Lights, camera, action – 2012 Abu Dhabi GP preview

November 2, 2012 6:22 pm

As the host country for the thrilling 2010 Formula One world championship title showdown, Abu Dhabi saw its fair share of drama two years ago as the title crown slipped through Fernando Alonso’s fingers and fell straight into the lap of the jubilant Sebastian Vettel.

That’s why this time, Alonso will be pushing a bit harder than usual at the ostentatious Yas Marina circuit to avoid his hopes of the 2012 World Championship disappearing this weekend.

Will Sebastian Vettel replicate his 2009 victory?

With a 13-point advantage over Alonso, a victory for Vettel on Sunday would all but secure the German’s third straight Championship crown. Alonso knows he needs to produce one of those very special performances for which he has rightly earned the accolade of the best driver in Formula One today. Driving a somewhat inferior car though, his skill will have to be pitted against the formidable Red Bull RB8 machine, the brainchild of the legendary designer Adrian Newey.

It’s not as simple as Vettel versus Alonso though. There are other men just as eager to add the Abu Dhabi winner’s laurels to their CV, and Lewis Hamilton in particular already has the knowledge of just what it takes to win in the desert having claimed the win here last year.

Mark Webber has been beaten roundly by Vettel every race since Singapore and the Australian will be desperate to take his third victory of the season around the sweeping corners and flat out straights on the asphalt that is draped across the barren desert like an oasis of speed in the shimmering heat haze of a Middle Eastern November. Red Bull clearly hold the upper hand here having triumphed in 2009 and 2010 before a tyre failure pitched Sebastian Vettel out of the lead at the first corner last season. Of course, by then he had already taken the 2011 World Championship but this time round there must be no mistakes for the reigning Champion.

Ferrari are rumoured to have narrowly avoided a major political embarrassment in India after it was reported by some sources that Alonso may have drafted a derogatory tweet minutes after qualifying down in 5th place. ‘I want my millions of followers to know that the back end of my Ferrari looks the same as it did in May’ was the apparent message that Ferrari management managed to persuade Alonso to remove very promptly. Nevertheless, the Spaniard’s gripe remains a sad reality; his Ferrari team have not upgraded their car at the same rate as Red Bull and have consequently falled behind in the development stakes – a situation that could cost their star driver his third world title.

The Abu Dhabi race begins at dusk

Mclaren have struggled since Singapore, but their drivers are Abu Dhabi specialists with Hamilton taking the win last year and Jenson Button appearing on every Abu Dhabi GP podium since the race first appeared on the calendar on 2009. Third British hero Paul Di Resta has also faced adversity since his excellent 4th place finish in Singapore and the Scot faces a stern challenge from teammate Nico Hulkenberg in the bid to be the top Force India driver of 2012. Hulkenberg took 4 points from a solid Indian GP while Di Resta struggled to find any speed in his Grand Prix, eventually finishing down the order and out of the points.

Mercedes have made arguably the biggest step backwards, with no points in the last three races which has left the German/British team in danger of falling behind minnow-team rivals Sauber in the battle for 5thth place in the constructor’s championship. It’s a sad state of affairs for the outfit that claimed the 2009 crown and is a sombre reminder of the says when the team used to be badged as Honda. More worryingly for Lewis Hamilton, this is the team he has elected to join in 2013.

In reality, only Sebastian Vettel can arrive at Yas Marina comfortable in the knowledge he has the machinery and the luck to do the job. Alonso won’t give up trying, and Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will keep on fighting in that plucky British fashion regardless of the odds against them. If they get between Alonso and Vettel, they could yet play a significant role in the title showdown.

Only time will tell.

Anthony French





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