2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

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After Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull both secured their fourth consecutive titles in India last weekend, it may appear that there is little to play for in the final three races of the season. However, the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship is particularly tight between Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus, a good deal of pride needs regaining at Williams and McLaren, and even Seb can still tie Alberto Ascari’s long-standing record of nine consecutive race wins should he clean-sweep the final three events. The year is far from over.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Talking Points

Lucky seven for Seb?

It’s a long running feature in our talking points. “Can Vettel extend his winning streak to X?”, then add one onto that number for the next race. Interestingly though, the pole-sitter in Abu Dhabi has only won the race on one occasion, and his retirement in 2011 and exclusion from qualifying in 2012 means that the German driver could be due a slice of luck at twilight on Sunday. With six wins on the bounce, it’s difficult to see anyone but the German driver taking to the top step of the podium.

Mercedes look to extend advantage

Having reclaimed second place in the constructors’ championship, Mercedes are now looking for the killer punch in their battle with Ferrari and Lotus. Both of their rivals are in hot pursuit but, judging by Nico Rosberg’s pace in India, the Silver Arrows are best-placed to win this battle. Then again, we said the same about Lotus last weekend…

McLaren building on Indian summer

Sergio Perez’s gutsy driver to fifth in last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix has eased the pressure on the Mexican driver as well as giving McLaren something to smile about after he equalled the team’s best result of the season. Therefore, should a race of attrition ensue in Abu Dhabi, the team could be celebrating once again as their stranglehold on P5 in the constructors’ tightens.

Sauber set sights on Force India

Despite failing to score in India, Sauber will be aiming to bounce back this weekend at a track that should suit them. The traction off corners and straight-line speed of the C32 worked wonders in Korea and Japan, and coming out of the long DRS zones both Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez should excel. Of course, with Force India just twenty-three points down the road, the Swiss team’s season could turn out to be highly fruitful.

One last chance for Caterham?

Ever since Jules Bianchi’s thirteenth-place finish in Malaysia back in March, Caterham have been playing catch-up in the constructors’, appearing to be relying on a race with few finishers to re-claim the position. Despite outclassing the Anglo-Russian team ever since the Bahrain Grand Prix, luck simply hasn’t been on Caterham’s side. With a fifty percent chance of a safety car this weekend, perhaps it marks one final shot at overthrowing Marussia?

Track: Yas Marina Circuit
Laps: 55
Corners: 21
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:40.279 (2009)
Tire Compounds: Soft (option); Medium (prime)
2012 Winner: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
2012 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 1:40.630
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:43.964
DRS Zones: T7 to T8; T10 to T11

Friday – Free Practice 1: 05:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 09:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 06:00am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 09:00am ET (LIVE on CNBC)
Sunday – Race: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN, pre-race show starts at 07:30am)

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.