So we’ve reached the final race of the 2014 Formula One World Championship. Normally, the 17 point gap between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg would be insurmountable under normal circumstances. However, thanks to the wonder that is double points, he’s not out of it yet. A couple of positions between the Silver Arrows can mean the difference between a championship and 2nd place.
You know, I didn’t like the idea of NASCAR’s new Chase format (or any of their Chase formats) but it worked brilliantly in practice. I don’t think double points is going to win anyone over unless Lewis wins the title. Even then, no one will like it.
#1 Lewis Hamilton
Lewis might be the heavy favourite for the title this year but that isn’t changing his approach this weekend: “People talk about how long it’s been since I won the title – but I honestly feel like I’m fighting for my first World Championship all over again. Sure, I’m older and maybe a little bit wiser than I was back then. I’ve learnt a lot in the years since 2008 – but I’m still the same driver. I still have the same hunger, the same will to win, and I’ve been giving it everything I’ve got from the word go this season. I’ve had ups and downs along the way – but I’ve never once given up. I’ve managed to fight my way back from whatever has come my way and my approach doesn’t change for this race.”
#2 Nico Rosberg
Meanwhile, Nico has it all to do: “It won’t be easy, but I’ll be full attack – just as I have been all season. Although this has been my first year fighting for a World Championship, I’ve never felt more comfortable than I have done this year. The team behind us have done an incredible job and it’s great that they’ve given both of us equal opportunity to compete with each other. There have been difficult moments just as there have been amazing moments – but this is what Formula One is all about and I hope that everyone watching at home has enjoyed the story of this battle as much as I have. Win or lose, double points or no double points, I feel proud of what I have achieved this year and especially proud to have been a part of this fantastic season for the Silver Arrows.”
#3 Felipe Massa
Old Phil talks about setup priorities: ” The track is like a street-circuit in one sector with slow corners and barriers quite close, and then a traditional circuit in the other with very long straights and flowing corners. We race in the evening but practice during the heat of the day, so to adapt the car towards cooler conditions is important, it can save a lot of time if you get this right.”
#4 Daniel Ricciardo
#5 Sebastian Vettel
#6 Fernando Alonso
#7 Valtteri Bottas
#BO77AS has been ice-cold these last few races but he sees 4th in the WDC as a possibility: “The double points could be interesting and we will try and play it to our advantage. We have been trying to secure our position in the championship and so continue to focus on this, but I can still finish fourth in the Drivers’ Championship I will focus on this as well.”
#8 Jenson Button
Two McLaren teammates enter but only one will remain with the team in 2015: “It should be an exciting race, as everyone will be pushing to finish 2014 on a high. For the whole team our ambition is to fight hard but fair as always, and get the result that is deserving of all the hard work everyone has put in to increase our performance throughout the year.”
#9 Kevin Magnussen
And Magnussen is already downplaying his chances for this weekend’s battle: “Jenson’s result in the last race in Brazil was really positive for the whole team, and shows that our car’s performance is definitely improving. For me personally it was a tough weekend as the car definitely had potential, but we didn’t manage to get the most out of it on my side of the garage, so that’s something we’ll really be focusing on in Abu Dhabi.”
#10 Kimi Raikkonen
#11 Sergio Perez
Checo says that this race is all about compromise from setup to visor: “Everything in the lap requires some compromise – you need a set-up that works on fast corners, stop-start turns and the twisty final sectors. You also need to think carefully about your choice of helmet visor: you start the race with a low sun that requires a dark visor, and end the race in the night needing a clear one.”
#12 Nico Hulkenberg
The Hulk doesn’t do a good job of selling the Yas Marina Circuit: “The racing looks really cool on TV as the day turns into night and the track is pretty challenging for us in the car as well. The light is not really an issue once you are in the cockpit, but the layout makes it very easy to make mistakes and lose time, especially in qualifying. It’s very stop-start, with a few chicanes and tight corners, so it is very difficult to get a good rhythm.”
#13 Jean-Eric Vergne
#14 Daniil Kvyat
#15 Romain Grosjean
Lotus may be sitting in a comfortable 8th in the World Constructors’ Championship but they aren’t stopping looking for speed: “It’s quite a nice feeling to attack different races with different tyre strategies. When tyres play a bigger part in the race, it gives us a chance to get up amongst it, even if it is for limited periods. Perhaps we can use a different strategy that plays into our hands. The last time we used super soft tyres was in Singapore and I was really happy with the car then, so I’m hoping I’ll get a similar feeling from the car at Yas Marina.”
#16 Pastor Maldonado
Pastor is worried about getting the setup right in going from day to night. He’ll probably bin it before sunset so it doesn’t matter: “Although it is a reasonably new track on the calendar, the team has built up a lot of data from the five previous races there and various post-season testing sessions, so we’re used to the challenging set-up dilemma it poses. It’s a twilight race so it’s all about finding a balance between the hot daytime conditions and cooler temperatures when the sun sets.”
#17 Adrian Sutil
#18 Esteban Gutierrez
Also Appearing: Caterham
Not Appearing: Marussia
So Caterham funded their way to Abu Dhabi in the hope that Marussia wouldn’t show up. Currently, they sit in 11th in the Constructors’ Championship so they’re out of the good money. If they showed up and Marussia didn’t, the worst case scenario for the green team was 10th place and $50 million. On Wednesday, Marussia was reported to be making their way to Abu Dhabi but that had changed by the end of the night. So all Caterham has to do is take to the track and make a token effort to pick up an extra $40 million.
The issue right now is who will drive the cars. Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen rumours that Caterham could see the likes of Rubens Barrichello or Max Chilton running one or both cars this weekend. Chilton is currently contracted to Marussia though one wonders if missing two races violated some pay driver-ish contract. Apparently, Marcus Ericsson has terminated his contract with Caterham so don’t expect him in Abu Dhabi.
So let’s assume that both teams are going to be there for a token effort to stay eligible for money. That means they’re probably not worth ranking this time out.