Abu Dhabi Grand Prix analysis

It’s strange how last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was so incident filled, but this year’s was much more relaxed; but nonetheless Yas Marina through up an interesting race. Yes, Sebastian Vettel disappeared off into the distance, but the battle between Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean was one to watch. Why? Because ignoring Lewis Hamilton’s set-up troubles (and assuming he’s back on form for the remaining races), they are the ones that are consistently fighting for second, third and fourth place. You can’t ignore either of the Ferraris either, however, if they’re not careful they could drop to fourth in the constructors championship.

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Red Bull:
Qualifying – VET P2 – WEB P1
Race – VET P1 – WEB P2
Maybe we were hoping for Webber’s first win of the season, but you can’t fault Vettel. Neither of the Red Bulls had the best of starts, but defensive work on both drivers’ behalf’s kept Hamilton at and Grosjean at bay. Strategy and backmarkers worked in Webber’s favour as he was able to get passed Rosberg and keep second place. It’s one thing to be 30 seconds ahead of someone in second, but to be 30 seconds clear of your own team-mate who himself is in second place is another – a stellar job by Vettel.

Ferrari:
Qualifying – ALO P11 – MAS P8
Race – ALO P5 – MAS P8
I think Qualifying was quite a shock for everyone, Ferrari fan or not, but Alonso recovered well, and his final stint on the soft tyres was a good call. The incident between Alonso and Vergne is a tricky one to call. You must treat the white lines on the pit exit like a wall, and Vergne was ahead of the Ferrari before he exited the pit lane, which suggests Vergne had the right of way. However, when you put a pit exit on the racing line, incidents like that will happen; the layout of the track isn’t great when you think about it – two DRS zones next to each other is just silly. The only good thing about Yas Marina is the setting and the fact that the race starts in the dusk and ends under the floodlights… Felipe had the wrong strategy; I don’t understand why Ferrari didn’t put both drivers on the soft tyres at the end, especially as Felipe’s tyres were fine. His pass on Hamilton and Sutil was brilliant too (even if it was DRS assisted).

McLaren:
Qualifying – BUT P13 – PER P9
Race – BUT P12 – PER P9
This is the second race in a row that Button has picked up damage on the first lap, and it’s also the second time in a row that Perez has been in the points whilst Button has not. There’s a bizarre rumour floating around that Magnussen will replace Perez next season (which I don’t think is true). Perez has been doing extremely well recently, and his reactions saved him from making contact with Maldonado during the Sutil incident.

Lotus:
Qualifying – RAI DSQ – GRO P7
Race – RAI DNF – GRO P4
All I can say is why did the team not start Raikkonen from the pit lane? If so, he probably wouldn’t have made contact with Pic and would never have retired from the race. It was quite amusing to see Kimi leaving straight away, but I was looking forward to seeing Kimi fighting through the order! Grosjean is continuing to impress, and I’m positive his first win is getting closer and closer.

Mercedes:
Qualifying –  ROS P3 – HAM P4
Race – ROS P3 – HAM P7
Rosberg’s bad luck has finally turned around, with his second third place in a row. In his video diary he said he had the wrong set-up through the second stint and he might have been able to re-pass Webber had he got that right. Hamilton also had the wrong set-up and was unable to pass the traffic (Hamilton’s top speed was 316.7 and Rosberg’s was 316.3), and the team have said they are looking into why that  happend. Hamilton is however the only driver to win COTA, but that could all change…

Sauber:
Qualifying – HUL P6 – GUT P17
Race – HUL P14 – GUT P13
A drive through penalty for an unsafe pit release ruined Hulkenberg’s chance of getting some points, but the car showed good pace as it was able to fend off the Lotus’ and Mercedes’ as Gutierrez proved. Gutierrez has been improving rapidly, and could well be team leader next year. The battle for sixth in the constructors is close with Sauber just 32 points behind Force India with 2 rounds remaining.

Force India:
Qualifying – DIR P12 – SUT P18
Race – DIR P6 – SUT P10
Di Resta is my driver of the day. Despite the one stop strategy being 10 seconds slower, he managed to pull it off, getting some strong points. Sutil however, had quite an eventful race. Should he have had a penalty? I think so. The thing is, the stewards said they were looking very closely at drivers exceeding track limits, and think it was clear that Sutil passed two cars off track, whether you were forced off track or not, surely you can’t keep the position/s?

Williams:
Qualifying – MAL P15 – BOT P16
Race – MAL P11 – BOT P15
The disappointing thing is that Maldonado was just 2 seconds away from getting the last point. Bottas has been underwhelming, his race pace isn’t as strong as that of Maldonado, but that could improve given some time. It is such a shame to see Williams struggling so much, and I’m hopeful they come back stronger!

Toro Rosso:
Qualifying – RIC P10 – VER P14
Race – RIC P16 – VER P17
I seriously hope Ricciardo can sort out his race starts; he could be a serious threat to Vettel next year if so, and we could get a good inter-team battle. As previously mentioned, I don’t think Vergne was in the wrong with the Alonso incident. Both drivers were entitled to race, and the bumpy ride clearly caused Alonso some pain, so perhaps that was his punishment.

Caterham:
Qualifying – PIC P21 – VDG P19
Race – PIC P19 – VDG P18
The dreaded team orders again…the only difference being, it’s the end of the season (nearly) and Caterham are trying to get the all important tenth place in the constructors championship, and Van der Garde was lapping two seconds quicker than Pic. Maybe that was due to the contact with Raikkonen, but swapping the drivers wasn’t losing or gaining anything.

Marussia:
Qualifying – CHI P22 – BIA P20
Race – CHI P21 – BIA P20
Not a very pleasing weekend, neither drivers did anything special and couldn’t take the fight to Caterham. Chilton has broken a record in Formula 1, for the most consecutive finishes in a rookie season.

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