Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Review

As Nico Rosberg blitzed over the the finish line, so did he pull the curtain across the 2015 Formula One season. The race result was in itself a thumbnail of a year consistently celebrated by the Silver Arrows, with a Ferrari in the mix here and there. Rosberg managed to convert his pole into a hatrick of  wins – a first for the German driver. Slightly out of character, Lewis Hamilton finished behind his teammate. Nico has certainly blown out the candles on Lewis’s championship cake, and as for the rest of the field, the usual processions followed after the five crimson lights went out to send the drivers racing.

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Rosberg started from pole for the sixth consecutive time, managing to convert the last three into wins. His win in Abu Dhabi  was arguably the most convincing, finishing nearly nine seconds in front of an off-the-pace Hamilton. Lewis was prepared to take a gamble and bring the car home on a used set of primes, but after ping ponging radio messages between driver and pit wall, Lewis accepted his fate and the teams’ decision to abandon a gamble as well as a climatic finish, to rather pit for fresh primes and complete the 55 laps in a comfortable second place. Hamilton claimed he had been struggling with the car all weekend, adding and removing components, but still could not find the right balance.

Left to enjoy the final step of the podium and the accompanying silverware and rose water, Kimi Raikkonen had a steady race, looking confident in the car through out the evening. Even though a sticky front right tyre cost the Finn four seconds in a pit stop during the latter half, it didn’t prove enough to aid Vettel’s attempt at sealing a fourteenth podium for the year. Sebastian’s strategy was bold initially, hoping for a two-stop race, but the Scuderia had to accommodate for the soft and super-soft tyre’s life span, roughly thirty and fifteen laps respectively.

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Sergio Perez has experienced something of a Mexican renaissance in his second season at Force India. Claiming he has never driven better, the twenty-five year old finished over a minute behind this race’s victor, but claimed a convincing fifth place. Trailing down the road at P7 was a beaten Nico Hulkenberg. Dr. Perez, the acclaimed tyre doctor groomed his sets for the duration of the grand prix, and his expertise in such a skill has been a vital weapon in his racing arsenal.

The first of the Red Bulls to cross the line in sixth position was also the first of the Daniels. Ricciardo had been jostling with the Force India pair for portions of the race, but his efforts were unwholesome as he lost out on winning the teammate battle. The second Daniel, or rather Daniil, secured the last of the points, claiming just a single digit for the race and a further three over his Australian counterpart in the driver’s championship. Although not higher in the points, Kvyat showed flare and tenacity throughout the race, thus reasserting his worth to the Austrian outfit.

Williams had a weekend to forget. The span of round nineteen was typified by low amounts of grip and an unstable car around corners. Massa’s race was relatively uneventful and received little interruption from other drivers to finish in eighth. However, Valterri Bottas could not enjoy the simple pleasures of coasting to a Grand Prix finish. After being released early from his pitbox, the Finn collected the rear end of Jenson’s Button’s McLaren. His front wing was destroyed, and left him to limp a full 5.5km around the track, until having to pit again for a new wing. To add further frustration, Bottas was awarded a five second time penalty for the team’s error, and finished thirteenth.

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In his last race for the Enstone outfit, Lotus’s Romain Grosjean will feel relief to be cutting ties with the forever doubtful black and gold team. The Haas driver for 2016 quietly took ninth place. His hot blooded latin teammate Crashtor Pastor Maldonado came to lock horns with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso on lap one, and later had to retire from the race. In an interview with the BBC, the Venezuelan said this is the way racing goes and crashes should be expected. He also remarked that he was happy not to be the cause of the collision. Should the facts have been reversed, he elaborated he would have become the focal point of the media’s attention for yet another instance of the season.

A worthy note goes to Max Verstappen. Turning overtaking into the art of finesse once again, the flying Dutchman has proved his worth as a young driver and has become a great asset to Formula One’s splash pool of talent. His calculated moves were executed with aggression and style, of which have been the highlights of his debut season. Perhaps next year, with more knowledge and greater experience, Max will achieve newer and greater heights. For this race, Toro Rosso used an aggressive three stop strategy to take advantage of Max’s wheel to wheel racing abilities. Though Max crossed the finish line in twelfth position, the Stewards awarded him time penalties for ignoring blue flags (20 second penalty, ouch!), and leaving the track to gain an advantage while passing Button for an additional 5 seconds (double ouch!). The added time moved him down four positions to a finishing position of sixteenth. In addition, he earned 3 penalty points, for a new total of eight points. His fellow rookie team-mate crossed the line in eleventh position using a less radical two stop strategy.

It is always symbolic to bring a close to a season in Abu Dhabi. Twenty F1 drivers race in twilight and into the night, gradually turning out the metaphorical lights on the 2015 season. The Mercedes performance was no desert mirage, but was rather a reflection of perfection witnessed by all for the last thirty-eight races. As for next season, who knows? Many questions are still unanswered; will Nico Rosberg once again become a formidable threat to Lewis Hamilton, or will Ferrari be back on all four legs to pose the threat? Will Haas really be in the midfield mix? Will Lotus and Renault find an amicable solution to their indecisive negotiations? and what on earth is Red Bull doing? All we can do is speculate.

Dane Hansen

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21 responses to “Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Review

    • He may have been gutted, but Romain will be happy that he can sleep easy knowing that he and his new team have certainty in the future. His first race was with them in 09 but he is happy that there is a more positive future for him at Haas. Or so he thinks

  1. When I spoke to him he said he was looking forward to the challenge but gutted to be leaving, just relaying what he told me.

  2. Max flat spotted his tyres – creating that three stop strategie and Robbins himself of a point finish.

    Penalty for being pushed of track was not needed. Some argue it should be Button’s but I think a racing incident.

  3. ……. “Twenty-two F1 drivers race in twilight and into the night……” ???? An alternate reality perhaps?

  4. What was all that communication with Mercedes the last 4 laps or so. Sky made it sound like they were going to turn down Niko’s engine because Lewis caught some traffic. WTF?! So would they do the same if positions were reversed? I think not!

    • yeppers. that whole bunch of contrived bullshit should EXCLUDE Merc and both drivers for the entire year IMHO

    • we all heard it. both drivers were demanded to manipulate their engine power mapping up and down during a very few ending laps based upon the traffic encountered. IMHO, I see this as pure and simple race result manipulation. there MUST be some regulations which trigger betting fraud. surely the EU is no more fucking stupid and ignorant than the USA?? I DEMAND an immediate investigation!!

    • From the BBC commentary it sounded like Lewis was turning his engine up without the team’s instruction or permission and they told him firmly that unless he stopped doing so they would give Nico permission to turn his up as well, which they duly did. And then told Nico to revert back once Lewis gave up on monkeying with the settings.

      And what was with Lewis’s strategy? Why stay out that long on one set of primes if you’re only going to fit primes again? Vettel had fitted options the previous lap to take him to the end of the race (and did) so why would they stick primes (new or otherwise) on Lewis? Feels contrived to deny Lewis any chance of winning through strategy when aerodynamics makes it impossible to overtake a car of comparable speed on track.

      Also fascinated by the McLaren announcement that for the last five laps they let Alonso turn his engine fully-up and, hey presto, suddenly he was doing faster laps than anyone but Mercedes and Vettel. I can only presume this is a mode they can’t run all race because of fuel or reliability issues?

  5. some thoughts for consideration and comment:

    Kimi had his best w/e in 2 seasons at Ferrari. I have the gut feeling he will be in a better position to throw a spanner into Merc’s strategy calls on a few occasions next year. and Ferrari NEEDS that to get Seb above 3’rd…

    Seb did OK today. I think theTeams’ “expected” podium was as far off as the Q1 screwup but he did not do any harm.

    Ferrari HAS closed the gap a wee bit, but I do not see ANY possibility to be the equal of the Merc’s next year. I bet Tourdog or others have the patience to nail this assumption down to within hundreds (hint hint 🙂

    Bottas once again solidified his talent as a mid-field #1 wanna be better – NOT referring to the pit lane screwup.

    Daniil belongs! Cheko is pretty much on fire – as is Force India. expect Sauber to bring up the ass end in 2016

    Max did not have the best w/e, but WILL become a multiple WDC. and Carlos is the real deal too. Clark/Hill, Brabham/Hulme, Senna/Prost, Andretti/Petterson, etc?? we can only hope and wait…

    HAAS and RoGro will have plenty of “what ifs”, but will on occasion, turn all heads…

    Rossi did himself proud, but not enough to definitively justify being on the grid in place of Stevens, Werlein sic, Vandorne sic, KMag, Ocon and maybe a few others. 1 to 3 of Manor’s drivers will be disappointed soon…

    still wanting to see the final driver pairing should Renault complete their Lotus takeover – I just cannot believe the Pastor/Jolyn pairing will survive the International legalese final contract…

    I have mixed feelings. several decades ago when I had a ’69 Titan Mk V 1600 FF and then modified to a FAtlantic via a Twin Cam and then a DBA with big tire/wheel and other changes used in club racing/hillclimbs/track days/time trials/Solo ll , a 1/4 psi change in a singular front tire or 1/2 psi change in a singular rear or an 1/8 turn on brake bias or 1/8″ on a sway bar transformed the car from a handful to perfection! so yeah, I get it when Lewis and others struggle with a permanent change to their car.
    then, I go back even further to Fangio/Moss/Clark/Hill/Stewart/Foyt/Gurney/PJ/Surtees/Mario, etc who could simply win in ANYTHING in ANYBODIES back yard anywhere and anytime… it is why I do not consider even Senna as anything better than a good musician playin’ on a one string guitar. haha. play nice 🙂

    and for the finality of my rant:
    the FIA/FOM/CVC/blah blah are grossly not fit for duty to the point of criminal negligence and fraud!
    they write stupid rules and then fail to enforce them
    they write stupid rules and then realize they are stupid rules
    they allow the roosters to rule the roost
    they REFUSE to provide for:
    a basic core of paid professional Marshalls
    a permanent base of Medical and safety crews and equipment
    a paid, permanent professional staff of lets say 3 relevant race stewards
    the division of responsibilities from one bought and paid for white-haired undercover old lackey


  6. I think with these 6 consecutive poles and 3 consecutive wins has given Rosberg a lot of bravado and confidence ( a la bring on 2016 ! ) but I think he may have inadvertently made a rod for his own back .I will explain:-

    1. The 2016 Mercedes W07 is going to be a completely different car from the W06 is – so will neutralize whatever advantage Nico seems to have had in the races since Singapore and so we can see the natural order will resume with Lewis being awesome on Saturday as well as Sunday .

    2. if Rosberg is unable to maintain the sequence of pole/ wins then this could affect his confidence and he will begin to doubt himself as he dis earlier this year – and lets not forget at the beginning of next year all the races will make a difference to who wins the championship as opposed to the garbage wins Nico has been patting himself on the back with recently once the championship was done and dusted.

    3. me Melbourne 2016 Lewis will be rested, fresher and parties over. As a 3 x world champion his confidence will be sky high and I think more determined to stamp his authority that he is number 1 at Mercedes than ever and I think will be a formidable adversary – too much in fact.

    4. If Ferrari become a real threat next year, Mercedes are going to have to change their strategies and even have to decide which driver to put their money behind to fight Vettel. Who would you put your money behind , a 3 x world champion superstar , who has multiple championships with 2 different constructors, or someone who has none of these attributes and shows he can only mount a blistering campaign when there is no pressure on him?

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