Tense title-decider in prospect at Yas Marina

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Nico Rosberg achieved the first part of his plan to wrest the championship from his team mate by claiming pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But he needs to do more than just win tomorrow’s race to take the title – he needs someone to finish between him and Lewis Hamilton. The fascinating question now is whether he can do anything to help Mercedes’ rivals do that.

It promises to be a tense title-deciding race between the pair.

The start

The best outcome for Hamilton in tomorrow’s race would be for him to get ahead of Rosberg at the start and stay out of range of his team mate. Beating to pole sitter to turn one on the short, 300m run to turn one is not unheard of but it is uncommon. It had never been done until Sebastian Vettel did it to Mark Webber last year, and starts were never one of Webber’s strong points.

If he fails to get the job done then Hamilton will be well aware of the difficulty of passing at Abu Dhabi – even with two DRS zones coming soon after each other. “The speed difference you need to have to overtake the guy in front is really very big at this track,” noted Rosberg earlier.

At the same time Hamilton will be aware that the biggest threat to his championship chances comes from getting involved in an incident – whether it’s with his team mate or the two fast-starting Williams drivers behind him.

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Despite Pirelli having brought a softer combination of tyres for this race, expect to see drivers erring towards using the more durable soft tyre.

“The way the tyres are behaving here is quite different from the past in Abu Dhabi so we had to amend our set-up,” explained Sergio Perez.

“We hope this will give us some advantage tomorrow. In any case, the strategy choices are quite limited on this track so I don’t expect any adventurous choices from anyone on the grid.”

There is little to choose between a two- or three- stop strategy, according to Pirelli. They expect the latter to be less than two seconds slower but the key drawback is it will leave drivers spending more time in traffic – always a problem at Yas Marina.

However with the pace the Mercedes drivers have shown it may well prove a realistic option, especially if there is no first-lap incident to trigger a Safety Car intervention.

Another key factor in this race is the presence of the Red Bull drivers at the back of the grid. They can maek their tyres last longer than most cars due to their superior downforce – notwithstanding how it may have been achieved, which is the reason why they find themselves on the back row.

As we’ve seen already this year, that allows them to use the ‘undercut’ more aggressively, and pit sooner to get the benefit of fresher tyres before their rivals in the knowledge that they’ll be able to make them last later in the race. The RB10s look like prime candidates for three-stop strategies.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’41.3081’41.459 (+0.151)1’40.480 (-0.979)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’41.2071’40.920 (-0.287)1’40.866 (-0.054)
3Valtteri BottasWilliams1’42.3461’41.376 (-0.970)1’41.025 (-0.351)
4Felipe MassaWilliams1’41.4751’41.144 (-0.331)1’41.119 (-0.025)
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’42.2041’41.692 (-0.512)1’41.267 (-0.425)
6Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’42.4951’42.147 (-0.348)1’41.893 (-0.254)
7Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’42.3021’42.082 (-0.220)1’41.908 (-0.174)
8Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’42.1371’41.875 (-0.262)1’41.964 (+0.089)
9Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’42.4391’42.168 (-0.271)1’42.236 (+0.068)
10Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’42.4671’41.940 (-0.527)1’42.866 (+0.926)
11Kevin MagnussenMcLaren1’42.1041’42.198 (+0.094)
12Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’42.4131’42.207 (-0.206)
13Sergio PerezForce India1’42.6541’42.239 (-0.415)
14Nico HulkenbergForce India1’42.4441’42.384 (-0.060)
15Adrian SutilSauber1’42.7461’43.074 (+0.328)
16Romain GrosjeanLotus1’42.768
17Esteban GutierrezSauber1’42.819
18Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’42.860
19Kamui KobayashiCaterham1’44.540
20Will StevensCaterham1’45.095

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg17.571 (2)42.000 (1)40.856 (1)
Lewis Hamilton17.654 (4)42.129 (3)40.897 (2)
Valtteri Bottas17.562 (1)42.121 (2)41.291 (6)
Felipe Massa17.577 (3)42.221 (4)41.258 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo17.774 (7)42.534 (6)40.949 (3)
Sebastian Vettel17.882 (9)42.673 (9)41.240 (4)
Daniil Kvyat17.884 (10)42.421 (5)41.452 (10)
Jenson Button17.742 (5)42.582 (8)41.414 (9)
Kimi Raikkonen17.904 (12)42.838 (16)41.411 (8)
Fernando Alonso17.758 (6)42.787 (13)41.333 (7)
Kevin Magnussen17.817 (8)42.723 (12)41.517 (11)
Jean-Eric Vergne17.904 (12)42.689 (10)41.609 (12)
Sergio Perez17.955 (16)42.581 (7)41.703 (15)
Nico Hulkenberg17.892 (11)42.710 (11)41.738 (16)
Adrian Sutil18.075 (17)42.823 (15)41.745 (17)
Romain Grosjean17.907 (14)43.226 (17)41.610 (13)
Esteban Gutierrez18.171 (18)42.799 (14)41.849 (18)
Pastor Maldonado17.922 (15)43.280 (18)41.658 (14)
Kamui Kobayashi18.369 (19)43.408 (19)42.592 (19)
Will Stevens18.506 (20)43.414 (20)42.925 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes341.8 (212.4)
2Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes340.1 (211.3)-1.7
3Jenson ButtonMcLarenMercedes335.9 (208.7)-5.9
4Daniil KvyatToro RossoRenault335.0 (208.2)-6.8
5Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes333.1 (207.0)-8.7
6Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes332.8 (206.8)-9.0
7Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes331.8 (206.2)-10.0
8Jean-Eric VergneToro RossoRenault331.7 (206.1)-10.1
9Kevin MagnussenMcLarenMercedes331.7 (206.1)-10.1
10Sebastian VettelRed BullRenault330.4 (205.3)-11.4
11Fernando AlonsoFerrariFerrari330.3 (205.2)-11.5
12Will StevensCaterhamRenault329.7 (204.9)-12.1
13Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault329.5 (204.7)-12.3
14Pastor MaldonadoLotusRenault329.4 (204.7)-12.4
15Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes329.1 (204.5)-12.7
16Adrian SutilSauberFerrari328.9 (204.4)-12.9
17Esteban GutierrezSauberFerrari328.2 (203.9)-13.6
18Kamui KobayashiCaterhamRenault328.2 (203.9)-13.6
19Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari327.7 (203.6)-14.1
20Romain GrosjeanLotusRenault327.0 (203.2)-14.8

Over to you

Will the winner take it all? Share your views on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the comments.

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Tense title-decider in prospect at Yas Marina”

  1. Hamilton: beware Felipe Massa. A poor start from Hamilton and he’ll probably be stuck behind one or both Williams. And Massa’s comment about Lewis not always being a ‘gentleman’ on track seemed particularly loaded with potential irony.

    If the start is normal, though, and the Mercedes get away, the intriguing bit will be whether – assuming Hamilton has a faster race pace again – he waits for a chance, or stays content in second nursing his car and tyres if the race looks safe for the Mercedes pair, or tries to push Rosberg into a mistake. This is the kind of circuit with hard braking corners where Rosberg has been caught wanting this year with his braking. Rosberg also has a conundrum if the start is clean: if he’s too slow, Hamilton will pounce. If he’s too fast, the Williams won’t be a likely threat to Hamilton in second.

    1. Haha; his comment reminded me of their shenigans in 2011…. Good old times. That seasons was a one-man-show for first place; but I still think it was one of/if not/ the most entertaining season of the last 10 years or so…… All that drama; all those gripping races;all those beautiful cars driven by a great driver line-up… Ah, the memories.

  2. The key question is whether the team allow Rosberg to back Hamilton up into the Williams, or insist he drive off into the distance for a team 1-2.

    I reckon they’ll insist on a 1-2. So then will Rosberg do as he’s told, or try to grab what is likely to be his only chance of the wdc?

    1. Oeiiiiiiiiiiii! (another davidnotcoulthard account) (@)
      23rd November 2014, 7:42

      @lockup Why would they insist on a 1-2, now that they’ve won the WCC anyway?

      1. @davidnotcoulthard2 It’s another record, more success. The same motivation the other teams and drivers have. Any team would rather be 1-2 than 1-3.

        And I reckon they’d much prefer Hamilton to win, whatever politically correct statements they make to the media.

        Plus it would be quite controversial if Rosberg won that way. I remember a bike race, 125’s or 250’s, where the leader dropped back to try and destabilise the guy behind who was on course for the title. Before it happened the commentators were talking about it as the clever thing to do – like Ant yesterday – but when he actually did it everyone was up in arms.

        So I don’t think Toto will want it, or Zetsche either.

    2. SennaNmbr1 (@)
      23rd November 2014, 9:42

      I agree with something Martin Brundle said in the last race. His opinion of Rosberg’s qualifying error at Monaco is changing or has changed. I now think he did that on purpose and following the Spa incident it looks definitely possible that the “mistakes” at Monza were a gift to Hamilton. So now that the constructor’s championship is decided he will be totally out for himself and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to back Hamilton into the Williams cars. But doing that will put Hamilton within DRS range. Tricky decision.

      1. Martin’s read it correctly.

        These “silly” errors where intentional to give Lewis back what was stolen from him.
        So is the race where Nico had a gear problem from the formation lap.

        I am rooting for Rosberg but Mercedes wants Lewis to win for political reasons (not even economic reasons either).

        1. So he just happens to lock up in the same place that he locked up previously? Given that the first time he locked up and went off track the Williams was behind him I very much doubt that was failed attempt at gifting Hamilton some points.

          I think what is more likely is that when he did it the first time he was able to keep position, So he did it again but this time he didn’t manage to keep position.

          Mistakes happen, drivers have to live with that.

  3. All about the start really. Nico has to find a way of getting away perfectly, holding up Lewis enough to allow the Williams’ to pass him without being passed himself. That would take some serious skill.

    1. Well it’s not as though Hamilton isn’t used to the situation. In Brazil 2007 his woes started when Massa (pole) cut across and blocked him (2nd) into the first corner to let Raikkonen (3rd) get past, and Alonso took advantage too. It unnerved Hamilton enough for him to spin off trying to immediately get past Alonso. Not sure how Rosberg does it on his own, though, without falling behind too. So I tried it on F1 2014 just to see how it could maybe be done: it worked 2 out of three times off the start by cutting across to the left and holding up HAM into the first two corners, 3rd and 4th got past HAM without ROS losing the lead by slowing him enough out of the second corner. Third time, failed miserably though…

      1. Well, that is Codemasters Ai were talking about. Not the best. :-(

        1. But do drivers actually try these kind of situations out on sims before races? Surely Rosberg must have given some thought to the possibility of holding Hamilton up somehow. The layout, short run to the first corner, second corner soon after on to a fast straight, does favour slowing someone up more than trying to pass. A little confusion off the start must increase the odds of something happening to benefit Rosberg, as long as he stays in front.

          1. Lewis would take him out immediately and claim it as Nico’s fault, only for next year’s roles to be reversed and we would end up with a repeat of Senna/Prost with any disqualification when the guy in front obviously tries to stack his contender back.

  4. I keep wondering if Massa is wondering about when LH took away the championship from him in Brazil!!!!! That would be irony…. Or should I say, motivation… Thanks, Norris

    1. It was not Lewis who took it away from him but rather BE’s Show.
      In 2007, McLaren were disqualified for possessing the complete Ferrari processes and design document(s). An under the table deal was struck to keep the show on by NOT disqualifying their drivers (Lewis and Alonso) in return for guaranteeing to Ferrari that neither would win the title and hence the “silly” mistake by Hamilton in China (McLaren not calling him early until his tyres gave up). THIS also explains the “indifferent” body language on Kimi’s face after winning his childhood dream “The Title” in 2007 without showing any happiness whatsoever.

      Come 2008, Lewis was gifted what he deserved in 2007 and Massa 15 seconds dream was shattered by Toyota having to obey the Evil BE instructions to let Lewis pass Timo Glock on the final bend of the final lap of the final race in 2008 (Brazil).

      This is why Toyota withdrew.
      This is why Mercedes WILL withdraw soon too.
      It is called “Busyness” with “y”.

      May the Curse of God be upon those who control people’s emotions for their own devious purpose.

      God >

      1. This is a joke, right?

      2. Posting when drunk is never a good idea.

        1. This guy seems drunk since days as none of his comments make sense.

  5. Its better to Merc to had a 1-2 finish with Rosberg leading. I want to see what will Rosberg say in the podium. I just don’t want an “explosion” in the media, and bring back Monaco, Germany, Hungary, and Belgium. Even if Rosberhlg win, I hope he do it brilliant like : both Merc have issues like in Canada but Rosberg able to finish 1st while Hamilton DNF, Hamilton crash into Rosberg and retired, while Rosberg grapple with his car and finish in top 2, and even with some more scenarios it will be hard for most people to accept him as a champion, and that also unlikely to happen

  6. Its better to Merc to had a 1-2 finish with Rosberg leading. I want to see what will Rosberg say in the podium. I just don’t want an “explosion” in the media, and bring back Monaco, Germany, Hungary, and Belgium. Even if Rosberg win, I hope he do it brilliant like : both Merc have issues like in Canada but Rosberg able to finish 1st while Hamilton DNF, Hamilton crash into Rosberg and retired, while Rosberg grapple with his car and finish in top 2, and even with some more scenarios it will be hard for most people to accept him as a champion, and that also unlikely to happen

  7. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    23rd November 2014, 7:57

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the tyres that Nico set his fastest lap on in Q2, had two Hotlaps on them, and a lockup into the corner after the long back straight.

    I think Lewis will win the race. He’s in a slightly better position in terms of tyres, and his race pace has been better than Nico’s this weekend, and almost every weekend all year.

    IMO Lewis will bring home a Mercedes 1-2.

  8. Just have a feeling about it for this race – Lewis will retire.

  9. Tense, I think not. I’ve read an article from @BenSnowball about this race and he is absolutely right. Nothing is going to happen. Either Hamilton wins by finishing or Rosberg wins by default. The only good thing about this race is both Red Bulls starting from the back and the fight for third.

  10. Sorry if the answer is known.

    Will the Red Bulls have to start on the tyres they qualified on in Q2 even though they were excluded?

  11. Surely LH is in trouble if a williams gets past. None of his sectors were the fastest and the top speeds are to Williams significant advantage.
    LH has been lucky the car has been so dominant this year. If he has qualifying woes like this next year, he will end up on the second row more often and leave NR to run off into the distance.

  12. If I were Lewis, I wouldn’t be worrying about Nico or what he does whatsoever. His focus should purely be on getting a clean start and keeping the chasing pack behind, which in the Merc should be an absolute doddle. It will make no difference if Rosberg pulls out a massive lead if Hamilton in turn pulls out a big lead over whoever is following. Barring technical failure or an act of god he could stroll to the title with no fuss and the minimum of pressure. If he starts worrying about Nico now, his judgement could go horribly wrong.

  13. Lewis to drop a gearbox, leave Merc and return to Mclaren/Honda.

    1. That would be The Best News :)
      Alonso take Mercedes seat, wins 2016, then Mercedes pulls the plug due to F1’s unethical business practices.

Comments are closed.