Start, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Vettel aims for record-equalling seventh win in a row

2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Abu Dhabi, 2011The championship trophies have been won, and some might have you believe that means there’s no reason to watch the rest of the season.

But as you’re reading F1 Fanatic, that’s probably not a point of view you share. There are drivers out to impress team bosses to secure their places for next year a three-way fight in the constructors’ championship for second place and another scrap for tenth between the smaller teams which is being waged with no less intensity.

And there’s the small matter of whether anyone can actually beat Sebastian Vettel in a straight fight. He is aiming for a record-equalling seven wins in a row this year.

No one has ever won more consecutive rounds of the championship than that, although Alberto Ascari did enter and win nine races in a row in the fifties, missing one race.

Until last year the Yas Marina circuit had a reputation for producing wearisome races. Vettel’s ‘pits-to-podium’ recovery drive, aided by a couple of smashes which brought out the Safety Car, went some way towards redressing that. But can it provide a memorable race without needing a title contender to line up last?

The paddock denizens love the track’s the proximity to Emirati wealth, the television director fixates on the glowing hotel and the mechanics enjoy the respite of air-conditioned garages. It’s just a pity the track was an afterthought. A common refrain among drivers is that Yas Marina’s many slow corners makes it an unexciting venue for racing.

Yas Marina circuit information

Lap length 5.554km (3.451 miles)
Distance 55 laps (305.4km/189.7 miles)
Lap record* 1’40.279 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap 1’38.434 (Lewis Hamilton, 2011)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Yas Marina track data in full

The final sector in particular is an exercise in restraint as the drivers dodge around endless slow bends seemingly designed to show off the hotel rather than their skills. Nonetheless, as Nico Hulkenberg notes, “it?s easy to get it wrong and overdo it in qualifying”, particularly as the onset of nightfall brings with it a change in temperatures.

The same tyre compounds will be used here as appeared in India. However Yas Marina doesn’t have as many the long corners which build up stresses in the rubber, so drivers may find tyre life is better on the soft compound.

There are just three races left for the V8 engine generation and at this stage in the season engine life may become a factor. Ahead of this weekend all of the Mercedes-powered drivers have already used their eighth and final engines (Lewis Hamilton did so earlier than the other five), whereas the Ferrari and Renault users have one fresh engine remaining.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

That Vettel heads into this weekend’s race as favourite is obvious. But it can only take a momentary lapse – an ill-timed puncture or a shortage of petrol in the tank, for example – to wreck a winning streak. Just as happened to Vettel on his last two visits to this track.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2012Ferrari are focussed on minimising their losses in qualifying so they can be in a stronger position in the race, to improve their chances of regaining second place in the constructors’ championship.

“I think Ferrari can fight for the podium here,” said test driver Marc Gene. “Qualifying is our weak point and if we can manage to get on the second row, that would feel like pole to us.”

“If we could do that then I feel we can get to the podium and therefore be in front of our main competitors Mercedes and Lotus which would be good for our chances to finish second in the constructors’.”

McLaren

Sergio Perez has been boosted by fifth place in India, which he says was: “my strongest performance of the season so far, and a good example of what I feel I?m capable of when I have a solid car beneath me”. It still remains to be seen whether he will remain a McLaren driver next year, so he needs to keep producing those results.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean is riding high at the moment having recovered from 17th in India to take a surprise third podium finish in a row.

“The E21 certainly seems to be liking every track at the moment,” he acknowledged. His team won at this track last year following Hamilton’s retirement, and while it might be a bit optimistic to think he can challenge Red Bull for victory, another podium finish has to be a possibility.

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2012Mercedes have regained second in the constructors’ championship but there’s not much in it: Ferrari are just four points behind and Lotus are within range too.

“It’s all about consistency now and making sure that both Nico [Rosberg] and I score good points so that we can keep the other teams behind us,” said Hamilton.

Sauber

Sauber’s charge up to the points table was halted in India as Esteban Gutierrez had a rough weekend and Nico Hulkenberg retired in the closing stages.

That promoted both Force India drivers allowing the team to edge clear in the championship. Sauber need to get their momentum back to have a chance of taking that sixth place.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Yas Marina, 2012Mallya credited his team’s performance in their home race to telling them to “think outside of the box” when it came to strategy.

The result was Paul di Resta pitting on the first lap and Adrian Sutil being the only driver to make a ‘medium-soft’ tyre strategy work. These were the kind of aggressive strategies the team used to good effect earlier in the season.

Williams

Although Maldonado is reported to be on his way out of Williams at the end of the year, he has detected some improvements in the car of late: “We have made some progress in recent weeks and the car felt better in India, so we will be looking to continue moving forwards as we approach the final few races of the season.”

Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Abu Dhabi, 2010This is a particularly important race for Toro Rosso whose sponsors Cepsa, Nova Chemicals and Falcon Private Bank are all part of the Abu Dhabi government’s IPIC Group.

At IPIC’s behest, Toro Rosso’s cars will carry a logo bearing the message “Kullunna Khalifa” which means “we are all Khalifa”, which they describe as “a message designed to unite everyone in the UAE in being proud of the nation”.

Daniel Ricciardo had a taste of things to come at this track in 2010 when he tested for Red Bull (pictured) shortly after Vettel had won the championship for them.

But he had a run-in with his future team mate during a Safety Car period in last year’s race which left Vettel skidding off the track, damaging his front wing.

Nonetheless Ricciardo is looking forward to joining Vettel next year. “I can?t wait to have the best in the world as my team mate,” he said. “That?s the real challenge and an opportunity for me to see how good I am.”

Caterham

Giedo van der Garde is one of few defenders of the Yas Marina track. “People used to have a go at the circuit layout but I think it?s pretty cool,” he said.

Avoiding trouble on the first lap will be his priority this weekend after early retirements in Japan and India. Team mate Charles Pic was also sidelined last time out in a disastrous weekend for the team.

Marussia

Marussia are increasingly optimistic about keeping Caterham behind them following their last result. “We took a great deal of heart from our performance in New Delhi last weekend and we would hope to continue in much the same vein here this weekend,” said team principal John Booth.

“We will conduct a further evaluation of our new suspension developments on Friday morning and see how things go from there.”

2013 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 2.19 1.73 1 4 15/16 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.00 5.00 2 15 13/16 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 5.94 4.00 1 11 15/16 Form guide
Felipe Massa 7.63 6.79 3 15 14/16 Form guide
Jenson Button 9.88 9.19 5 17 16/16 Form guide
Sergio Perez 10.94 10.69 5 20 16/16 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.50 4.67 1 11 15/16 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 8.69 7.23 3 19 13/16 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 4.00 6.07 1 19 14/16 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.25 4.87 1 12 15/16 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 10.25 10.21 4 19 14/15 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 16.06 13.36 7 20 14/16 Form guide
Paul di Resta 13.25 10.00 4 20 12/16 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 12.06 11.23 5 20 13/16 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 16.13 13.38 10 17 13/16 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 15.38 14.00 11 17 15/16 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 13.69 11.73 6 18 11/16 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 10.88 12.15 7 19 13/16 Form guide
Charles Pic 19.88 16.38 14 19 13/16 Form guide
Giedo van der Garde 19.44 16.83 14 21 12/16 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 19.50 16.77 13 19 13/16 Form guide
Max Chilton 20.50 17.75 14 20 16/16 Form guide

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Force India, Pirelli/LAT