Friday, 11 November 2011

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

We set off to Yas Island for the penultimate race of the year, the track which Vettel took the title at in 2010.

Despite not producing exciting races in the last two years, Abu Dhabi remains one of the most money-making and anticipated Grands Prix of the 19 race season. It was the last race of 2010, in which won Sebastian Vettel his first world title, and also features one of the longest straights in Formula One. The penultimate race of this season is a track which is very difficult to overtake at, drivers have to have their wits about them constantly if they want to make up any places during the race, as Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber found out in last years race.

Vettel on his way to winning the title in 2010
Both spent the race trying to pass Vitaly Petrov, but to no avail. Vettel was on pole and made a great start, but third-on-the-grid Alonso lost out to Jenson Button at the start, while Mark Webber stayed fifth. There was a collision on the first lap between Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi, which triggered a safety car. Crucially, Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg decided to pit under the safety car. In fifth place, as the lowest of the title contenders, Mark Webber pitted on Lap 11. Ferrari were concerned that Webber would get ahead of Alonso, so they covered the Australian by bringing Alonso in on Lap 15. This was a bad decision, as it meant Alonso would have to pass both Petrov and Rosberg, and Kubica was added to that list when the Spaniard lost lots of time behind Petrov and Rosberg. Webber was in eighth, behind Alonso. Vettel won the race easily, and finishing seventh and eighth, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, who entered the race as the championship top two, were beaten by the man who was lying third in the championship.

This year, we need a better race if Abu Dhabi is to become more popular, after two dull races. It is hardly any surprise that a double DRS Zone will be used. The first detection point is just before Turn Seven, the hairpin leading up to the long straight. Then the activation point is halfway down the straight, so a very long first zone. The next detection is just after Turn Nine, and the activation is shortly after, and can be used for the rest of the sweeping straight. So with long DRS Zones, we can hope for a bit of overtaking, something that has been seen seldom in the 2009 and 2010 races, with hopefully third time lucky in terms of excitement.

A difficult track to master, Abu Dhabi is a unique challenge for the drivers which presents something no other track does: twilight. The race starts in the latre afternoon, but finishes during the night, so is known as a twilight race. It provides for brilliant photography and a beautiful setting. It has been the season closer for the last two years, but it is demoted to the penultimate race this year.

The first sector is very fast, but there are some slow corners in the second sector, as well as two long straights, where the DRS Zones are this weekend. The highlight of the third sector is the spectacular Yas Hotel, which is actually driven under while the drivers are on track. Most drivers aren't huge fans of this track, its near impossible to overtake and very difficult to get right.

Red Bull will be huge favourites to win here, as Vettel has won both Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, and he is in immense form. The 2011 Champion may have had a skirmish with the barriers in practice this afternoon but it was a minor blip, as many other drivers got Turn One wrong, including Fernando Alonso, who had a crash similar to Vettel's. McLaren also look to have pace here, and topped both practice sessions.

So, it's Abu Dhabi, the penultimate race. Are we finally going to see a good race at this spectacular circuit?

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