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Abu Dhabi GP - Preview

2017-11-26 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2017-11-23 18:51:40)

The sun sets on another Formula 1 season with its only day/night race at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit. It is a strange track featuring twenty one corners, two long straights and it puts a premium on braking and traction. It is one of the hardest circuits for braking yet the cars are at full throttle for nearly 65% of the lap. The overall lap time is high and it makes this one of the slowest laps in F1 due to all the braking into slow corners, many of them 90 degree corners making it a bit of a stop-start track with no great flow.

Arguably the circuit which shares many similarities with Yas Marina is Singapore. Another slow track with many 90 degree corners and a stop-start feel. However the Singapore track surface often makes things different and Mercedes has not struggled here in the same way as they do in Singapore, indeed Mercedes have won here for the last three seasons.

With a premium on braking it is a track which rewards Lewis Hamilton’s late braking style. He has three wins here, as has Vettel, and would have had more without some bad luck mechanically. He crashed out in Q1 in Brazil last time out with an uncharacteristic error. Having already bagged the title could he be a little less focused? He did go of the ball in 2015 after winning the title and he lost the final three races. Mercedes admit the slow and medium speed corners are not perfect for their car this year but remain confident that they have improved their understanding of the car and that they can compete for the win.

Ferrari have never won here in the eight previous races here but given their form on the slower circuits this year, 1st and 2nd at Monaco and Hungary, pole positions there and in Singapore, they must have a chance of being competitive again. Vettel has been doing well in qualifying recently, front row in the last three races, and that is important as this race has only once been won from outside the front row on the grid. Given slight doubts as to the Mercedes compatibility with this type of circuit and the positive form of the Ferrari on the slower circuits, Vettel looks to have an above average chance of another win this weekend.

2 point Sebastian Vettel to win the Abu Dhabi GP @ 3.75 with Betstars, Paddy Power

Red Bull has done well here historically but hasn’t done so well recently as the two long straights do require a powerful engine which they haven’t had for some time. They are also currently hampered by the fact that Renault have basically run out of new parts for their power units and all their customer teams are having to make do and mend, running the units at reduced power to help with reliability. This the last race of the season however so they don’t have to look after it for another race so do they take a chance, up the power and hope that it doesn’t go pop?

Force India, soon to have a change of name, has wrapped up 4th place again and their good almost anywhere car should be capable of another decent points haul. That said the slower tracks have not been their most successful but even at their worst they are usually in the top 10. Perez has been in the points here for the last four years and he is a fan of the track.

Williams and Formula 1 will finally say farewell to Massa this weekend and he may have a decent race to end his career. He has always finished in the top ten in his seven starts here. However this year’s Williams doesn’t like slow tracks with lots of corners. They were appalling in qualifying in Singapore, beating only Sauber. They were poor in Hungary and Monaco so while Massa has a good record here his car has not performed well on slow, stop-start circuits.

There are only six points separating Haas in 7th and Toro Rosso in 5th, with Renault in the middle. The financial reward for coming 5th is worth millions and that battle will be fascinating. Toro Rosso and Renault both have Renault power units and both have suffered with reliability of late as Renault has run out of new parts. It is a shame as the Renault chassis was developing nicely and a strong end to the season was expected. One point from the last four races is very poor but with three DNF’S for Hulkenberg it isn’t surprising. Toro Rosso, being a small team are always expected to struggle in the later part of the season but it is the chronic lack of reliability which is really hurting them. That and chopping and changing drivers.

Haas I have never understood this year. There seems to be no pattern to their performances but they have traditionally struggled with their brakes, a weakness which may be exposed here.

McLaren and Honda will finally divorce after this race and ironically they may do so after scoring points. They will struggle on the two long straights but they now have a car that is good in corners. They got both cars into Q3 in Singapore and Vandoorne came 7th, taking advantage of the first corner pile up which led to the retirement of Alonso a few laps later. I imagine that Honda will allow McLaren to turn up the wick as there are no more races to come. Alonso has actually finished in the points in the last two races, made Q3 in five of the last six qualifying sessions and when it all works he has a points scoring car now. Reliability is always a concern with Honda. They have only gotten both cars to the chequered flag on five of the last nineteen races but with three in the last five, progress has been made.

With reliability concerns for Renault, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, McLaren Honda could inherit points just by finishing the race but they have the potential to score them on merit as well. Vandoorne likes this track, has won races here in GP2 and has tested an F1 here last year car so it is not a new venue for him to learn.

2 points Fernando Alonso to finish in the points @ 1.90 with Betstars

1 point Stoffel Vandoorne to finish in the points @ 3.50 with Betstars, Bet365

-JamesPunt