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Rencken: Abu Dhabi GP preview

2013-10-31 08:53

AND THE RUNNER-UP IS…: Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus will battle for second place in the 2013 Constructors’ championship at the upcoming Abu Dhabi .Image: AFP


It was inevitable that the 2013 F1 Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles would be sealed well before season’s end given Sebastian Vettel’s pace after sole rubber supplier Pirelli changed tyre construction in July 2013 after a run of embarrassing tyre delamination.

So that came to pass in fine style in India in October 2013 with three rounds remaining but that is not to imply that the final races will be boring - far from it, for each of the three circuits has an entirely different character, even being situated on different continents and at least seven flying hours apart.


The 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (November 3) at the space-age 5.5km Yas Marina Circuit presents an interesting challenge for drivers. Its 21- turn (12L/9R) layout not only consists of a circuit in three parts but the event itself is F1’s only twilight race – afternoon start, desert night finish.

The opening sector is a series of flowing high-speed corners leading into a back section of sharp corners demanding maximum traction and two long straights which have both designated DRS zones, detection for the first 40m before T7 with activation after the turn, the second 50m after T9 with activation at the apex of T10.

The final sector brings the cars back to the shortish pits straight/start-finish line via a street circuitesque layout which skirts the perimeter of the yacht marina and passes under the domed, futuristically illuminated Yas Viceroy Hotel. Even the curved pits-lane exit is different, passing through a tunnel under Turn 1 and feeding back into traffic on the opposite side.


Cars exceed 260km/h six times; against that seven turns are taken at below 160km/h, with 5, 8 and 11 demanding 5g deceleration as cars shed 200km in 10m. In total there are 12 braking events per lap, with 16% of each lap spent on the left pedal.

The track surface is based on stone quarried in England and is generally quite smooth. As the track sees little aggressive use between GP’s a high degree of evolution occurs through rubber being laid on the racing line over the course of the weekend; blown desert sand on the circuit during early sessions, is quickly swept away.

With the track being at sea level engines enjoy maximum power, which in turn affects rear traction out of the slower corners. Set-up up is generally soft for that reason, leading to higher-than-normal tyre degradation.

With the two-hour GP starting at 5pm local time (3pm SA time) and sunset 50 minutes later, the race is unusual in that conditions get cooler as it progresses. However, temperatures are expected to be fearsomely high, with clear 35C weather predicted all weekend. The latest forecasts have temperatures of 30C at the finish.

Thus Pirelli’s Soft (yellow sidewalls) and Medium (white) compounds - the same choice specified for the previous weekend’s Indian GP - are sure to come in for serious punishment, with a variety of strategies the likely scenario. On paper the choice is as per 2012 but Pirelli has gone a grade softer on all compounds so a repeat of the winning one-stop strategy used by Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) is unlikely.


Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery told Wheels24 ahead of the race: “There are some important implications for strategy here - it’s often possible to try something different in Abu Dhabi than you would in other places.

“This might well pay off at the end of the race. As the compounds are generally softer this year we’d expect two stops this time, although it’s quite possible that some teams might try just one.”

Compounding the conundrum is the long pits-lane exit, resulting in pit stop delays of around 22 seconds.

Qualifying on pole at Yas Marina has been a poisoned chalice: the pole starter has failed to finish three of the four Abu Dhabi GP’s although Raikkonen’s P4 start in 2012 made him the highest placed starter to win the race.

Half the races held here have featured a pace car session (2010 and 2012), with the statistic skewed by the fact that 2012 featured two.

Although the championships have been decided in Vettel/Red Bull’s favours there is plenty to play for over the final three rounds which pay a total of 75 points (Drivers) and 129 points (Constructors), with the overall classification in the latter determining distribution of F1’s all-important billion-dollar revenues.


With Mercedes on 313 points, followed by Ferrari on 309 and Lotus with 285, and a second-fourth place spread of anything up to R300-million - depending on the year’s total revenue – there is an awful lot to play for so the six drivers representing this trio are sure to pull out all stops. Then behind McLaren Force India and Sauber are scrapping over sixth, so the gloves are off.

In the Drivers’ championship pride is mainly at stake, but with drivers by nature being ego kids, that is a powerful motivator. The order behind Vettel is: Ferrari’s Alonso on 207 with Raikkonen third on 183. They are followed by Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) on 169 and Red Bull’s second-stringer Mark Webber (148). Any of these could still finish runner-up to the four-times reigning champion.

After this race the series will head for the final two rounds in Texas and Brazil before the ‘old iron’ V8s are shut down for ever ahead of F1 switching to its “eco-friendly” 1600cc turbocharged/hybrid engines.

Read more on:    mclaren  |  ferrari  |  lotus  |  sebastian vettel  |  motorsport  |  racing  |  f1

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