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Vettel and McLarens vie for Abu Dhabi spoils
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Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Nov 2012   |  4:44 pm GMT  |  62 comments

This weekend looks like being a fight between the championship leader Sebastian Vettel and the two McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, with Vettel and Hamilton in particular squaring up for a fight for victory.

Vettel was faster on the soft tyres in FP2, after Hamilton had set the pace on medium tyres in FP1. Last weekend in India we saw the Red Bull faster in the opening stint of the race on the soft tyres but giving something up to the McLarens and Ferraris on the hard tyre. It will be interesting to see whether that pattern repeats this weekend.

This afternoon the long run pace of the top three teams on the soft tyres was comparable, as in India on Friday, but this turned out to be deceptive in India, so some caution is needed.

Qualifying will hold the key as Abu Dhabi is a tough track on which to pass and Red Bull has had a qualifying advantage since it perfected its double DRS system.

But Hamilton has been on the front row in Abu Dhabi at each of the three races and has a very strong record on the track, as does Vettel, who clinched his 2010 world title with a win on the circuit.

Ferrari brought a new wing among other updates but Fernando Alonso ended the day 0.8s off the Red Bull. In qualifying last weekend he was 0.5s behind, so there is more to come from the updated Ferrari.

Vettel said, “Overall we got a good lap on the soft tyres, but in general pace the McLaren’s were quick and seem competitive, so they’re the ones we need to look out for and beat. We need to improve the car overnight to qualify as high as we can tomorrow.”

This is a track where Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber has always struggled so there is a clear opportunity for a front row start for Hamilton, who has nothing to lose at the start on Sunday as he is out of the championship race. Webber suffered another KERS problem, following on from the one he had in India last weekend.

[More to come]

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX, Yas Marina Circuit, Free Practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m41.751 33
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m41.919s + 0.168 33
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m42.412s + 0.661 35
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m42.466s + 0.715 21
5. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m42.500s + 0.749 33
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m42.532s + 0.781 27
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m42.587s + 0.836 30
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m42.823s + 1.072 32
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m42.998s + 1.247 36
10. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m43.106s + 1.355 35
11. Bruno Senna Williams 1m43.191s + 1.440 33
12. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m43.200s + 1.449 35
13. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m43.255s + 1.504 33
14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m43.267s + 1.516 31
15. Paul di Resta Force India 1m43.578s + 1.827 33
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m43.689s + 1.938 31
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m44.260s + 2.509 26
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m45.073s + 3.322 18
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m45.245s + 3.494 35
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m45.782s + 4.031 32
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m46.589s + 4.838 34
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m46.671s + 4.920 30
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m46.707s + 4.956 25
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m47.406s + 5.655 34

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62 Comments
  1. McLaren78 says:

    James, I would really appreciate an article on the new 2013 fees, it seems quite absurd and I can see pay drivers comprising most of the grid in the near future if it stays like that.

    1. Luke Potter says:

      The only teams that would take pay drivers are the ones who are lower down the grid and the increase is not nearly as significant for them. $845,000 is what the entry fee would be for 69 points in the previous season vs. $400,000 this year (ref: Autosport).

      That is of course double the current rate and seems a lot of money to you and I, but a few hundred thousand dollars would not be a massive difference even for the smaller teams, especially as the new fee includes services like weather forecasting which they had to pay for separately before (ref: Autosport).

      I take your point though that any increase in costs naturally increases the likelihood of teams taking on pay drivers.

  2. Robert Gunning says:

    I think Alonso had difficulty in getting a clean single lap in, as I noticed he was impeded on his final fast run. Although we do not know the fuel loads, McLaren and Ferrari appeared to be slightly faster than the Red Bull in race trim. Let us hope that Ferrari can find their single lap pace, in order for the championship to stay alive.

  3. DanielH says:

    Lewis Hamilton isn’t out of the championship just yet.

    There is 75 points up for grabs and he is 75 points behind Vettel.

    If he won the next three races (and Vettel scored none, which ALO, WEB, RAI scoring not much) he’d have six race wins to Vettel’s four so he’d be champion.

    1. Jose says:

      Yeah, very realistic scenario.

    2. Afonso Ronda says:

      …and Vettel scored none… That’s a big IF I am afraid.

    3. grat says:

      Mathematically, he’s not out– in reality, he’s out.

      I think he’s got a decent chance in Abu Dhabi (where he’s always run well) and in Austin. For whatever reason, Hamilton doesn’t do well at Brazil.

      And the chances of Vettel not scoring any points in three races are probably about the same as Schumacher winning all three races– it’s not impossible, but it’s highly improbable.

  4. Pman says:

    Sorry FA, Ferrari failed you again.
    Damn Ferrari, I loved you through Schumacher, Raikonnen and Massa. I may have even shed a tear watching the Brazilian GP in 2008. Now I think I need to find a new team to support.
    If you can’t deliver FA a title then it’s your fault Ferrari.

    1. Jose says:

      Took a while for Schumi to win. Ferrari and FA are improving the team, so sooner or later…

    2. AlexD says:

      If I follow your logic correctly, then it should be easy for you to pick the next team…should be Red Bull.

  5. Davexxx says:

    James, on a separate issue, interesting that Mark Webber is calling for tighter drugs checks in F1. On the grounds that ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ perhaps this hints that some drivers do take drugs?? Although I agree with your previous comment that drugs can’t be such a big F1 problem since they won’t make a driver faster! I’ll assume then you haven’t heard of any drivers/drugs stories?

    1. Jose says:

      Juan Pablo Montoya used some kind of painkiller for his neck on the circuits that run anticlockwise.
      Perhaps, maybe other things that improve focus, reflexes and stuff. They only need to clarify things, at the end, the line between doping and sports medicine it’s a list of banned substances.
      Luckily for F1, here there is a lot of money and interests, so it will be quite and nice. Look what they are doing with cycling.

      1. I agree with these comments

        I have always been concerned about drugs in F1 – mainly because you never hear about the testing.

        I do note that Anthony West was caught in Moto 2 last week – but the only whisper I have ever heard was some accusations from an ex Ferrari doctor many years ago

        I do think that drugs would be an advantage in F1 given how fit the drivers need to be and also how much they need to concentrate

    2. SP says:

      Hmmm, maybe they should look into the effects Taurine has on a driver ;)

      1. RedBS says:

        It gives you wings apparently

    3. Denise says:

      I’m sure I remember something about Rubens Barichello being drug tested a few years ago. He mentioned something in a tweet….. I would have thought it was common practice.

  6. Kit says:

    In normal circumstances, a chariot will have a human passenger with a horse pulling it. It looks like the horse is the passenger now, with the human trying his darndest to pull it to the front pack.

  7. Glennb says:

    James. By chance did you get to see the Aussie V8′s today? That’s how a real fire-breathing V8 should sound ;)

  8. Landon says:

    I just hope that Hamilton doesn’t do something characteristically stupid on the start and take out a championship contender.

    1. ian says:

      Provide some evidence for your wild assertion.

      1. Miha Bevc says:

        Running into back of Raikkonen’s Ferrari in Canada :)

      2. 69bhp says:

        That was 4 years ago and wasn’t at the start of the race.

    2. KJ says:

      If you do not have anything worthwhile to contribute, you should not make unsubstantiated comments like this

      1. Davexxx says:

        I think Miha Bevc just substantiated it! ;-)

      2. KJ says:

        Are you honestly saying that was at the start of the race. If that is a stupid characteristic of Hamilton and he keeps taking out a championship contender on a regular basis, then you MUST BE RIGHT. Personally I prefer to read more objective posts

    3. Wade Parmino says:

      So long as its not Alonso! :D

      1. Jake says:

        He did say a championship contender so Alonso is safe :-)

  9. Dutch johnny says:

    A good fight on prospect for the rest off the weekend i think. My money is on hamilton, he’s always good around here. A little bit off-topic but for all the fans how love the history of f1 and racing in general you should watch this:

    http://www.motorsportretro.com/2012/04/interview-james-allen/

    It has an excellent collection with photographs and stories about racing in the past. Even james has an interview there!

    1. Miha Bevc says:

      James, nice interview and great reading. It’s fun to read you on the other side of the story.
      And I couldn’t agree more with your view on Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Button…

      1. Snowy says:

        Have to disagree with JA’s pick for the greatest ever though, Senna – too many flaws or questionable character traits.
        The greatest ever – Jim Clark. Genius driver and a gentleman.

    2. JF says:

      I agree, I would bet on Vettel for pole by a small margin over Hamilton, but I think Hamilton will take the race. I think Hamiton would have had the last race as well if the tires were not so stable, may have been able to capitalize on better pace on the hard tires. The interesting part will be how Alonso does, would like to see he and Vettel really go at it, even if for second.

  10. AlexD says:

    I really hope that Alonso will win if not year…than maybe next or 2 years from now.

    1. Jose says:

      It will get there, just a matter of time. They are building a team, it takes some time. Just like Shumi.

  11. BWLF44 says:

    Not sure about the role of Lotus next Sunday, could be the race of kimi?
    In the other hand, I´d like to see the Maccas in front the bulls, and the prancing horse between, but I think I´m dreaming…

  12. krischar says:

    This is not looking good for ferrari

    James any idea as to why ferrari are finding it difficult to improve one lap pace despite bringing updates every race weekend from australia to abu dhabi ?

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s tough against the DDRS rear wing on the RBR car. That’s something only they have got working

      1. Erik says:

        WI’ll it be banned next year, spirit of the rules and all that?

      2. GideanYates says:

        As far as I’ve read the RB DDRS wing won’t comply with 2013 rules….no secondary benefit from DRS is allowed.

      3. Anil says:

        It is banned next year..

      4. Davexxx says:

        I think it’s great fun (for us F1 fans), that (poor) Red Bull keep coming up with these improvements, but then have them banned the next year! I only hope this season doesn’t end on a sour note, such as discovering Red Bull have been using something that’s against the rules.

  13. Horno says:

    Ferrari is rather optimistic about their updates, so lets wait and see tomorrow!

    Also Red Bull made complaints about the possible use of a sort of metal the reacts on heat and can control the cooling slots of the brake disc’s..

    I was always wondering if they use this sort of ‘memory metal’ in the F1.. But this answers my question!
    Clever idea!

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      Sounds like the stuff the T-1000 is made from. ;)

  14. Andrew Jarman says:

    Hi James – this line from your article made me think:”Qualifying will hold the key as Abu Dhabi is a tough track on which to pass”.
    I know Formula 1 has suffered with the same problem for years and I can perfectly accept the fact that somewhere like Monaco will never change but if even the new tracks are designed in such a way that it’s difficult to pass it seems that someone’s doing something wrong. Could a simple answer be to broaden the tracks considerably, and especially the corners, so there is not only one fast line?

    1. JF says:

      I agree with the stance that it should be hard to pass in F1 and that it should be relatively rare (compared to NASCAR for example). The problem right now in my view is that passing is either too easy (DRS) or almost impossible (no DRS) unless the cars are on opposite ends of the grid in terms of performance. How to fix it? I don’t really know, seems a very fine line between too much and too little.

    2. grat says:

      Austin seems to have some decent overtaking possibilities, but Yas Marina, for instance, seems to have too much stop/start. Unless you and the driver ahead reach the corner at the same instant, they’re on the accelerator before you’re off the brake, and there’s simply no way around them without DRS.

  15. Miha Bevc says:

    Everybody speaks about boring end of the season, but I think the championship battle is building up very nice. Now we have the McLaren factor. If they beat Red Bull’s they help Alonso, if they finish behind Vettel and in front of Alonso, they help Vettel. I think Hamilton would like to help Alonso though. And himself of course (another win in the stats).

  16. Dufus says:

    Webber had “another” Kers issue.
    Why disnt they fix that after the previous issue in India ?

  17. Rob Newman says:

    McLarens looks perfectly balanced and will be the car to beat. They were fantastic on the harder compound. Good to see both Kimi and Grojsean are up there. Hope they can qualify well tomorrow and do a good job on race day.

  18. Stone the crows says:

    Wonder what the fuel loads were for the lowest times?

  19. Chromatic says:

    Last Sunday morning the title fight looked to be done and dusted, but by the end of the race Alonso had clawed back more than was hoped for. I expect the same again.

    BTW James, If I’m right, last year there were 60 or 70 overtakes, as I recall, that’s a lot for a track where passing is difficult…

  20. simon says:

    Hi James,
    I’m just wondering how you managed to factor in Button in your headline?
    Didn’t he finish up over half a second off vettel and his teammate Hamilton, whilst earlier in the preceedingswas was over a second slower at comparative running times, tyres, and fuel loads.
    James me thinks you have been keeping to close a company with that false prophet Brudle!We all know MB worships the ground Button walks upon!!!

    1. Steve Pritchard says:

      One lap does not equal all the laps. Did you watch any of the practices and see the long run pace?

      1. simon says:

        Yes I did. And i can’t recall seeing any foll load data being given.
        With everything being equal, I can’t recall Button having the better of Hamilton in either qualifying or race trim. Buttons only win this year was to a large part thanks to a SC, where LH was actually leading.
        Again Buttons only qualy success over Hamilton was due to updgraded rear wing.

    2. Peter C says:

      Look at your watch. Work out half a second, if you don’t have a digital watch did you see the second hand move?

      Half a second slower………my God, Button must be a crap driver.

      1. simon says:

        Yeah_I think he is.
        Half second equates to multiple millons of pounds of investment for a top F1 team seeking that kind of advantage in time.
        Next year without the benchmark that is Hamilton, we will see mclarens decline. Which I will be very saddened to see…
        PS. Lewis up by 0.7 in qualifying…Need I say more?

      2. Peter C says:

        A true motor sport enthusiast. Got it in for a driver, everybody has to know about it.

        Anyone else you hate?

  21. Vinola says:

    “This weekend looks like being a fight between the championship leader Sebastian Vettel and the two McLaren drivers”

    lol..4 tenths slower P1, 5 tenths slower P2; but Button is in the “fight” for pole as he has been all year!

    I’d eat my cap if he’s within 5 tenths of his teammate tomorrow AND he didn’t complain of “balance” issues.

    1. F1addicted says:

      Don’t be nasty, you’ll make Whitmarsh cry.

      “Both drivers did brilliantly”

      1. Vinola says:

        Funny.
        Haven’t seen JB so dejected post qualifying.
        We’d never know how good next year’s McLaren is with Lewis’s absence.

  22. Dufus says:

    +1
    A little bromance maybe :)

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