ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX: The 2017 season is coming to a close and although it was building up to a fantastic crescendo in Abu Dhabi, unfortunately we are left with two stitched up championships heading to the final race. Thankfully we still have the Yas Marina circuit to look forward to and a close battle between the season’s two protagonists.
Lewis Hamilton displayed a very rare chink in his armour at Brazil when he lost the rear end during Q1 and damaged his car. That necessitated breaking parc ferme rules (working on the car after qualifying starts) so he started from the pitlane, but displayed sensational pace and truly contended for a podium spot, falling just short. That bodes well for him moving to Abu Dhabi but his rookie error in qualifying should not be forgotten.
Sebastian Vettel (pictured) will be hoping to sully Hamilton’s season as much as possible by shortening the gap to the leader. Ferrari are relatively well poised to attack Mercedes given the track layout. Yas Marina features quite a lot of low speed corners, particularly coming onto the two longest straights of the circuit. If this remains as problematic for the German team as it has been so far this season, the straights could flip from Ferrari’s relative weakness to their strength.
Red Bull would love nothing more than to mix it up at the front and they certainly have willing and capable drivers to do so. Their problem is getting to the grid unhindered by engine penalties. In the last two races, Renault powered drivers have taken a total of 105 grid place penalties and suffered 4 on track engine failures. Moreover, Renault engines have been turned down for Brazil and Mexico to try cross the finish line. If the French manufacturer once again deem it necessary to do so at Abu Dhabi, Red Bull will struggle to feature on the first two rows in qualifying or the race.
The supporting cast
The hitherto unmentioned second fiddles of Valterri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen rather deserve their lack of coverage due to an underwhelming season. Bottas seemed to be re-finding his feet around Malaysia but was rather shown up by his team mate last race, finishing second from pole, yet Hamilton recovered to fourth despite starting from the pit lane. Raikkonen has been similarly unremarkable but there is a difference in that he has very actively helped Vettel from early on in the season because he is fast enough to help Vettel. Bottas rarely had the opportunity for being so far back from Hamilton. Both of these men are now free to truly race so they offer an opportunity for a surprise result
Hamilton is once again the favourite (currently at 1.88) and on recent form, this makes a lot of sense. Vettel is a lot longer at 4.1 which makes a little less sense. He has proven up to the challenge of winning a fair fight more than once this season and his recent results have been marred by situations out of his control. Vettel is a good bet at this price, with an eye to laying out after qualifying, or indeed letting it run for the race. Comparing sector two times against Hamilton’s in practice will be key in determining how the race will go.
A man who will feature on far fewer people’s radar this week is Kimi Raikkonen. Although certainly a long shot for the win, he has a good chance to qualify well, perhaps on the front row. Red Bull will likely be hurting for engine power, making qualifying that much easier for Raikkonen. A price of 19.5 for the win currently is large enough to look to back him now only to lay out after qualifying. It’s probably best not to let this one run but you can never totally remove the iceman from the reckoning.
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