari ahead of Paul di Resta’s Force India.
The race marked Kimi Raikkonen’s final hit-out as a Lotus driver. After retiring on the first lap with broken suspension, the Finn elected to undergo surgery for a recurrent back injury he’d been suffering before his off-season return to Ferrari.
The Form Guide
Mercedes looks set to wrap up its season as it began, and the characteristics of the Yas Marina Circuit – a demand on engine power and slow-speed traction – will play perfectly into the hands of the Silver Arrows once again.
The question remains: which of its two drivers will emerge on top? Nico Rosberg won last time out in Brazil to end Hamilton’s run of five successive victories, but it was Hamilton’s performance in Sao Paulo – where he fought back to finish in Rosberg’s wheeltracks after a mid-race spin – that was perhaps the more ominous.
Hamilton carries a 17-point lead heading into this weekend, but with the finale offering double the points on offer, the Englishman will have to finish ahead of Rosberg to deny him becoming Formula 1’s second ever second-generation World Champion.
Rosberg may have won half of the number of races as Hamilton this year, but it’s the German’s metronomic consistency which has kept him in the title hunt all season long. Reliability – or a lack of it – might prove to be a spanner in the works as well.
Image via Sutton Images