Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2019

While Hamilton eyes winning finish, Ferrari face start strategy dilemma

2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Despite having gone nearly 10 races without a pole position, Lewis Hamilton made it look easy again when he rocked up at Yas Marina on Saturday.

Never mind he’d spent the previous day testing experimental changes for 2020, or that his team mate has an engine which is six races fresher. Hamilton plugged himself into the Yas Marina groove that the W10 loves, particularly the final sector where his skill in hustling a car around slow corners pays handsomely, and planted it on pole once again.

Job done? Providing he gets off the line cleanly on Sunday he looks set to go into the off-season on a race-winning high.

Max Verstappen may not have the car he needs under him to take the fight to Hamilton. “We always know that Mercedes are very quick on the long runs,” he said. They were strong at the end of stints in Brazil, and that was on a track where the Red Bull was potentially stronger. Still, if he sends one up the inside of Hamilton at the start and gets away with it, that could make things very interesting indeed.

The Ferrari pair share row two behind them. Charles Leclerc will start third on the grid on medium tyres, followed by Sebastian Vettel on softs. Which, after their Brazil collision, could seem like a recipe for disaster.

Vettel has gambled on soft tyres for the start
Vettel said his soft tyre gamble was a case of “just trying to do something different” on what has not been a very competitive weekend for Ferrari so far. His best chance of making it work would be if he can pick off a few cars at the start when the soft tyre offers a one-second-per-lap pace advantage over the medium. But, of course, the first car he’s got to pass is his team mate’s.

Perhaps Ferraro has a plan for how to co-ordinate their drivers at the start. However, given what happened when they tried that at Sochi, Leclerc would be forgiven for having some doubts over entering into another such arrangement.

If Vettel’s gamble doesn’t pay off, Alexander Albon will be close behind hoping to take advantage, and also hoping to out-run Valtteri Bottas, who’ll be climbing his way forward having been relegated 18 places on the grid to 20th.

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The midfield is split between the four Renault-powered drivers who reached Q3 and will have to start on used tyres, and those behind who get to start on fresh rubber. The latter had a clear advantage last year – Carlos Sainz Jnr rose from 11th to take sixth.

[icon2019autocoursempu]Sunday’s ‘new tyre pole’ winner is Sergio Perez, who is promoted to 10th on the grid after Bottas’s penalty, and will have designs on repeating Sainz’s performance from last year.

Behind him the Toro Rosso pair – in the team’s last start in this guide before it become Alpha Tauri – will also be eyeing a crack at the points. Both Renaults start in front of them, but the Toro Rosso drivers have a potential strategic advantage which could help them overturn their rival’s eight-point championship lead in the final race of the season, and claim a best-ever fifth place in the standings.

However Ricciardo is satisfied with his strategy for the race. “Obviously, our big competitor this weekend is Toro Rosso. I prefer now, sitting here, to be eighth with the soft, then say 12th with a medium.

“If I was 10th and they were 11th, I’d prefer to be them. But I think we have enough of a gap that it should give us enough of a gap before the first pit stop. That’s hopefully how it works.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Yas Marina, 2019
Ricciardo is wary of the Toro Rossos
But he admitted reservations about how easy it will be to make a one-stop strategy work – something which will be hardest of all for drivers like himself starting on worn soft tyres. “I don’t think a one stop will be that easy tomorrow. I think it will be better if you can make the one-stop work, but we’ll see what happens. Try to make the tyres last.”

There’s no dodging the facts: Yas Marina does not have a reputation for producing vintage F1 races, and Bottas’s penalty has removed Hamilton’s biggest potential threat from the sharp end of the race. But as Bottas put it when asked about his chances of reaching the podium from the back of the grid: “Everything is always possible.

“We’ll have a good fighting spirit, take every opportunity there will be tomorrow and for sure there will be some. We’ve seen crazy races this year – look back two weeks in Brazil. So anything is possible.”

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’35.8511’35.634 (-0.217)1’34.779 (-0.855)
2Max VerstappenRed Bull1’36.3901’36.275 (-0.115)1’35.139 (-1.136)
3Charles LeclercFerrari1’36.4781’35.543 (-0.935)1’35.219 (-0.324)
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’36.9631’35.786 (-1.177)1’35.339 (-0.447)
5Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’36.1021’36.718 (+0.616)1’35.682 (-1.036)
6Lando NorrisMcLaren1’37.5451’36.764 (-0.781)1’36.436 (-0.328)
7Daniel RicciardoRenault1’37.1061’36.785 (-0.321)1’36.456 (-0.329)
8Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’37.3581’36.308 (-1.050)1’36.459 (+0.151)
9Nico HulkenbergRenault1’37.5061’36.859 (-0.647)1’36.710 (-0.149)
10Sergio PerezRacing Point1’36.9611’37.055 (+0.094)
11Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’37.1981’37.089 (-0.109)
12Lance StrollRacing Point1’37.5281’37.103 (-0.425)
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’37.6831’37.141 (-0.542)
14Kevin MagnussenHaas1’37.7101’37.254 (-0.456)
15Romain GrosjeanHaas1’38.051
16Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’38.114
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’38.383
18George RussellWilliams1’38.717
19Robert KubicaWilliams1’39.236
20Valtteri BottasMercedes1’36.2001’35.674 (-0.526)1’34.973 (-0.701)

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton16.903 (3)40.561 (3)37.235 (1)
Max Verstappen16.967 (5)40.648 (4)37.349 (3)
Charles Leclerc16.804 (2)40.521 (2)37.871 (5)
Sebastian Vettel16.782 (1)40.488 (1)37.990 (6)
Alexander Albon17.060 (6)40.900 (7)37.677 (4)
Lando Norris17.116 (9)41.086 (8)38.234 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo17.103 (8)41.090 (9)38.263 (8)
Carlos Sainz Jnr17.089 (7)40.835 (6)38.313 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg17.121 (10)41.123 (10)38.466 (12)
Sergio Perez17.157 (11)41.195 (11)38.585 (13)
Pierre Gasly17.192 (14)41.392 (15)38.446 (11)
Lance Stroll17.184 (13)41.219 (12)38.700 (14)
Daniil Kvyat17.248 (15)41.306 (14)38.445 (10)
Kevin Magnussen17.174 (12)41.260 (13)38.809 (15)
Romain Grosjean17.339 (17)41.623 (16)38.960 (16)
Antonio Giovinazzi17.288 (16)41.731 (18)39.095 (17)
Kimi Raikkonen17.348 (18)41.675 (17)39.360 (18)
George Russell17.390 (19)41.816 (19)39.485 (19)
Robert Kubica17.466 (20)42.142 (20)39.628 (20)
Valtteri Bottas16.964 (4)40.672 (5)37.322 (2)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari329.0 (204.4)
2Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault328.7 (204.2)-0.3
3Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari327.2 (203.3)-1.8
4Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes326.9 (203.1)-2.1
5Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault326.9 (203.1)-2.1
6George RussellWilliamsMercedes326.5 (202.9)-2.5
7Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes326.2 (202.7)-2.8
8Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault325.7 (202.4)-3.3
9Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari325.2 (202.1)-3.8
10Robert KubicaWilliamsMercedes325.0 (201.9)-4.0
11Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda325.0 (201.9)-4.0
12Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda324.3 (201.5)-4.7
13Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari324.1 (201.4)-4.9
14Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes324.1 (201.4)-4.9
15Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda323.7 (201.1)-5.3
16Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari323.0 (200.7)-6.0
17Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault322.8 (200.6)-6.2
18Max VerstappenRed BullHonda322.6 (200.5)-6.4
19Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes321.1 (199.5)-7.9
20Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari320.4 (199.1)-8.6

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Over to you

What’s the most realistic threat to another Hamilton victory in tomorrow’s race? Will Vettel’s strategy gamble pay off? And who will win the midfield fight?

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

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Browse all 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles

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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6 comments on “While Hamilton eyes winning finish, Ferrari face start strategy dilemma”

  1. I hope Max will be very sensible at the start. After Mexican GP, he was 5th in Drivers Championship (Max-220, Seb-230, Lec-236) and 3rd place for him seemed unlikely. It would be sensational if he coulf finish the season ahead of both Ferrari drivers!

    1. Agree but believe you focussed on the wrong person.
      I say let’s hope that Leclerc is sensible – he already said is his going to take lots of risk to become 3rd and we have all seen this season how reckless he can be.
      Really hope there is no repeat of turn 2 of Japan whereby Leclerc simply took out Verstappen by choosing not to lift something he has done more times this season most spectacular in Monaco.

  2. If Hamilton survives lap 1, then he will drive off. I don’t see Verstappen challenging him. The last two races we saw a Mercedes in the lead by lap 1, Japan and USA, they dominated the race. That car has been absolutely the class of the field in race trim this year.

    1. Agreed. Mercedes is #1 on race day.

      But never count Max out. He will give everything to make it a contest. Just like Lewis would in his shoes. The two of them currently make f1 races interesting!

  3. If Vettel manages to jump Verstappen at start then he will be screwing up the strategy for 2 cars behind him given the speed advantage he has in 1st and 2nd sector.

  4. What’s the most realistic threat to another Hamilton victory in tomorrow’s race?
    – Max or any of the other top-runners close behind if they can get ahead of him, and thus, get a track-position advantage to themselves.
    Will Vettel’s strategy gamble pay off? – Maybe, maybe not.
    And who will win the midfield fight? – Daniel Ricciardo.

Comments are closed.