F1 Power Rankings: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

We’re down to the final two races of the 2011 Formula One World Championship. This weekend, Sebastian Vettel could make it an even dozen wins on the season. Meanwhile, there is still a battle ongoing for second place in the World Drivers’ Championship. Jenson Button has a 13 point advantage on Fernando Alonso with Mark Webber a further six points back. That’s really the only battle left to watch unless you’re interested in the battle from 6th through 8th in the Constructors’ Championship.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
The two-time defending WDC is fascinated by underground car parks: “The race starts at dusk and finishes at night, which means we have to drive with special helmet visors because of the different light conditions. The other factor is that we drive anti-clockwise. The track’s a bit like Singapore from the speed, but the asphalt is smoother. There are two special features – one is the passage under the Yas hotel, where else can you actually drive under your room! The second is the pit lane exit, which is also special. It’s partly underground and it feels like you’re coming out of an underground parking garage when you drive through it.”

#2 Jenson Button (LR #2)
Jenson talks about DRS helping passing but he only passes by preserving tires (or putting us to sleep before making a move): “It’s usually been quite difficult to overtake here, especially last year, but I think that DRS will change all that. The back straight is one of the longest in Formula 1 so I expect to see a lot of action there. It would be great to see the new rules turn this circuit into a place where overtaking is more common and more exciting. Our car should suit this circuit so I’m very optimistic.”

#3 Fernando Alonso (LR #4)
I bet Alonso has been looking forward to getting back to Abu Dhabi since last year’s finale. And by “looking forward to,” I actually mean dreading. He was stuck behind the obviously slower Vitaly Petrov for the majority of last year’s race because of pit stop strategies. With the addition of DRS, theoretically he won’t have that issue this season. Of course, DRS hasn’t always guaranteed passes this season, which at least means that we aren’t creating overly artificial racing.

#4 Mark Webber (LR #3)
Whoever transcribes these quotes for Red Bull needs to be fired. It’s a lot of work to fix the punctuation and capitalization in these quotes: “I’m really looking forward to getting to Abu Dhabi. Although it’s not one of the most challenging venues of the season, with every real corner being second and third gear, it’s always a great spectacle. It’s a twilight race, so it looks amazing on TV. It’s another great opportunity for the team to get a very good result as the season comes to a close. The sun is always shining and the conditions are always beautiful, so that’s something to look forward to.”

#5 Lewis Hamilton (LR #5)
Lewis has to not run into Massa for shot at the win: “I think we’ve got every reason to be confident for Abu Dhabi. This circuit should really suit the characteristics of our car – we should be able to capitalise on the layout to maximise the benefit of DRS and KERS, both of which are very strong on our car. Red Bull and Sebastian may have clinched both championships, but I’m still determined to end the season on a winning high.”

#6 Michael Schumacher (LR #7)
Seven-time would talk about last year’s race but he was wrecked out after about 40 seconds last year: “The season’s ending is coming up with some quite spectacular races; after the debut in India last weekend, we are now heading to the equally impressive Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi next week. The twilight race here certainly delivers a very unique atmosphere and challenge, and I truly enjoyed driving in those conditions last year when I was doing so for the first time. I hope that we can carry on our good team performance next weekend, at the home race for Aabar, and I look forward to scoring more points.”

#7 Nico Rosberg (LR #8)
Nico Rosberg likes Hermann Tilke tracks? The fuck is wrong with him: “The Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi is another great Hermann Tilke-designed track which I like very much. It’s a fantastic setting with the track winding around the harbour and the hotel, and there is always a great atmosphere there with so many fans. I have good memories from last year’s race and racing later in the day makes an interesting change to the usual race weekend format.”

#8 Felipe Massa (LR #6)
Stefano Domenicali says that Massa will be back next year: “As for the rumours regarding all the drivers who are due to arrive in Maranello to replace him, I can only repeat my words and indeed those only recently uttered by our President, in every possible way, Felipe will also be with us in 2012 and that should make you understand how much faith we have in him.”

#9 Jaime Alguersuari (LR #12)

#10 Sergio Perez (LR #13)
Perez has a pretty good track record at the Yas Marina Circuit: “I have only the best memories of Abu Dhabi. There last year I had my first Formula One test, which obviously meant a lot to me. Also last year it was there where I competed in GP2 for the last time, and I won the race on Saturday by a good margin of over 20 seconds. Now I’m coming back with almost one year’s experience in F1, and time goes by very quickly. I like the dry heat in the desert and it will be interesting to have the first experience with a race which starts in daylight and finishes in the dark. I am very much looking forward to that event and, as always, I’m absolutely determined to make the most out of it and score as many points as possible.”

#11 Adrian Sutil (LR #10)
Sutil on scoring points in his team’s home race: “It felt really good and I think that was the maximum for us. I just lost out to the Toro Rossos because they were faster on the day. But I was happier with the balance than in Korea, so it’s clear that we made a little step with the car. Ninth position was two very important points so it was a good weekend.”

#12 Paul di Resta (LR #9)
Dario’s cousin says that this circuit doesn’t have any fast corners. Apart from Monaco, how many vintage F1 tracks were like that: “It’s a very technical circuit with a lot of tight, low-speed corners and you need to be very precise with the car. There’s very little high-speed stuff, apart from the esses after turn one, but they are taken pretty much flat anyway. There are definitely some similarities with Singapore so that’s a reason to be optimistic because the lack of high-speed corners seems to suit our package. As ever, we have to see how the teams around us perform.”

#13 Vitaly Petrov (LR #14)
Petrov gives us the double talk about his chances this weekend: “I am naturally inclined to say I don’t know if the circuit will suit our car. When we arrive and are able to observe how the tyres are working, we will know where we are placed relative to our rivals. I hope we show signs of speed, like we have at time during the past three races. The concern is we have not exploited the potential the car has shown at the crucial times. Of course, that is always the fine line between a successful outing on track or a less successful one. Overall, I am confident it can be a good race weekend.”

#14 Sebastien Buemi (LR #11)

#15 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #16)
The real challenge for this race is the change in track conditions from day to night: “Abu Dhabi is the track where I scored my first three Formula One championship points when I came sixth back in 2009. It was only my second Grand Prix, and for sure I will never forget that. I also like the fact it is a twilight race. This makes it even more exciting for the spectators and also very demanding for us. The challenge doesn’t really come from the changing light, but the track temperature drops significantly when the sun sets. This makes it quite difficult to adapt during the race.”

#16 Bruno Senna (LR #15)
Senna reveals something we didn’t know before. The Renault doesn’t like slow corners (although we should have expected that with the forward-exiting exhaust): “Abu Dhabi and Brazil were probably my best two races last season, where I didn’t experience any problems. I know the Yas Marina Circuit well; the track clicked with me. I really took to driving there and I think it suited me well. I really do feel we could have a strong race weekend if we put everything together, despite the fact that our car does not seem to like slow corners that much.”

#17 Rubens Barrichello (LR #18)
Rubens disagrees with the fans by saying the Yas Marina Circuit is exciting… I assume Bernie has offered him a job when he retires: “Abu Dhabi is a great race and although some people say that overtaking was not easy there the last two years, this year with DRS I think we will have some really good racing. The track is very exciting for drivers. Turns 2 and 3 make a very special combination of high speed corners with the last part of the track a very tricky sequence of low speed and technical corners.”

#18 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
Maldonado ran this place more than a few times thanks to GP2: “The Yas Marina Circuit has a very interesting combination of corners, mostly slow speed with one fast section right at the start of the lap. It is quite a long lap and tyre degradation is usually quite high. Although it is a fairly new track, the team has lots of data from both the races and test here last year. I enjoyed the Young Driver test there in 2010 as well as racing in GP2, so I also know the track.”

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki finds the Yas Marina Circuit just a bit on the boring side: “Abu Dhabi’s not a hugely challenging circuit to race on, but the timing of the sessions and the fact we are running as the light’s fading on Sunday makes it pretty cool for the fans and on TV. The first sector is reasonably quick – if you see the cars turn in to T1 after the start finish straight you can get an idea of just how fast an F1 car can change direction, and from there you pick up pace through turns two and three, pushing the aero performance of the cars. After that it’s a bit stop/start until the long straight down to T8 where there is the first clear overtaking opportunity. T11 is the next place you can pass people, and then it all gets a bit fiddly as you go around the hotel – I’m sure it’s pretty spectacular for people watching the cars while they’re having lunch, but it’s several low speed corners that push the car on traction, but aren’t too challenging from inside the cockpit.”

#20 Jarno Trulli (LR #20)
Trulli thinks that passing will solely be up to use of the DRS: “We saw last year that it’s very hard to overtake around the Abu Dhabi track but DRS and the way the Pirellis have performed all year will definitely change that – the run down to T8 where the DRS zone will be activated will definitely see a lot of passing and I want to make sure I’m up there with the teams we’ve been fighting with in the last few Grands Prix and racing all weekend.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
We can always count on Tim O’Glock for a proper breakdown of the track: “We now head to another Hermann Tilke designed track, the Yas Marina Circuit, which I enjoy a lot. I have to say that this circuit reminds me of different F1 tracks: the temperature is very similar to Bahrain, the track surface is like Hungary or Korea and in terms of lateral forces it is very close to Valencia. It features a very long straight between turns 7 and 8. The only fast corners are turns 2 and 3, which are taken at full throttle, so given the fact that many of the turns are low speed, the set-up is similar to how we would run at another medium-downforce track like Interlagos.”

#22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (LR #22)
Jerome thinks the Yas Marina Circuit is very pretty: “The Yas Marina Circuit is a fantastic facility and has some interesting features like the pitlane – a tight tunnel that takes you under turn 1 and rejoins the circuit on the inside of the second corner; the marina, or the section around the colour-changing Yas Hotel. It’s a very attractive circuit where we race in the fading light, so in a way it also reminds me a bit of Singapore, another of my favourite tracks.”

#23 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #23)
Danny Boy was here last year for the Young Drivers Test. He better hope that means he has an advantage: “I’ve never raced in Abu Dhabi but have driven there last year in the young driver test with Red Bull so I’ll be expecting it to be quite a bit different this time round, especially with the Pirelli tyres… I enjoyed driving on this circuit last year and I’m definitely looking forward to racing there this year where I’ll be looking for a good result. There are only two races left in the season son I’m going to give it everything to achieve the best result possible.”

#24 Vitantonio Luizzi (LR Not Entered)
Tonio is finally getting back into the car: “After lending my car to Narain for the Indian Grand Prix, I’m really looking forward to getting back into the action in Abu Dhabi. I’m positive coming into it because in India the car appeared to suit the track well and our pace was good in comparison to our rivals. Abu Dhabi is a special track because there is a lot of stop and go so we need to work on braking and traction. There are not many high speed corners and, overall, it is quite a tricky track because you have to work a lot over the kerbs.”

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