The five red lights at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will go out shortly before dusk and as the sun sets over the Yas Marina circuit, so the sun will set on the longest ever season in F1's history, bringing this 21 race adventure to a close and crowning a drivers' world champion, Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg. More or less the second half of the race is played out in darkness, with the floodlights putting illuminating the stage, as we see Formula 1 cars and drivers do battle for the final time in 2016. This will be the fifth occasion in F1's eight visits to Abu Dhabi that it hosts the final Grand Prix.
A purpose-built race circuit designed in conjunction with the surrounding buildings, including the symbolic Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel, whose diamond-shaped colour-changing LED panes show off the opulence of the emirates and which is built over the track, the Yas Marina circuit is characterised by its billiard table-like smooth surface and contemporary corner design with a few curious and tricky curves.
Drivers can carry quite a lot of speed into the wide Turn 1, but it has to be tempered because it is also quite an angle on the exit. They then vault up towards the apex of the left-hand Turn 2 on the brow of a slight hill before holding on flat through the long right-hand Turn 3. Turn 4 is really just a bit of a curve on the downhill straight. They can brake very late and carry a lot of speed into the left of the chicane at Turn 5 before being more circumspect on the exit at 6. The entry to Turn 7 is long and then comes the apex, so it’s easy to miss it, but whatever they do, drivers need to be carrying plenty of speed onto this straight, as it is by far the longest one on the track; it also has DRS.
After braking shortly after the 100-metre board, a quicker chicane follows before they enter the next straight and another DRS zone. They are now into Sector 2. There is another chicane, but this time it’s left, a tiny bit right and then immediately left again. The 90 left of Turn 14 follows, which takes the drivers into Sector 3. Turn 15 and Turn 16 are both right-handers and the braking for Turn 17 is tricky, as drivers are turning slightly and Turn 17 soon follows. It's quite a tight right and then the drivers go left under the hotel, before going left again as the track begins to open up. The final two corners are in a similar vein to Turns 15 and 16, but with the final corner being much more angled. Drivers carry a lot of speed through the penultimate turn but have to be careful to slow down enough for the final corner, which is a tricky angle to aim at following that braking zone.
In the first year, Brawn driver Jenson Button arrived in Abu Dhabi for the seventeenth and final race fresh off the back of his world championship, having sealed it last time out in Brazil. This was the final race for refuelling. After leading the early laps, Lewis Hamilton was jumped at the stops by Sebastian Vettel, in his first year with Red Bull. Hamilton went out with brake trouble, while the only other retirement was Jaime Alguersuari who retired after stopping in the Red Bull pit by mistake, instead of that of the junior team, Toro Rosso. Red Bull sent him out (it was the lap when Vettel was due in) and he went out of the race with a gearbox problem. Kamui Kobayashi finished sixth for Toyota, impressing the team and scoring points in only his second race; he looked set to stay at the team, but they were to withdraw at the end of the year (it was also BMW’s final race). He went to Sauber, which had got back their old team. Vettel held on for his fifth Grand Prix win and his fourth of the season. Team-mate Mark Webber fought off a hard challenge by the new World Champion on the final lap to hang on to the runner-up spot.
2010 was a championship decider with a result few people saw coming, this lack of foresight contributing to the result itself. Four drivers went into the race with a chance of winning the title, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso leading the championship battle on 246 points, with Mark Webber giving chase on 238, and more remote chances for Sebastian Vettel on 231 points and Lewis Hamilton on 222. It was the first year in which 25 points was awarded for a victory and the first time four drivers had entered the final Grand Prix with a chance of the world title.
On the opening lap, Michael Schumacher tried to pass Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and spun, leading to a scary moment when Vitantonio Liuzzi put his car atop the Mercedes. Vettel led away from pole and ended up leading most of the race, apart from a period during the pit stops. Mark Webber struggled for grip on the super-soft tyres and pitted early. Ferrari followed suit for Alonso to cover the Red Bull driver, a catastrophic strategic decision as it turned out, which ultimately may have partly led to Aldo Costa’s demotion and perhaps even to his eventual departure from the team. Both drivers struggled to overtake and were well down the order, with Alonso’s race-long frustration behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov a particularly obvious moment to pick as defining the outcome of the season.
Meanwhile, Vettel, blissfully unaware of being in the pound seats for the championship, romped home to victory. With some slight shades of James Hunt in 1976, he had no idea he was world champion on crossing the line and only learned of his success when told by his engineer. His high-pitched crying and subsequent euphoric scream over the radio shall remain a big memory of the 2010 Grand Prix season. It was also the first time since James Hunt in 1976 that a world champion’s first race as points leader was the one in which he took the title. Anyone who doubted it could have been Vettel should have looked no further back than 2007 when Raikkonen snuck up from behind to take away the championship that McLaren drivers Alonso and Hamilton were seen to have a hand on each. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that many people foresaw that being the first of four world championships on the trot for Vettel. ‘Trot’ doesn’t seem to cover it actually, as Sebastian ended up giving the impression that most of those hard-fought titles were won at a canter.
At Abu Dhabi the following year, Vettel again got into the first corner first, but a puncture led to his retirement and in a reversal of their 2009 fortunes, it was Lewis Hamilton who took the spoils. Alonso in the Ferrari and Button in the McLaren completed the podium.
2012 saw that season’s returnee Kimi Raikkonen return to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2009 in his new Lotus team. He controlled the race well since taking over the lead following Lewis Hamilton’s retirement and told the team and the world just how in control he was with his infamous words “Just leave me alone – I know what I’m doing” and when asked by the team to keep the heat in all four tyres under the safety car, replying “Yes, yes, yes, yes – I’m doing it all the time. You don’t have to remind me every ten seconds”. Kimi was quite big on words that day as both he and Vettel were warned by the stewards about swear words on the podium that day in the new-style more media-friendly podium ceremony. Kimi still had a more typical moment of nonchalance and understatement that day, though, with his placid response to being asked how it felt to be a winner again.
In 2013, there was a partial solar eclipse that could be seen during the race, but Sebastian Vettel totally eclipsed the opposition, as he overtook Mark Webber into Turn 1 and led every lap of the race, winning by 30.8 seconds from his Red Bull team-mate.
2014 saw the first and probably last time that we will see double championship points offered in the last race. We also saw the super-soft and soft tyres being introduced, instead of the soft and the medium of the previous three seasons. Lewis Hamilton ended up taking his second world title and the win, with Felipe Massa just 2.5 seconds behind at the chequered flag. Valtteri Bottas’s third meant that Williams got their first double podium since Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber finished 2nd and 3rd at Monaco in 2005.
Last year, Nico Rosberg completed an end-of-season hat-trick to win ahead of triple world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton, while Kimi Raikkonen completed the podium. This run of three wins for Nico extended into a run of seven, as he also took the first four victories of 2016, setting himself up for a big shot at the drivers' world title.
As the fireworks explode over the circuit when the chequered flag falls, will they be celebrating Lewis Hamilton as a four-time world champion, equalling Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost, or heralding Nico Rosberg as a new world champion and the second son of an F1 world champion to become world champion himself (after Damon and Graham Hill)?
If Hamilton wins, Rosberg needs a podium. If Hamilton is second, Rosberg only needs sixth, if Lewis is third, he only needs eighth. Finally, if Lewis is fourth, come what may, Nico Rosberg is world champion.
This is Felipe Massa's Grand Prix before retirement and probably Jenson Button's too and these two very popular and successful drivers are sure to be seen off well by everyone in the paddock.
The change of ambient temperature here as the race goes on can have its effect on performance. It can also be a little difficult to to avoid wheelspin out of some of the slow corners. The tyres heat up quite a lot in the first sector before then cooling down a bit on the long straight. It is expected to be a two-stop race for most drivers.
Constructors’ championship standings: http://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2016/team.html
Drivers’ championship standings: http://www.formula1.com/en/results.h...6/drivers.html
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tyre selections: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/h...le-showdo.html
Our predictions contest is here: http://tentenths.com/forum/showthread.php?t=148854
Our Fantasy F1 contest is here: http://tentenths.com/forum/showthread.php?t=146625
Circuit length: 5.554km
Number of laps: 55
Race distance: 305.355km
First Grand Prix: 2009
Dry weather tyre compounds: Ultrasoft, Supersoft and Soft
DRS Detection Zone 1: Between Turns 6 and 7
DRS Activation Zone 1: On straight between Turns 7 and 8
DRS Detection Zone 2: After Turn 9
DRS Activation Zone 2: Between Turns 10 and 11
Speed trap: Near end of straight before Turn 8
Lap Record: 1:40.279 – Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault (2009)