Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2015

Will Hamilton have the chance to take the fight to Rosberg?

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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With Nico Rosberg heading a Mercedes front row in Abu Dhabi, are we set for a repeat of the last two races, with the two silver cars running to the flag in reverse championship order?

Unless Lewis Hamilton gets to the first corner first – which he did from the same positions 12 months ago – it’s easy to imagine a similar scenario unfolding. Particularly if, as seems likely, Ferrari aren’t as close to Mercedes in the race as they were in Brazil.

Following the last race many questions were asked about why Mercedes didn’t give their drivers more strategic freedom. Unsurprisingly, Hamilton has not discouraged the view that he finished behind Rosberg because of inflexibility on the Mercedes pit wall rather than because Rosberg was quicker when it mattered.

In Brazil Mercedes were concerned about the threat from Sebastian Vettel’s third-placed Ferrari, without which they might have granted Hamilton more freedom. Will that situation unfold again in the final race?

If Hamilton does find himself running second and lobbying for a change of strategy, his cause will be aided if the third-placed car falls far enough behind for him to make a pit stop and come out ahead. This is most likely to happen if Sergio Perez is able to move up from fourth to third at the start, then delay the following cars as his Force India struggles with its tyres but enjoys the protection of Mercedes grunt on the straights.

Hamilton will surely be aware that while a two-stopper is the conventional approach at Yas Marina, a three-stopper is theoretically quicker if you can get through traffic quickly. However Rosberg will in turn be aware of this, so watch out for him restricting Hamilton’s pace in the opening two stints if he considers it necessary.

With Vettel starting from 16th due to a “huge mistake” by Ferrari, the chances of a tenth Rosberg/Hamilton/Vettel podium are reduced. But recall Vettel started in the pits and finished third at this track three years ago, albeit with some usefully-timed Safety Car periods. Recall also that Vettel started 18th in Canada this year but rose to finish fifth, one place behind his team mate who had started third.

Raikkonen, Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas should make for an absorbing four-way contest for the last podium place, with the added intrigue that Raikkonen is only one point behind Bottas in the championship.

But with overtaking generally difficult at Yas Marina even with its two long straights and DRS zones, much will be riding on the start as always. And those drivers who paid attention to Saturday’s GP3 race will have drawn a useful lesson: pole sitter Esteban Ocon ran very wide at the first corner to keep his advantage at the start, but was given a five-second penalty by the stewards afterwards. For some drivers on the grid, that could turn out to be a penalty worth taking.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’41.1111’40.979 (-0.132)1’40.237 (-0.742)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’40.9741’40.758 (-0.216)1’40.614 (-0.144)
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’42.5001’41.612 (-0.888)1’41.051 (-0.561)
4Sergio PerezForce India1’41.9831’41.560 (-0.423)1’41.184 (-0.376)
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’42.2751’41.830 (-0.445)1’41.444 (-0.386)
6Valtteri BottasWilliams1’42.6081’41.868 (-0.740)1’41.656 (-0.212)
7Nico HulkenbergForce India1’41.9961’41.925 (-0.071)1’41.686 (-0.239)
8Felipe MassaWilliams1’42.3031’42.349 (+0.046)1’41.759 (-0.590)
9Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’42.5401’42.328 (-0.212)1’41.933 (-0.395)
10Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’42.9111’42.482 (-0.429)1’42.708 (+0.226)
11Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’42.8891’42.521 (-0.368)
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’42.5701’42.668 (+0.098)
13Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’42.9291’42.807 (-0.122)
14Felipe NasrSauber1’42.8961’43.614 (+0.718)
15Romain GrosjeanLotus1’42.585
16Sebastian VettelFerrari1’42.941
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’43.187
18Marcus EricssonSauber1’43.838
19Will StevensManor1’46.297
20Roberto MerhiManor1’47.434

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg17.464 (1)41.967 (1)40.742 (1)
Lewis Hamilton17.544 (3)41.988 (2)41.030 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen17.550 (4)42.110 (3)41.391 (5)
Sergio Perez17.652 (6)42.250 (4)41.261 (4)
Daniel Ricciardo17.854 (11)42.610 (10)40.980 (2)
Valtteri Bottas17.648 (5)42.291 (5)41.717 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg17.673 (7)42.422 (6)41.578 (7)
Felipe Massa17.535 (2)42.463 (7)41.761 (11)
Daniil Kvyat17.891 (12)42.581 (9)41.450 (6)
Carlos Sainz Jnr17.921 (13)42.790 (13)41.753 (10)
Max Verstappen17.939 (15)42.778 (12)41.761 (11)
Jenson Button17.969 (16)42.826 (14)41.638 (8)
Pastor Maldonado17.697 (8)42.558 (8)42.112 (17)
Felipe Nasr17.983 (17)42.826 (14)42.087 (15)
Romain Grosjean17.791 (9)42.709 (11)42.080 (14)
Sebastian Vettel17.833 (10)42.886 (16)42.097 (16)
Fernando Alonso17.930 (14)43.060 (17)42.009 (13)
Marcus Ericsson18.051 (18)43.121 (18)42.518 (18)
Will Stevens18.820 (19)44.090 (19)43.387 (19)
Roberto Merhi18.960 (20)44.472 (20)43.894 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes338.1 (210.1)
2Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes336.9 (209.3)-1.2
3Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes335.1 (208.2)-3.0
4Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes335.0 (208.2)-3.1
5Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes334.4 (207.8)-3.7
6Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes334.3 (207.7)-3.8
7Felipe NasrSauberFerrari334.0 (207.5)-4.1
8Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari333.9 (207.5)-4.2
9Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari332.5 (206.6)-5.6
10Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari332.3 (206.5)-5.8
11Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes332.1 (206.4)-6.0
12Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes331.6 (206.0)-6.5
13Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault323.4 (201.0)-14.7
14Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault322.9 (200.6)-15.2
15Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault321.4 (199.7)-16.7
16Roberto MerhiManorFerrari321.3 (199.6)-16.8
17Will StevensManorFerrari318.3 (197.8)-19.8
18Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault318.0 (197.6)-20.1
19Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda311.3 (193.4)-26.8
20Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda310.2 (192.7)-27.9

Over to you

Share your views on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the comments.

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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23 comments on “Will Hamilton have the chance to take the fight to Rosberg?”

  1. 2nd sector has the top 4 on the sheets line astern. I think that says a lot, and the fact that this formation is broken by Ricciardo who’s 5th but 10th on the s2. In the end the fact that gaps on S3 are much broader than S2 albeit not surprising as 50% of the corners are there, is showcase that teams knew this deficiency wouldn’t affect the grid and probably not the wheel-to-wheel racing.

  2. I think Seb may also be in the podium fight

  3. In the predictions I went ROS on pole but HAM to win with ROS 2nd.
    Simply because I expected ROS to pull out 1 good lap in Q3, but if he’s leading into the pit stop(s) then when he goes in HAM will use his fresher engine in an “over cut” attempt.

    1. I believe the process is called Hammertime!

      1. How could I forget?! HAHA.

      2. Hammertime a quote used in NBA way way before Hamilton. I dont c the fuss u imply too. And also Hamilton is and was never that fast in those in and out lap. Same as everybody else

    2. How would that be even considered “fair”?

  4. As usual, and by seeing it, Lewis sets his car for the race rather than qualifying… I am starting to think that, considering the way f1 is today, this might be a bad idea. Mainly because, thanks to Pirelli, cars are difficult to follow each other. Nowadays, the driver on pole can just drive slowly and make the chaser eat its tyres because of the last sentence above, which is making the drivers not attack and wait for the pit stops. Ferrari used to do this earlier this year, Rosberg complained in China: “Tell Lewis to speed up”. Lewis in trying to overtake Sebastian in Spain said: “Impossible to overtake” and had to use the sheer pace of his W06 in order to jump Sebastian. In Silverstone, we saw Bottas and the two Mercedes stuck behind Massa, leading to Hamilton attempting the jump on Massa, Bottas and Rosberg, which worked.
    However, some tracks, such as COTA, Monza, SPA, allow the cars to follow properly. We need tyres that last, that’s it.

    1. @krichelle Some tracks such as COTA, Spa and Monza allow overtaking? Hardly, COTA’s first sector is place where it’s hard to follow unless you have a clear tyre/downforce/pace advantage. Both 2012, 2013 and 2014 were an example of this. Same with Spa; it’s not easy to follow another car, but it is the length of the straights which allows overtaking. And you would think that Monza would be overtaking heaven. Yeah…no. Watch back the 2013 and 2015 races; it’s not easy to overtake (unless it’s on a McLaren Honda or Renault-engined car)

      1. I meant that at least there is a higher chance of overtaking in comparison to other tracks.

      2. Besides, in COTA it is the second and last sector where you get hit with the dirty air cheese. Hamilton was keeping up with Sebastian and Nico when he was chasing them down. Only Lewis never got close enough to line up a pass on Sebastian while he managed to against Nico. In Monza, it is easier to follow cars but overtaking is not guaranteed.

  5. McLaren have chosen an interesting setup. They know they have a slow engine but a good chassis, so they’ve done everything to have good pace in the last sector. We could see they are not very good in the first two sectors (and they have the worst top speeds), but the last sector isn’t too bad : 13th for Alonso and 8th for Button. This gamble has almost paid off in qualifying : Jenson had pace to be 11th. Unfortunately, Alonso failed to get in Q2 : a pity because he had good pace in FP3.
    With a good strategy, some retirements, and some luck, McLaren could hope for some points tomorrow I would say…

    1. I am sure that without the flat tyre Alonso would have been closer, probably would have had a good chance to get into Q2 himself @dan_the_mclaren_fan.

  6. Rosberg is clawing back some respect these last races. I hope he does convert pole into a win, for the sake of next years contest and his own reputation

  7. I think that old engine of Rosberg has a high likelihood of developing a fault and hand the wind to Hamilton.

  8. @keithcollantine That last sentence – you’re not wrong, but a “penalty worth taking” is not nearly severe enough!

  9. The difference in top speed between Hamilton and Rosberg is the same than the difference in top speed between Maldonado and Grosjean, Kvyat and Ricciardo or Merhi and Stevens. I don’t see them making a big deal out of having older engines.

    The fact Rosberg is actually a bit faster than Hamilton in S2 (I suppose this is where the long straights are) and 3 tenths faster in S3 tells me the top speed difference may not be the engine’s fault.

    1. Rosberg is only a few thousandths faster and he did his lap later, so benefitted from better track conditions. But he still went only 21 thousandths quicker.

      The engine disadvantage is definitely there.

  10. Wow, I would like to see the helicopter view of Maldonado, Nasr and Vettel flying past Button with DRS. I doubt Honda will be able to find the missing 500 bhp.

  11. Brilliant performance by Rosberg! Six poles in a row! Despite an old and under-powered engine!
    Big shame for Vettel though.

    What to watch-out for:
    1. Vettel’s charge through the field.
    If their is anyone who can win a race from the back of the field, its Sebastian Vettel. Winning is probably out of the question but a podium is very possible! Vettel has a lot of Super Soft tyres remaining so i think Vettel might attempt a 3 Stop Strategy?

    2. The Firy Mexican
    On Friday i believed that his pace was Not Real but i was proved wrong! I can see Perez trying to do something very different from the others!
    A 1 Stopper? – Possible, but Unlikely (But if anyone can make a one stop work, it’s Sergio Perez, he’s done it many times before. And i am sure they will atleast try a 1 stopper?
    Watch out for Perez at the Start! He’s made a few good starts this year!

    3. Can Raikkonen challenge the Mercedes?
    Is this going to be a straight Mercedes fight or can Kimi Raikkonen make it a 3 way fight. If Raikkonen and get a good start and possibly jump 1 or even both of the Mercedes, we have a great race!
    But to me i dont think that Kimi has the pace to challenge the Mercedes?

    4. A point for Button and McLaren?
    If they can manage it, it would be a nice way to end the year!

    5. Can Rosberg make it 3 in a row?

    1. Ros (Pole)
    2. Ham
    3. Per
    4. Vet (FL)
    5. Rai
    Jenson Button – 9th

    Over to you? any thoughts on what may happen?

  12. Who cares? Hamilton won the championship already!

  13. Anyone else have any idea what Mercedes strategy was with Hamilton other than to give Romberg the race?

  14. He already took the fight to rosberg. It ended on turn 12, lap 50, Austin GP.

Comments are closed.