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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2014 Preview

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Sunday 23 November | Yas Marina Circuit | 15:00

Double points await the drivers in the desert as the season draws to a close on the dusty Abu Dhabi track on Sunday. Rosberg’s refusal to relinquish the title to Hamilton leaves us with a nail-biting conclusion to a season in which one team left the rest in its wake. Mercedes’ rather selfish acquisition of nearly every first place finish in 2014 left little doubt that one of the Silver Arrows would claim the Drivers’ trophy for the team that already has the Constructors’ trophy on its mantlepiece. Both drivers are in with a fair shot, however a one-two would still allow Hamilton to finish ahead of his teammate in the Championship in the event of a win in Abu Dhabi for Rosberg.

Previous Race
Victory at Interlagos eluded Hamilton yet again, with Rosberg denying his teammate the checkered flag and putting an end to his five-race long winning streak. Rosberg’s flawless weekend saw him convert his Pole position to a win after a spin by Hamilton cost the Brit any chance he had of catching his teammate. Massa sent the fans into a frenzy with his podium finish at his home country’s beloved race and the celebrations were in no way dampened by Nelson Piquet awkwardly hitting on Lewis Hamilton’s girlfriend while conducting the post-race interviews. Unfortunately for Massa, his race was marred by a stop-go penalty dished out for speeding in the pit lane, his misadventure into the McLaren pit box also added precious seconds to the Brazilian’s time. Jenson Button proved he’s serious about staying in F1 in 2015 with a fourth-place finish, well ahead of teammate Kevin Magnussen who retains his seat at McLaren next season. Vettel managed another mid-points finish in fifth and although not a particularly great result, he fared much better than Ricciardo who returned to the garage early because of a suspension failure. The two Ferraris slotted in behind Vettel, with Raikkonen having one of his better races of the season. Nico Hulkenberg managed to get his Force India back into the points with an eighth-place finish ahead of Magnussen. Bottas’ race was impacted by a faulty seatbelt that left him stationary in the pits for some time while the issue was fixed. Although he managed to grab the final points for Williams, it was a disappointing result for the Finn who has constantly impressed this season.

The Yas Marina circuit is exactly what one would expect from a country rolling in oil money. The track loops around a man-made island that is also home to a few expensive hotels and a Ferrari-themed entertainment world which includes the fastest roller coaster in the world. The track is bathed in thousands of artificial lights which kick in as the sun fades into evening, providing a seamless transition for the drivers. The accompanying multi-coloured light-show from the Viceroy Hotel (which the track passes under) and the fact that Yas Island is basically a giant sandy parking lot for some of the biggest superyachts in the world, make the race pretty spectacular based on the surroundings alone. Yas Marina is one of the longer tracks and is another anti-clockwise addition to the the calendar. Two long straights and double DRS zones provide some high speeds but overtaking here isn’t easy; most races have been won by a driver at the front of the grid. The track isn’t too harsh on the tyres and Pirelli bring their two softest compounds to Abu Dhabi. Despite the race continuing into the evening, the vicious heat doesn’t abate much after the disappearance of the sun. Reliability of the cars and the ability of drivers to withstand a tough, sweaty race will be a factor for teams wishing to claim the final points of 2014.

To Win Outright 
Lewis Hamilton 8/10
Nico Rosberg 12/10
Valtteri Bottas 22/1
Daniel Ricciardo 22/1
Felipe Massa 25/1
Sebastian Vettel 33/1
Fernando Alonso 66/1
Jenson Button 100/1

Sebastian Vettel (3/1 a podium, 33/1 a win)
Vettel is a man to watch around Yas Marina – he has a hat-trick of wins in Abu Dhabi and claimed his first Championship here in 2010. The Red Bull seems to favour the hot, dusty track and a podium for Vettel in his final race for the team that took him to four World Championships is well within reach. Although lacking some of his usual spark this season, the German has still managed some decent finishes and has made a few appearances on the podium. The race for the checkered flag seems to be exclusively for the Mercedes so a podium, considering his current form, is probably the best Vettel can hope for in Abu Dhabi. At 3/1 there’s decent money to be made if he can get the most of the car during his last race behind the wheel of a Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen (7/2 a Top 6 Finish, 200/1 a win)
Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari has been a forgetful one. Upstaged by his teammate on most occasions, it appeared the Finnish champion was battling to reacquaint himself with the Italian car. He delivered a drive in Brazil that was reminiscent of the World Champion Raikkonen, a much more confident performance than some of his drives this season. Abu Dhabi happens to be a track that Raikkonen is particularly quick at, he managed a win here in a Lotus in 2012, but last year’s race was less impressive with an accident ending his race early. With the dominance of the Mercedes and the tussle between Red Bull and Williams for the places behind them, it’s unlikely that Kimi’s Ferrari will contend for top points, but a Top 6 at 7/2 is in his grasp.

Fernando Alonso (5/1 a Podium, 4/10 a Top 6 Finish)
Another season has passed and with it another chance for Alonso to finally claim the third Driver’s Championship he’s been trying to secure for years whilst consistently losing out to Vettel. This year Vettel wasn’t in contention for the title, but Alonso’s hopes were dashed by two men in white race suits. Abu Dhabi will be Alonso’s last race for the Italian Stallions and while it would be nice to see the Spaniard leave on a decent note, the car may let him down. The Ferrari isn’t great in Abu Dhabi, despite there being a theme park idolising the team next door. However, Alonso has managed to get the car onto the podium here twice  before so take a daring bet on Alonso at 5/1 for a podium or for a safer option, at 4/10 for a Top 6 Finish.

POLE POSITION: Lewis Hamilton 6/10

Hamilton will have an easier time of it than his teammate considering he doesn’t have to worry about actually winning the race as a second place finish is enough to secure the Championship. Reliability often plagues Hamilton at the most inconvenient times, so the performance of his car could be the decider in the Championship fight. Abu Dhabi is a tough race on both the cars and the drivers and mechanical failure may hand the title to Rosberg. Unless reliability issues influence his race, it seems likely that Hamilton will win his second World Championship. Hamilton’s been on Pole here before and my money is on him starting at the front on Sunday. It’s rare for this Grand Prix to be won by the pole-sitter, but for Hamilton it’s irrelevant as second place will deliver him the real win.

WIN: Nico Rosberg 12/10
Rosberg has his work cut out for him this weekend, even if he manages to beat Hamilton to the finish line, he’ll have to be holding thumbs that his teammate makes some kind of error and finishes third or lower. It seems unlikely that if reliability issues remain at bay, that there would be anything other than a Mercedes one-two finish. The team have won the past six races, with Rosberg ending Hamilton’s streak of five wins to cling on to a last hope of winning his first Championship. Anything could happen considering the volatile nature of Formula One, but disregarding mechanical failure and driver error, Rosberg’s desperation to win his first title and his aggressive driving nature could see him come out on top in the race but unfortunately lose out to Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship.

Think we’ve got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this one is going to play out.

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