Start, Yas Marina, 2014

A dozen battles to watch in the final race of 2015

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix preview

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Track data: Yas Marina

Lap length5.554km (3.451 miles)
Grand prix distance305.355km (189.739 miles)
Lap record (in a race)1’40.279 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap (any session)1’38.434 (Lewis Hamilton, 2011, qualifying two)
Tyre compoundsSoft and Super-soft
2014 Rate the Race6.49 out of 10
2014 Driver of the WeekendDaniel Ricciardo

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Yas Marina track data in full

The chequered flag will fall on the 2015 F1 season at Yas Marina this weekend. With the top three in both championships already settled and most drivers already confirmed on the grid for next year, for many of them there’s little more than pride at stake in this one.

But pride can count for an awful lot – especially when the driver you’re fighting with is your team mate. Below are some of the most significant contests to be resolved between the competitors this weekend.

This is F1’s seventh visit to Yas Marina, a facility which was built at staggering cost on a man-made island in 2009. For all its qualities as a facility, the track itself is not the most stimulating layout, dominant by slow corners and fiddly chicanes. The two long DRS zones tend to have a strong influence on the action.

The teams have largely got a handle on the peculiarities of the evening race during which track temperatures fall rather rise, as is typical. The track is typically much hotter during the practice sessions, which can lead them to draw to mistaken conclusions about tyre performance.

The low demands the track places on the tyres means that Pirelli can use its softest compounds. Most teams ran a straightforward two-stopper last year, though several were able to delay their final stint in order to run the super-soft tyres a second time – potentially an advantage if there is a late Safety Car period.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix team-by-team preview


Lewis Hamilton has been beaten by Nico Rosberg in both races since he cinched the championship. Has Hamilton backed off now he’s got the title in the bag? Has Rosberg solved how to translate his recent string of pole positions into victories? Or, as Hamilton suggested in Brazil, have changes to the W06 since Singapore helped his team mate?

Either way, Rosberg will give his team mate something to think about if he goes from pole to victory again this weekend. Particularly as Yas Marina is a track which Hamilton likes and one which suits his strengths as a super-late braker.

Red Bull

Will Daniil Kvyat end his first season as a Red Bull driver ahead of team mate Daniel Ricciardo in the points? He has a ten-point margin over his team mate meaning Ricciardo needs to finish at least fourth to ensure Kvyat doesn’t do to him what he did to Sebastian Vettel last year.

Red Bull versus their engine supplier Renault has been one of the most enduring battles of the season. What will happen to the relationship after Abu Dhabi? In theory they are heading for divorce, but Red Bull appear to have no other alternatives on the table for 2016.


The highest position in the drivers’ championship still in dispute is fourth place, held by Valtteri Bottas, who has a one-point margin over Kimi Raikkonen. The pair have clashed twice recently: Bottas came off worse in Russia, Raikkonen in Mexico. Williams were strong in Abu Dhabi last year but they had no answer for Ferrari in Brazil.


If Raikkonen has a clean weekend Bottas could lose out to his fellow Finn at the last race. But it’s been a year of mixed fortunes for Raikkonen, stymied by technical problems at times (his pre-race engine change in Brazil being just the latest example) and being the architect of his own demise on other occasions. Raikkonen also needs to keep an eye on the points gap to the other Ferrari: he’s in danger of finishing the season with less than half of his team mate’s points for the second year in a row.


McLaren will finish second-to-last in the constructors’ championship unless they score at least nine points in Abu Dhabi – something they managed just once this year – and Sauber come away with nothing. However the team is concentrating on using this opportunity to prepare for 2016. “All of our efforts this weekend will be beneficial to next year’s car,” stated racing director Eric Boullier.

Force India

With a best-ever finish of fifth in the constructors’ championship assured, and Nico Hulkenberg unlikely to find the 17 points he needs to leapfrog team mate Sergio Perez, the former will have to be on guard to ensure his place inside the drivers’ top ten isn’t pinched by Romain Grosjean or Max Verstappen.

Toro Rosso

It’s much closer between the two Toro Rosso drivers than the points score indicates: Max Verstappen has 49 to Carlos Sainz Jnr’s 20, but the latter has had far more race-ending car failures. Sainz can’t beat Verstappen in the points, but he can preserve his qualifying superiority: he’s 8-7 up at the moment.


Pastor Maldonado didn’t acquire his incident-prone reputation by staying out of trouble, and he is once again on course to end the year with more penalties than anyone else. He has been responsible for eight penalties so far this year something only Sainz, on seven, has come close to.


The Sauber drivers have been the most closely-matched pair in qualifying this year. They are currently tied at nine-all in the qualifying battle, with Marcus Ericsson just nine thousandths of a second quicker on average and with one more appearance in Q3 than Felipe Nasr.


Roberto Merhi is back for the final race as Alexander Rossi is on GP2 duty again. In the nine races where both he and Will Stevens saw the flag, Merhi was ahead on five occasions, a margin of superiority he will want to preserve.

2015 driver form

DriverGrid averageRace averageRace bestRace worstClassifiedForm guide
Lewis Hamilton1.561.711617/18Form guide
Nico Rosberg2.113.1811717/18Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo8.288.4421516/18Form guide
Daniil Kvyat9.727.3321315/17Form guide
Felipe Massa7.397.1331715/18Form guide
Valtteri Bottas6.396.3831416/18Form guide
Sebastian Vettel4.783.2911217/18Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.724.922813/18Form guide
Fernando Alonso15.6511.7051810/17Form guide
Jenson Button16.1712.1771612/17Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg10.068.9261512/18Form guide
Sergio Perez10.618.7631317/18Form guide
Max Verstappen11.399.3641714/18Form guide
Carlos Sainz Jnr12.5010.0061311/18Form guide
Romain Grosjean9.838.5831312/18Form guide
Pastor Maldonado11.789.9071510/18Form guide
Marcus Ericsson13.7811.9381615/18Form guide
Felipe Nasr13.5611.1352016/17Form guide
Will Stevens17.8215.93131914/16Form guide
Roberto Merhi18.0815.18121811/12Form guide
Kevin Magnussen17.000/0Form guide
Alexander Rossi17.8015.4012185/5Form guide

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2015 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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33 comments on “A dozen battles to watch in the final race of 2015”

  1. I don’t know why they can’t fix those S bends at the end of the straights. They just need to be bigger, like China or Nurb.

    The rest of the track is a waste of time really. Traction events, braking events. How do they not learn with each race, to make the next one better? It’s not as if they can’t afford a bit of rubble and tarmac.

    1. They should make it a 5th gear kink- and also take out those eases at the end of the second straight, and make it a fast sweeping curve that leads into the slow left hander. Quite honestly, the flat permanent circuits should all be fast- Silverstone and Monza have their appeal to drivers because both are very fast tracks, and always have been. If Abu Dhabi’s average speed was brought up to around the 150 mph (240 km/h) mark, then it would be a far more popular circuit and the races no doubt would be better- have yet to see a GP at Abu Dhabi that is actually entertaining to watch.

      1. Right, because 2012 was a dull race wasn’t it?

    2. Another solution discussed in the forums would simply be to camber the corners. So many turns you can see cars almost bouncing over the apexes (even if they don’t touch the kerbs). That would at very least let it flow more naturally.

  2. Hilarious that you mention Sainz’ supposed misfortune again but in terms of qualifying score don’t note how Verstappen got screwed there more than Sainz. #balance

    1. Sainz can’t beat Verstappen in the points, but he can preserve his qualifying superiority: he’s 8-7 up at the moment.

      I think this is a mistake it’s 9-9

      1. Wouldn’t the 8-7 mean that they’ve only started qualifying together at 15 sessions.

      2. @macleod

        I think this is a mistake it’s 9-9

        It’s not a mistake as far as the methodology I use is concerned – others may interpret the data differently. For example, if in Q1 Driver A sets a time and Driver B’s car breaks down, I don’t consider that a ‘win’ for either driver.

        1. @keithcollantine

          The graph in the Driver Form Guide suggests a 8-7 score in favour of Verstappen. It’s no big deal, but it might be an error in the Driver Form Guide.

        2. If that is the system you use it should be as you said. And checked Matthijs (@matthijs) claim seems i see not his claim or yours Keith if seeing the grafic i count 10-5 (the point above and below the 0)
          Maybe a roster like race finishing for Quali makes more sense?

  3. “A dozen battles to watch in the final race of 2015,” if you haven’t watched a single F1 race this year…

    Frankly, nothing excites me about this Abu Dhabi GP. Nothing at stake. The standings won’t drastically change as only Bottas/Raikkonen and Verstappen/Grosjean can swap places, I don’t even talk about the constructors’ championship.
    Mercedes will lead, ahead of Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull. There you’ve got the 8 first positions, so who will be 9th and 10th is the only point. That’s Formula 1. Won’t even watch the practice sessions, what for?… Qualy? It doesn’t excite me as in the past, watch the last minute of Q2 and the last 5 minutes of Q1 and over 6 minutes you’ve got it all. No rush, no adrenaline.
    Anyway, I’ll be in front of my TV sunday afternoon with my lads but I’m sure we won’t take that race seriously and talk about our week, ponctuated by DRS overtakes and phoned pitstops.

    1. Yeah, but what if the attrition rate is off the charts and Mclaren takes a surprise win?! HMM??? Wouldn’t wanna miss THAT, huh!?

      As a Mclaren fan, I must watch and prepare myself for such scenarios.

    2. as if without title-deciding points you couldn’t have an exciting race…

      1. as if in Abu Dhabi you could have an exciting race…

        1. as if in Abu Dhabi you could have an exciting race…

  4. Slightly off topic, but Keith – where have the ‘Start Shots’ galleries gone? They seem to have disappeared recently which is a shame, I love having those trips down memory lane. Obviously there’s not too much to see from the last 5 years at Yas Marina but Interlagos would have been great.

    1. @unicron2002 They didn’t seem to be very popular and, as you say, several of the recent races don’t have enough history for them to be worth repeating.

      1. @keithcollantine I was going to ask the same question and also ask what happened to the “weekend in tweets” article. As someone who is no longer on any form of social media it was always something I looked forward to. It must have been pretty labour intensive I imagine…

        1. @geemac Weekend in Tweets went at the end of last year, again mainly due to a perceived lack of interest. Plus there was always the problem of duplication between what was in there and what was in the round-up.

      2. Very true about the lack of historic races in the last part of the season, would have been good to see USA and Brazil though. I had to resort to Mail Online’s ‘Grand Prix Memories’ which gives me my fix for historic pics. Keep up the good work though Keith and make sure you have a break at some point, you deserve it!

      3. I didn’t comment on them much, but I enjoyed viewing them.

  5. It’s much closer between the two Toro Rosso drivers than the points score indicates: Max Verstappen has 49 to Carlos Sainz Jnr’s 20, but the latter has had far more race-ending car failures. Sainz can’t beat Verstappen in the points, but he can preserve his qualifying superiority: he’s 8-7 up at the moment.

    Interesting point of view! I’m curious how you classify ‘race-ending car failures’.

    In my opinion Verstappen has shown his superiority over Sainz in all areas, including qualifying. Especially during the second half of the season. In addition, Verstappens learning-curve has been very steep, while Sainz increasingly seems to be struggling with more than his brakes alone..

    I enjoy the aggressive and opportunistic racing style of Sainz, but it all seems a bit ‘forced’ at times which occasionally resulted in tears. Let’s hope he’s more in control next season with hopefully a different teammate. I think this would be good for him (and Verstappen).

    It’s difficult to be positive about Max without being marked as a fanboy immediately, but I don’t care! Watching this guy race has been an absolute joy this year! Can’t wait to see him battle with the elites!

  6. I am just going to celebrate the end of the 2015 motorsport season and hope that Stevens wins the race ahead of Merhi to make sure that Manor are eighth and McLaren are last in the championship.

    1. Plus Sainz on the podium to offset the bad luck so far this season (and help STR to beat Lotus)!
      And McLaren to race Van Der Garde and score 4th to demote Kaltenborn to the last spot!

  7. A dozen battles to watch in the final race of 2015

    Plus of course the exiting finish to our Prediction Championship. @keithcollantine

    1. @coldfly The one championship where the winner is yet to be decided :-)

  8. Nothing of interest, really, in this race. To look at it is a wast of time.

    1. But you still felt the need to comment on it.

      I am expecting this to be a really good race as this year the un popular modern tracks have had the better races, the historic races have been rather tragic Monza, Spa, Suzuka, Interlagos.

  9. I suspect that the weekends racing might be overshadowed by politics, rumours and even possibly “announcements”.
    Hopefully we’ll find out if Renault are going to stay in F1, whether they’re actually going to take over Lotus and what PU’s RBR and Toro Rosso will actually have in them.
    And there’ll be racing with a lot of drivers pride on the line. Should be a better than average race for Abu Dhabi.

  10. I’d love it if some weird sequence of events took place that gave Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton (18th-20th, in that order) pit lane starts. Last race, nothing to play for except pride… would be fun.

  11. I have to say that I’m not looking forward to this Abu Dhabi race with much enthusiasm, and so I wondered if there would be many drivers that we would be seeing the last of at the end of this season. And to be honest, it looks as though there are none. Which I find to be a bit disappointing because it means that there are very few seats available for up-and-coming drivers. Unless something dramatic happens, the only new driver will be Jolyon Palmer and there do not appear to be any retirees at all. As long as Lotus, Red Bull, Sauber, Torro Rosso and Haas actually make it to the grid, 2016 looks to be about the most stable field we have had for some while.

  12. It may be the day after Alonso won’t be able to see anymore that he was never beaten by his teammate, over a season, on points :)

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