Ferrari previews F1 finale
Despite a difficult qualifying which left Fernando Alonso down on the third row of the grid in fifth place, the Spaniard produced another solid performance in Brazil on Sunday, to do what he has always said was required if he is to win the Drivers’ championship and finished on the podium in third place. He has also been proved right in the statement he has stuck with for almost half a season now, namely that the maths would only be done at the very final race in Abu Dhabi. Now, just seven days on from the Sao Paolo race, that time has come and every member of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro knows what it must do.
“We must do the maximum we can,” said Team Principal Stefano Domenicali before leaving Brazil. “It’s clear that at this point we still haven’t achieved the most difficult part of all but we will do everything that we can until the very end.”
Clearly, with only this final round in Abu Dhabi remaining, the maths that Fernando is so keen on are now simpler than ever, as a second place for the Spaniard on Sunday, whoever wins the race, will be enough to bring the Drivers’ crown to Maranello.
“What is clear is that, because we are leading, the others have to do more than us,” reckoned Domenicali. “If we end up in the middle of the two Red Bulls it’s clear that we will achieve the result we need. But as always, the key is to concentrate on our own efforts throughout the weekend and not worry about what the others are doing.”
Last year in Abu Dhabi the Red Bulls were the dominant force, although by then, with no chance of taking the two titles which had already been assigned to the Brawn team and their driver Jenson Button, the Scuderia had ceased development on the 2009 car.
“This time, clearly we have continued our development, so I’m convinced we’ll be in there fighting,” said Domenicali. “But let’s not forget that Red Bull has won a lot this year and taken many pole positions and has already won the constructors championship. That proves they’ve worked better than anyone and they’ve made the quickest and most competitive car. But we are still there ready to fight at the last race for the drivers’ championship.”
Indeed the Scuderia will be keen to shine this weekend, given that it has strong links with this part of the world, through its partnership with companies such as Mubadala and Etihad, while Yas Island is also home to the world’s very first Ferrari theme park. Last year, it was very much still a building site, but now the spectacular attraction is ready for business.
Last year’s inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was not a particularly easy weekend for the Scuderia, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing down in twelfth place while Giancarlo Fisichella was sixteenth. Felipe Massa will be making his debut here this year, as he missed the race in 2009, recuperating from his Budapest accident, although he was at the Yas Marina circuit as a spectator.
The 5.554 kilometer circuit is certainly a spectacular venue and while Singapore can claim to host the sport’s only night race, Abu Dhabi is home to Formula 1’s only day-to-night race. The lights above the grid go out at 17h00 local time and as darkness falls around forty five minutes later, the artificial floodlights come on to illuminate the track.
The circuit has several unique features, with the track passing underneath a hotel, while the pit lane exit is in a tunnel. Last year’s race marked the end of an era in a couple of respects, as it was the final event to feature refuelling: Jarno Trulli had the “honor” of being the last driver to make an F1 refuelling stop when he came in on lap 42 of the 55 lap race and Abu Dhabi was also the final event to use the old scoring system, with just 10 points allocated to the winner.
The 2009 edition of this race also brought the curtain down on the season, but it was only the seventeenth round of the championship, whereas this year’s second ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the nineteenth time the twenty four cars have done battle. It has been a long and demanding season for everyone and this final leg has been particularly busy. The long trip from Brazil to the Middle East means that teams will have less time than usual to get set-up and ready for the first practice session on Friday.
However, the facilities and working conditions – apart from the heat – are excellent in what is without doubt the most modern of any circuit in the world today. Those modern facilities will be much appreciated as the Yas Marina circuit will be home to the teams for a further week after the Grand Prix.
The following Tuesday and Wednesday will see a “Young Driver Test Session” during which Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s F10 will be driven by Jules Bianchi, the French youngster who is a student of the Ferrari Driver Academy and competed in GP2 this year.
Then, on Friday and Saturday, it will be time for the teams to have their first experience of running on tires provided by Pirelli, who will be the sport’s sole tire supplier as from the start of 2011, as Bridgestone leaves Formula 1 after providing invaluable service for the past thirteen years. So Abu Dhabi not only represents the final showdown of the 2010 season, it is also the starting point for the 2011 championship.