2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Preview
The final round of the 2014 Formula One World Championship brings us to Yas Island for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit.
• Driver / Senior Management Quotes
o Lewis Hamilton
o Nico Rosberg
o Toto Wolff
o Paddy Lowe
• Yas Marina Circuit: The Inside Line
o In the Cockpit
o On the Pit Wall
• 2014 in Numbers
Driver / Senior Management Quotes
Brazil was a great weekend for the team. Of course, it didn’t go exactly to plan for me but second place in the circumstances was a good recovery and it was a great moment to get a record-breaking one-two finish for all the people who have worked so hard to give us this amazing car. I really felt like I connected with the fans in São Paulo and their support was just incredible – I still can’t get over it now. That really inspires me heading into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. People talk about how long it’s been since I won the title – but I honestly feel like I’m fighting for my first World Championship all over again. Sure, I’m older and maybe a little bit wiser than I was back then. I’ve learnt a lot in the years since 2008 – but I’m still the same driver. I still have the same hunger, the same will to win, and I’ve been giving it everything I’ve got from the word go this season. I’ve had ups and downs along the way – but I’ve never once given up. I’ve managed to fight my way back from whatever has come my way and my approach doesn’t change for this race. I’ve got a good record at the Abu Dhabi circuit. Last year was actually the only time I’ve not started on the front row or finished on the podium. But I’ve also had some misfortune there over the years – particularly in 2012. I’m hoping that bad luck won’t play a part this time around and I know that the team has been working flat out to make sure it doesn’t. I’m feeling relaxed, I’m feeling confident and I’m ready to win.
After the disappointment of Austin, Brazil was just the way to bounce back with a great weekend for both me and the team. I felt in control from the very beginning and it was a big positive to take the lessons from Texas and put them into action. Of course, it wasn’t enough to regain the lead in the Championship as Lewis drove a strong race to finish just behind me. But the gap is smaller than before and I absolutely believe I still have the chance to take the title in Abu Dhabi. It won’t be easy, but I’ll be full attack – just as I have been all season. Although this has been my first year fighting for a World Championship, I’ve never felt more comfortable than I have done this year. The team behind us have done an incredible job and it’s great that they’ve given both of us equal opportunity to compete with each other. There have been difficult moments just as there have been amazing moments – but this is what Formula One is all about and I hope that everyone watching at home has enjoyed the story of this battle as much as I have. Win or lose, double points or no double points, I feel proud of what I have achieved this year and especially proud to have been a part of this fantastic season for the Silver Arrows. I go into this race with no fear and with every belief that this can be my title. It’s not over until that flag drops!
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
To claim two one-two finishes from another pair of back-to-back races was a great achievement. When fatigue can so easily become a factor this late in the season, everyone has stepped up their game to ensure a record-breaking end to an incredible year. Of course, our drivers were no exception and Brazil provided another tense, exciting battle – once again demonstrating how evenly matched they are. Nico controlled the race in impressive fashion – particularly given the disappointment he felt after Austin – while Lewis proved his fighting spirit once again to recover from a spin and push his team-mate all the way. Now, they head to the final race with a World Championship on the line. When we look back through the season, each driver has had his share of ups and downs and both have shown great strength of character to recover from setbacks. As a team we are fortunate to have such a talented line-up and both are worthy champions in the eyes of everybody behind them at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Of course, there will be bitter disappointment for one of them and great joy for the other. While it won’t be apparent to them at the time, both have long careers ahead of them and they have proven their credentials for the years to come. You only have to look back to such great battles as that of Lauda and Prost in 1984 to see what can be achieved. This was the last title for Niki, who won that year, and Prost was defeated in that battle. But he then went on to win four Championships before he retired. A top driver always has the ability to engineer another opportunity and both our boys have proven themselves to be just that: top drivers. It is now down to us to ensure that this fascinating year concludes in the right way by giving Lewis and Nico a platform to settle the title purely on the track. It is fantastic for the sport to have such a finale in what has been one of the great seasons of Formula One. I for one cannot wait to watch the race in Abu Dhabi and I’m sure those at home feel the same. May the best man win!
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
Brazil brought yet another exciting race with a great contest between Nico and Lewis and it was fantastic to set a new record for one-two finishes. In doing so, the team has surpassed a benchmark that I remember being set by McLaren during my first season in Formula One and one which I never thought we would see broken. That is still sinking in and is testament to what has been achieved by the team this year. In terms of the battle for the Drivers’ Championship, it was a race which once again demonstrated how evenly matched our drivers have been all year and underlines the fact that either of them would be a worthy World Champion. Unusually for Interlagos, rain did not play a role in the weekend. What we did see, however, was the impact of a revised tyre selection. It was positive to see that, despite concerns during running on Friday, the tyres performed well in the race and added to the spectacle with a three stop race, which is a credit to the job Pirelli have done this season. We now look ahead to Abu Dhabi, which has been the scene of a number of exciting title showdowns in recent years – none with such intense focus as this season with double points on the table. We will be running the weekend exactly as we would normally do with the absolute aim of giving both drivers an equal and fair shot at the title. Nothing is more important in our minds and in our preparations as we approach this race. Yas Marina is an impressive facility, with the track itself containing a large quantity of corners and requiring high skill levels from the drivers to put together a fast lap. We can expect a significant following both at the circuit and around the world for such a dramatic conclusion to the season, so we hope to put on a good show.
Yas Marina Circuit: The Inside Line
In The Cockpit
Abu Dhabi is one of the newest circuits on the calendar and the venue is just spectacular – particularly with the twilight timing, starting off as the sun sets and finishing in complete darkness.
For Turn One you need to make sure you get the car all the way over to the right-hand side of the track, braking just before the 100m sign and powering flat-out through the exit and uphill through Turn Two. You’re then into the long right-hander of Turn Three, which is seriously fast and just seems to keep going and going. That then switches straight into the slight left-hand kink of Turn Four, dropping you down the other side of the hill and into the stadium complex.
The Turn Five / Six chicane is really tight and very low grip, as is the Turn Seven hairpin which follows immediately afterwards. You have to take a really wide entry to this corner and it’s absolutely crucial to carry as much speed as possible, due to the mega long DRS straight which begins on exit.
You’re brake really late into the first part of the Turn Eight / Nine chicane and it’s so easy to lock either the rears or the fronts. You have to take a really tight line to the first apex so that you can carry as much speed as possible through the second and down another DRS straight, which features the slight kind of Turn Ten. This is another prime overtaking opportunity and, if you don’t have a Mercedes-Benz power unit, you’re going to wish you had!
The Turn 10 / 11 / 13 combination is very low speed and the car is skating around all the time through here. You can brake late for the next left hander at Turn 14 but, once again, hitting the apex is important as it’s so easy to run wide and ruin your exit. It’s flat out through the double right of Turns 15 / 16 and you have to get the steering straight as early as possible for braking into Turn 17 as it’s easy to lock the right front.
You can carry quite a lot of speed through the two left handers of Turns 18 / 19, taking a lot of kerb and running wide on the exit of 18 in particular, before a short blast down the straight into Turn 20. You have to brake just a little bit into here, carrying as much speed as possible before backing right off for the final corner – using all of the run off as you head down across the start / finish line to complete the lap.
The Abu Dhabi race gets better and better every year. It’s slowly becoming a highlight of the year, with more fans turning up to watch every time we go there. There are more and more activities around the race too, with live music and all sorts of other things happening around the harbour. This is right at the centre of the circuit and you see so many boats moored up there for the weekend – it’s almost becoming a mini Monaco!
The track itself is good to drive too, with a couple of good overtaking opportunities at the end of the DRS straights where you see a lot of action during the race. The twilight timing is great for the TV pictures but can be a little bit tricky for the drivers. You can cope with that, thought, by using dark visor tear-offs, so that when the light starts to fade you can remove the strip and have a clear visor as opposed to the tinted one needed when the sun is setting across your eye line. That brightens everything up again which works well when you head into darkness.
Of course, it’s the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi this year and also double points. It’s a bit of a strange one – a bit artificial in my mind at least – but at the end of the day if it’s keeping the Championship alive until the very end then so be it. From that perspective it’s good entertainment for the people watching in the grandstands and around the world. It’s the same for everybody, so you just need to make the most of it!
On the Pit Wall
The Yas Marina circuit contains very little high speed content. Aside from Turns One to Four, the majority of the 21 corner lap comprises low-speed corners and straights. One surprising result of the track layout is the lack of overtaking, as demonstrated particularly prominently during the title-deciding race in 2010. Although there is an extremely long straight between Turns Seven and Eight, speed onto and along that straight is entirely dependent on being able to stay close to the car in front through the preceding low-speed, low grip grandstand section. The 2014 breed of cars have proven to be easier to follow than their predecessors, with overtaking more prevalent that seen in recent years. However, making a pass will still be far from an easy task around this particular circuit.
The past two seasons have seen the medium and soft tyre allocated for Abu Dhabi, with 2012 / 2013 proving to be predominantly one / two stop races respectively. This time around, however, the soft and supersoft have been nominated – an aggressive choice given that the previous years’ race saw the option tyre complete just a handful of laps before being replaced by primes for the following two stints. Although the 2014 compounds are, as a guide, around half a step harder than their predecessors, this season could well see a three stop race in Abu Dhabi. As demonstrated in Brazil, this can lead to differing strategy calls, multiple changes of position and the potential for plenty of entertaining battles throughout the field.
Abu Dhabi lies towards the upper end of the scale in terms of fuel consumption. However, there have yet to be notable dramas at any circuit from a fuel perspective – and there have been a number where this should be more of a factor than at the Yas Marina. The drivers have coped impressively well with restrictions on fuel usage this season so, while theoretically a consideration, this is not a pressing concern.
This is one of a growing number of races which take place going into dusk, resulting in significant variations in track temperature between sessions across the weekend. Whereas, at a more regular event, ambient and track temperatures may fluctuate by between five and ten degrees, the shift in Abu Dhabi is far greater. This can affect track performance by over half a second per lap which, while not of concern, is a factor which must be accounted for in an appropriate manner to ensure that a team does not lose its way on setup. An overheating problem in P1, for example, will not be as prominent during P2. Over-compensating for this would therefore risk taking the wrong path in terms of balance. Teams will have Singapore and Bahrain in particular to draw from in terms of prior experience of this phenomenon, however it is certainly a noteworthy consideration.
By the final race, every team will see a number of elements of their cars reaching the end of their life cycle. This is the nature of a season, with parts designed to last just long enough to complete the calendar but very little beyond. Of course, every effort will be made to ensure the best possible spec is installed in the car so as to reduce the reliability risk. However, as the multiple red flag periods in Brazil demonstrated, everything is running right on the limit. Unknown failures become increasingly commonplace at this stage and more of the same can be expected in Abu Dhabi. This makes it difficult to get into the usual rhythm of a race weekend, with running time frequently disrupted.
In the final throes of a long season, fatigue has well and truly set in for everybody involved in the sport. Add to this the pressure of a World Championship title decider – both internally from team stakeholders and externally from the media – and the scrutiny on each and every move of the team intensifies. Of course, dealing with pressure is part and parcel of working in Formula One and something every team member is accustomed to. But in the pressure cooker of Abu Dhabi, the heat really is on.
The Next Chapter
Barring any major upsets, the Constructors’ Championship positions are now more or less settled throughout the field. Teams will therefore now be shifting their focus very much towards 2015 in their approach to Abu Dhabi. While each team will, of course, still put every ounce of effort into the race weekend, it would not be a surprise to see Friday running dominated by preparations for next season. New parts may well appear on certain cars, while a priority for others may be on finding the best baseline setup from which to work during the two day test which follows the Grand Prix weekend itself. As the final chance to gather on track data before the winter break, the extended Abu Dhabi trip as a whole could prove a key tool in providing a platform for performance in 2015.
14 November 1964 – 50 Years Ago:
Eugen Böhringer wins the Macao Touring Car Grand Prix in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SE, averaging a speed of 105.2 km/h.
26 November 2004 – 10 Years Ago:
The first fuel cell-powered vehicle in the world, the A-Class F-Cell, successfully passes a 24-hour endurance test. On the Idiada test track outside Barcelona, three vehicles cover just under 8500 km at an average speed of 120 km/h.
2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Three Years Ago:
Lewis Hamilton takes the 250th podium finish for Mercedes-Benz power in Formula One with McLaren
2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Two Years Ago:
Lewis Hamilton takes the 25th pole position of his Formula One career
In Numbers: The 2014 World Drivers’ Championship
Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg
Championship Position P1 P2
Points 334 317
Wins 10 5
Podiums 15 15
Pole Positions 7 10
Front Row Starts 14 14
Fastest Laps 7 5
Laps Led 455 (42% of season total) 482 (45% of season total)
Sessions Led 60 (48% of season total) 47 (37% of season total)