2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

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ABU DHABI – 2014 has been a difficult yet delightful year for Formula 1, meeting both triumph and disaster across the course of the season. The new regulations and engines may have divided opinion, but the on-track racing has been sensational.

Mercedes has been the dominant force in 2014, and the intra-team fight for the world championship is one that will go down in the history books. Double points aside, the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has been an entertaining and intense one, spilling over at Spa when the two made contact.

All may have since been patched up between the duo, but the final battle will take place on track this weekend as the the 2014 championship is settled once and for all. With double points on offer for this weekend’s race, Rosberg’s 17 point deficit is not so daunting. A win will see the pressure be piled on Hamilton, who could only finish second to win the title if his teammate is victorious under the lights in Abu Dhabi.

As the only day/night race of the season, proceedings will kick off on Sunday at 5pm local time just as the sun begins to set. Come the checkered flag though, night will have fallen, with floodlights and the exuberant Viceroy Hotel lighting up the Yas Marina Circuit.

It has been an extraordinary battle for the championship, and will undoubtedly join the likes of Hunt versus Lauda and Schumacher versus Hill in the history books. But who will take the starring role in Abu Dhabi this weekend and be crowned world champion?

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Talking Points

The Final Showdown

Dubbed the ‘desert duel’ or the ‘showdown at sundown’, the final fight between Hamilton and Rosberg promises to be an entertaining and exhilarating one. Hamilton may only need to finish second to be champion, but winning the title in style by taking a second win in Abu Dhabi will be his aim. Lewis is not a man who does anything by halves, nor does he do it the easy way – as we have seen this season. This does present his best chance yet of winning the title, though, and he will be doing everything he can to follow up on his win in 2008 and becoming world champion for a second time.

As for Rosberg, all he can do is win. He mentioned in Brazil that his return to form might be ‘too little, too late’, and it is true. A win in Abu Dhabi won’t be enough if Hamilton finishes second, even with double points on offer. He soaked up the pressure in Brazil to claim a brilliant win – a repeat performance is all he can do this weekend, and then pray that someone can beat Lewis to second place at the flag.

This has been a classic fight for the championship – let us hope that it serves up a classic finish to cap it all off.

Double Trouble

Ever since the FIA announced last December that it would be awarding double points for the final race of the 2014 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been anticipated with bated breath and concern. What if double points does decide the title? Well, if Hamilton wins, it won’t have. If Rosberg does, it could. Under normal circumstances, Hamilton would need just eight points – a top six finish – to be sure of the title. Instead, he must finish in the top two. It’s a great deal of added pressure for the Briton.

Of course, double points are not just awarded for the championship protagonists. The race for fourth in the drivers’ standings will be settled between Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso this weekend, as will the battle for P5 in the constructors’ between McLaren and Force India. With double points on the table, anything could happen.

The Return of Caterham

After two races away, Caterham returns for this weekend’s grand prix in Abu Dhabi thanks to fresh investment apparently stimulated by the crowdfunding campaign that was launched. Although this may prove to be the last we see of the team, it does give the operation’s chances of racing in 2015 a huge boost, largely thanks to the financial windfall that is on the cards thanks to Marussia’s recent demise.

Marussia did come close to making a comeback, apparently, only for 11th-hour plans to collapse, meaning that the team will not be racing in Abu Dhabi. The “Manor F1” entry for 2015 does still remain, but this is all. Time will tell on what the future holds for the backmarkers, but this weekend at Yas Marina, it will only be Caterham who is racing.

The team has today confirmed that Will Stevens will be racing alongside Kamui Kobayashi in Abu Dhabi.

One Last Time

As my MST colleague Tony DiZinno wrote yesterday, this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi marks a number of ‘lasts’ within the F1 community. Renault’s 20-season association with Enstone comes to an end on Sunday as Lotus switches to Mercedes power for 2015. Mercedes’ own partnership with McLaren also ends ahead of the team’s switch to Honda engines, with the first run of the car already taking place at Silverstone last week. Quite whether this will be Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen’s last race for McLaren remains to be seen.

Today’s big news is that Sebastian Vettel has been confirmed as a Ferrari driver for the 2015 season, partnering Kimi Raikkonen. Fernando Alonso will leave after five years at Maranello, apparently bound for McLaren. For both drivers though, this will draw the curtain on their eras with their respective teams.

Forza Jules

Walking into the circuit on Wednesday, the F1 paddock was greeted by a giant sign reading “Tous Avec Jules” in support of Jules Bianchi following his accident at Suzuka in Japan. Following this yesterday evening, we heard the encouraging news that the Frenchman is now back in his native Nice and no longer in an artificial coma.

There is still a long road ahead for Bianchi, so we continue to send all of our support and prayers to him and his family. As intense as the championship battle may be, the big news this weekend will be Jules – it’s the note we wanted the 2014 season to end on.

Tous avec toi, Jules.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Yas Marina Circuit
Laps: 55
Corners: 21
Lap Record: Sebsatian Vettel 1:40.279 (2009)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Soft (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:39.957
2013 Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:43.434
DRS Zones: T7 to T8; T10 to T11

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4a ET 11/21
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8a ET 11/21
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5a ET 11/22
Qualifying: NBCSN 8a ET 11/22
Race: NBCSN 7a ET 11/23