Vettel heads Red Bull 1-2 in Abu Dhabi season finale

28595 1 thumbnail 750x550 page1 96864Vettel and Red Bull shine in Abu Dhabi to end ’09 in style; frustrated Hamilton forced to retire.

Sebastian Vettel ended the 2009 season in style with victory in the inaugural Abu Dhabi grand prix, while Mark Webber secured Red Bull’s third 1-2 finish of the season by fending off newly crowned world champion Jenson Button in a nail-biting final few laps under the city’s night sky.

Pre-race favourite Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire with a brake problem paving the way for Vettel to charge to his fourth win of the season.

Jenson Button came close to disrupting Red Bull’s party by hounding Mark Webber in the final few laps of the race as the Aussie struggled with his tyres. But some impressive racing from both drivers, and a staunch defence of his position on Webber’s part saw the pair hold station at the chequered flag.

The result sees Red Bull Racing end the season as the in-form team with three straight race wins, but the Milton Keynes based outfit will rue their lack of reliability in the first half of the season which compromised their title challenge against Brawn.

Rubens Barrichello was fourth in the sister Brawn car ahead of BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld.

Toyota stand-in Kamui Kobayashi impressed in his second race to finish in fifth place ahead of teammate Jarno Trulli. The Japanese driver made his one-stop strategy work to good effect by passing his new best friend Jenson Button after the Brawn driver made his first pit stop.

Toro Rosso rookie Sebastian Buemi picks up the final points paying position.

Race analysis:

Whether it was the thought of the impeding winter break, the absence of a title battle, or the fact that half of the drivers are still looking for a seat next year, Formula One’s first ever twilight grand prix was a relatively tame affair – the last few laps aside – when compared to the carnage of the opening few laps in Brazil a fortnight ago.

For a brief moment it looked as though Hamilton and his McLaren team, fittingly graced by the presence of Ron Dennis at the season finale, would finish the 2009 season as they had intended to start it: quick, reliable mightily dominant.

Then on Lap 21 of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix it became clear that they would finish the season exactly as they started it as poor reliability intervened to prevent the Hamilton-McLaren package undoing some of the damage that a year of frustration, poor pace, and missed opportunity has inflicted.

The raw underlying pace of the McLaren MP4-24 around the demanding new Yas Marina circuit, marking the team’s sizeable turnaround in performance, was of little consolation to Hamilton as he was instructed to tour into the pitlane with a suspected brake problem. A short justification and apology from team principal Martin Whitmarsh to his driver marked the end of a frustrating season for the Woking team.

That enabled Vettel – who in fairness to Red Bull had already leapfrogged Hamilton at the first round of pitstops after hounding the McLaren driver through the opening laps – to canter to the chequered flag ahead of Mark Webber, sealing the team’s third 1-2 finish of the season.

Vettel, who remained an outside contender for the title going into the Brazilian Grand Prix – and arguably could have clinched the championship with better reliability from his Red Bull car – said the result was the perfect way to finish the season.

“It was a fantastic race,” he said in the post-race press conference. “We had a very good launch, a good start. It was not enough to out-accelerate Lewis but it was close, I was surprised.”

“Then going on the long back straight he pushed the [KERS] button and that was it, he disappeared into the distance. I was able to stay close, we knew we were heavier but I was able to keep with him. There was a lot of pressure in the pitstops.

“After that he retired but it was a fantastic race. I had a gap to Jenson and Mark behind so I was able to pace myself, but the car was fantastic on both tyres. It was a pleasure to sit in the car tonight.

“To sum up the season, it is up and down. The second half we have been very strong, fourth 1-2 for Red Bull, so congratulation to the team. They have been pushing a lot, working a lot. It is a perfect way to finish the season on a high.”

Newly crowned world champion Jenson Button conceded that there was little he and Brawn could have done to stop Red Bull winning the race.

“I was struggling a bit with the prime tyre but I tried to make the best out of it,” he said. “After the second stop I found I had very good grip and had good initial turn in and that was why I was able to close down Mark.”

Speaking of his assault on Mark Webber in the closing laps, Button added: “I couldn’t make the move stick. I was very excited by that battle but Mark is a very difficult person to overtake. We were clean but on the edge. It’s disappointing not to get second place but I enjoyed the fight.

“Today was a bonus after winning title in Brazil, I enjoyed driving this weekend. After Brazil it would have been easy to say let’s enjoy ourselves and not worry about Abu Dhabi – but we did.

“We should be proud of what we achieved. But [Red Bull] had the legs on us so we could not challenge.”

Vettel meanwhile was quick to congratulate Button and Brawn for their achievement across the season.

“Obviously I think there was a misunderstanding in Brazil that I didn’t have the chance, so congratulations to Brawn and Button,” he said.

“After Brazil, coming here we knew we had a very, very strong package and the priority number one was to secure second in the drivers’ championship, and we succeeded. To do it with victory is the best possible result.”

“It would be very good to continue like that,” he said. “Now we face a long winter, especially for all us drivers, there’s long break with no testing. Back in England, back in the factory, the guys are pushing very hard. The cars do not change much until next year but you cannot refuel, so it is a bit unknown.

“This season was very special, I remember a couple of years back those two were driving and I was watching. Hopefully the next one will be as exciting as this one. I’m definitely looking forward.

“We had a very, very good season, some positive but some things we did wrong. It is not a shame, we just need to know and understand why that happened and come back next year.”

Abu Dhabi was Button’s opportunity to assert himself and demonstrate that he has what it takes to stand alongside the likes of Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen when the predicted McLaren-Ferrari line-ups are confirmed next year.

To that end, Button could have delivered more. Out-qualified by his teammate again and perhaps not aggressive enough against Webber in the final few laps, the man from Frome will have to up his game in 2010 when McLaren and Ferrari will no doubt close the performance gap.

Elsewhere, Kamui Kobayashi impressed in only his second race for Toyota with an auspicious passing move on Jenson Button on the back of a duel down the long back straight.

Nick Heidfeld may just retain his seat at BMW Sauber next year following his charge to fifth place, but doubt looms over Heikki Kovalainen. A five place grid penalty set him back but a rather unspectacular climb to eleventh place did little to get him noticed.

Ferrari struggled badly at the new Yas Marina circuit. Kimi Raikkonen who finished in twelfth place behind Kovalainen will no doubt be hoping to get that McLaren contracted sorted out sooner rather than later.

Renault’s miserable season was compounded with Alonso climbing to fourteenth place after getting knocked out of opening qualifying, while questions continue to be asked about the

Forced India seemed to take a step back in performance with Toni Liuzzi finishing in fifteenth place with Sutil ahead of his ex-teammate Giancarlo Fisichella in seventeenth.

Hamilton blitzes new Abu Dhabi circuit to claim pole

hamLewis lights up Abu Dhabi with searing pace and pole.

Lewis Hamilton blitzed the impressive new Yas Marina Circuit to take pole position for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand prix, smashing the best efforts of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber by over half of second as night descended on the city.

Marking the end of a season which has seen Hamilton unable to defend his title due to the shake-up caused by new regulations, the 24-year-old issued a stark reminder of the threat he and his McLaren team pose when the performance reset button is pressed, such as in the case of a new circuit like Abu Dhabi.

The McLaren driver, assisted to some extent by the advantage of KERS at this arena, dominated all three qualifying sessions before disposing of the Red Bull drivers in Q3 with a blistering pole lap.

Rubens Barrichello was fourth quickest for Brawn GP just ahead of newly crowned world champion Jenson Button.

The final qualifying knock out session played out under floodlights as night descended on the United Arab Emirates capital creating a spectacular atmosphere for the battle for pole.

The session started at 1700hrs and that gave the drivers further experience of racing at dusk ahead of what will be Formula One’s first twilight grand prix, which will start at dusk and finish in the dark under floodlights.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli laid down a benchmark time of 1.42.318 around the demanding 5.554 km circuit. Rubens Barrichello, who took an impressive pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, quickly bettered that time with a 1.41.952.

Lewis Hamilton, who dominated Q1 and Q2 thanks to the pace of his McLaren and the advantage of KERS on the long straights, made a mistake on his first final lap, but quickly put himself back at the top of the timesheets on a 1.41.773.

Red Bull came to the fore with late efforts from Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, the latter driver taking provisional pole on a 1.41.615.

But no one could match the pace of Hamilton who was on an even quicker lap. The Briton was the only driver to break into the 1.40s barrier clocking a 1:40.948 to take his fourth pole position of the season, and the seventeenth of his career.

“Like I always say it was never easy but definitely as fun as it looked,” Hamilton said afterwards. “The car has probably been best it has been all year. It seems to feel quite comfortable on this circuit.

“What they have done here is incredible and a it’s a pleasure to drive here. When you have a good car here it is a great drive.

“With that lap for sure we should have thought about going longer, but I don’t think we were too aggressive [on fuel]. That lap felt like it was getting better and better.”

He added: “Anything could have happened. Clearly we have been very competitive all weekend, and car has felt great. I didn’t have doubts in my mind about what we have done it. It was easy to make mistakes but fortunately I didn’t, so I’m happy with my lap.”

“We are always trying to improve other circuits and say kerbs should be good here, but honestly I think they have almost done a perfect job at this track with the layout,” he added.

“It’s really smooth, the kerbs are nice and in the right places. For racing it is very safe. There’s quite a few opportunities to overtake so should be a good race.”

Jarno Trulli was demoted to sixth place as the timing sheets sorted themselves out, ahead of the BMW Sauber drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld.

Nico Rosberg somehow managed to haul his Williams into the top ten to start in ninth place, despite the seeming handling difficulties of the FW31 around the ‘straight-and-brake’ Yas Marina circuit.

Toro Rosso rookie Sebastian Beumi rounds out the top ten.

It was a difficult session for Ferrari as both drivers struggled with the handling of the Ferrari F60 around the demanding 5.554 km circuit. The best Kimi Raikkonen could manage was eleventh, while Giancarlo Fisichella’s lacklustre run of form at the Maranello squad was further compounded when he was embarrassingly knocked out of Q1 after pacing slowest.

“A difficult situation,” Fisichella told BBC Sport. “In the second sector I was only a tenth slower than Kimi, it was the last sector where we lost most of the time.”

Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren was forced to settle for thirteenth after he stopped out on track during Q2 due to a mechanical problem.

Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima just scraped into Q2 with a quick lap at the end of the opening knock-out session, but the Japanese driver, who is under pressure to retain his seat with the Grove-based outfit next year – especially since the team will lose backing from Toyota – struggled to match Rosberg’s pace in Q2 and wound up fourteenth, ahead of Toro Rosso rookie Jaimie Alguersuari.

Giancarlo Fisichella’s lacklustre run of form at Ferrari as Felipe Massa’s replacement was further compounded when the Italian was embarrassingly knocked out of Q1 after pacing slowest.

“A difficult situation,” Fisichella told BBC Sport. “In the second sector I was only a tenth slower than Kimi, it was the last sector where we lost most of the time.”

There was disappointment in the Renualt garage as Fernando Alonso, who will be hoping to end his tenure with the French team on a high before joining Ferrari in 2010, was knocked out of Q1 due to late flying laps from Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima and Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi.

“It’s not been easy,” the double world champion told BBC Sport. “Nothing’s changed since practice. [We were] not quick in practice, not quick in qualifying. Hopefully we can make some places tomorrow.”

When asked if this was the kind of send-off he had hoped for, Alonso replied: “They know I have given 120% for the last seven years. This is only one race. We are not quick enough and couldn’t find the pace.”

The Spaniard will start Sunday’s race in sixteenth place ahead of the Force India drivers, Tonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil, who both failed to progress to Q2 despite appearing to show strong pace in Friday practice.

Romain Grosjean in the sister Renault also struggled with grip and could only manage nineteenth quickest after spinning on his final flying lap.

Qualifying standings:

1       Lewis Hamilton          McLaren         1:40.948
2       Sebastian Vettel        Red Bull        0:00.889
3       Mark Webber             Red Bull        0:01.000
4       Rubens Barrichello      Brawn           0:01.060
5       Jenson Button           Brawn           0:01.166
6       Jarno Trulli            Toyota          0:01.171
7       Robert Kubica           BMW             0:01.266
8       Nick Heidfeld           BMW             0:01.617
9       Nico Rosberg            Williams        0:01.857
10      Sebastien Buemi         Toro Rosso      0:01.987
11      Kimi Räikkönen          Ferrari         0:00.000
12      Kamui Kobayashi         Toyota          0:00.051
13      Heikki Kovalainen       McLaren         0:00.051
14      Kazuki Nakajima         Williams        0:00.422
15      Alguersuari Jaime       Toro Rosso      0:00.963
16      Fernando Alonso         Renault         0:00.941
17      Vitantanio Liuzzi       Force India     0:00.975
18      Adrian Sutil            Force India     0:01.137
19      Romain Grosjean         Renault         0:01.224
20      Giancarlo Fisichella    Force India     0:01.458

Abu Dhabi track guide with Fernando Alonso

abu-dhabi-yas-marina-circuit What are your first impressions of the new circuit in Abu Dhabi?
It looks like it will be quite a demanding circuit for the drivers as there are over twenty corners in the lap and some of them look very challenging. However, when you are looking at a map it’s difficult to really understand a circuit and it’s only when you get there and walk the circuit that you start to feel what it is really like.

How do you normally prepare for a new circuit?
We look at a lot of simulation data and I work very closely with the team to understand the demands of the track much more than I would do for a track that I already know. We will probably spend five times longer preparing for a new venue and the circuit walk becomes very important for me and the engineers.

Which corners have caught your attention?
I think turns 11, 12 and 13 look interesting. I remember when we first saw the map of the circuit it reminded me of the difficult turn ten chicane in Singapore. It looks like turns eight and 11 will be the two big braking zones and for sure there will be opportunities to overtake there.

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How long does it take you to learn a new track?
It doesn’t take long because we jump in the car knowing the circuit perfectly in our mind as we have studied the map. After three or four laps you realise the lines and the braking points so I would say five laps is enough to know the track pretty well. But it’s true that every lap you feel more confident and you learn more about the track and how to get the most from it. The final laps of the race are usually your best laps as you know the track so well by then.

The engineer’s perspective with Alan Permane

Tell us about the team’s technical preparations for a new circuit…
We usually begin our preparations about two months ahead of the race, which is when we receive a detailed map showing the layout and characteristics of the circuit. This gives us an idea of the set-up we will need in terms of the downforce levels and the demands on the brakes and the engine. We then feed the circuit map into our computers to create a virtual circuit where we can run simulations with a computer model of our car. This allows us to evaluate many different set-up options which can be easily changed to help us work out a good base set-up.

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Once we have arrived at the circuit and run the car in free practice, we will send the real circuit data back to the factory, which can be used to run more accurate simulations. The logged data from Friday practice can also be used on our chassis dynamics rig to explore the ride characteristics of the circuit and can reveal improvements to the damping or perhaps to the spring rates. Any suggestions from the factory for improving the set-up of the car usually come through by the end of Friday so that we can try them on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.

What are your first impressions of the Abu Dhabi circuit?
There are a couple of reasonably long straights, but it does look like it will be quite stop-start a bit like the street circuit in Valencia. In terms of downforce, it will be on the higher side, although we won’t run maximum downforce settings because of the long straights where straight-line speed will be important.

There are a lot of right-angled corners, but it’s difficult to predict the impact this will have on car set-up as it depends on the layout of the curbs. That’s one thing we will examine during our track walk. What we do know already is that the drivers will want a car that is biased towards traction as the circuit doesn’t have high-speed changes of direction, which would require a stiffer car set-up. So to aid good traction from the low-speed corners we will aim to give the drivers a softer rear end.

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In terms of braking, our simulations have shown it to be similar to Valencia and Melbourne so it’s by no means an easy circuit on the brakes, but it’s not as tough as Monza.

Which parts of the track look challenging to you?
I agree with Fernando that turns 11, 12 and 13 will be interesting and certainly worth a lot of lap-time. Drivers always enjoy the high-speed corners, but most of the gains can be found in these low-speed corners where you spend the most time. So, with this in mind, turns five, six and seven will also be a section of the lap where the car needs to work well so we can maximise the gains in lap-time.

Abu Dhabi circuit guide with Alonso

abu-dhabi-yas-marina-circuitFernando, what are your first impressions of the new circuit in Abu Dhabi?
It looks like it will be quite a demanding circuit for the drivers as there are over twenty corners in the lap and some of them look very challenging. However, when you are looking at a map it’s difficult to really understand a circuit and it’s only when you get there and walk the circuit that you start to feel what it is really like.

How do you normally prepare for a new circuit?
We look at a lot of simulation data and I work very closely with the team to understand the demands of the track much more than I would do for a track that I already know. We will probably spend five times longer preparing for a new venue and the circuit walk becomes very important for me and the engineers.

Which corners have caught your attention?
I think turns 11, 12 and 13 look interesting. I remember when we first saw the map of the circuit it reminded me of the difficult turn ten chicane in Singapore. It looks like turns eight and 11 will be the two big braking zones and for sure there will be opportunities to overtake there.

YM1 full

How long does it take you to learn a new track?
It doesn’t take long because we jump in the car knowing the circuit perfectly in our mind as we have studied the map. After three or four laps you realise the lines and the braking points so I would say five laps is enough to know the track pretty well. But it’s true that every lap you feel more confident and you learn more about the track and how to get the most from it. The final laps of the race are usually your best laps as you know the track so well by then.

The engineer’s perspective with Alan Permane

Alan, tell us about the team’s technical preparations for a new circuit…
We usually begin our preparations about two months ahead of the race, which is when we receive a detailed map showing the layout and characteristics of the circuit. This gives us an idea of the set-up we will need in terms of the downforce levels and the demands on the brakes and the engine. We then feed the circuit map into our computers to create a virtual circuit where we can run simulations with a computer model of our car. This allows us to evaluate many different set-up options which can be easily changed to help us work out a good base set-up.

YM2 full

Once we have arrived at the circuit and run the car in free practice, we will send the real circuit data back to the factory, which can be used to run more accurate simulations. The logged data from Friday practice can also be used on our chassis dynamics rig to explore the ride characteristics of the circuit and can reveal improvements to the damping or perhaps to the spring rates. Any suggestions from the factory for improving the set-up of the car usually come through by the end of Friday so that we can try them on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.

What are your first impressions of the Abu Dhabi circuit?
There are a couple of reasonably long straights, but it does look like it will be quite stop-start a bit like the street circuit in Valencia. In terms of downforce, it will be on the higher side, although we won’t run maximum downforce settings because of the long straights where straight-line speed will be important.

There are a lot of right-angled corners, but it’s difficult to predict the impact this will have on car set-up as it depends on the layout of the curbs. That’s one thing we will examine during our track walk. What we do know already is that the drivers will want a car that is biased towards traction as the circuit doesn’t have high-speed changes of direction, which would require a stiffer car set-up. So to aid good traction from the low-speed corners we will aim to give the drivers a softer rear end.

YM3 full

In terms of braking, our simulations have shown it to be similar to Valencia and Melbourne so it’s by no means an easy circuit on the brakes, but it’s not as tough as Monza.

Which parts of the track look challenging to you?
I agree with Fernando that turns 11, 12 and 13 will be interesting and certainly worth a lot of lap-time. Drivers always enjoy the high-speed corners, but most of the gains can be found in these low-speed corners where you spend the most time. So, with this in mind, turns five, six and seven will also be a section of the lap where the car needs to work well so we can maximise the gains in lap-time.

Alonso hoping to leave Renault in style

Fernando Alonso aims to give Renault a special send off at next week’s season finale in Abu Dhabi as he prepares for his final race with the French team before joining Ferrari in 2010.

“I would love to finish the season and my Renault career with a great result,” the double world champion said. “It will be an emotional race because I have enjoyed so many special memories with this team and I am leaving behind a lot of friends. Renault is one of the great teams in Formula One and I look forward to fighting with them on the track in the years ahead.”

Renault team principal Bob Bell, who was ushered into the post of team boss after Flavio Briatore was exiled from the sport for his involvment in the crash-gate saga, says Alonso will be missed the team.

“He’s made a huge contribution to the team, especially winning two world championships in 2005 and 2006 so he will be missed enormously,” Bell said. “It’s often said that he is the best driver on the grid and I wouldn’t disagree with that so we’re understandably sad to see the end of our very successful relationship.”

“But we’re also looking forward and we’re all delighted to be welcoming Robert Kubica to the team as I believe he will quickly show that he is of the same calibre as Fernando. He’s a strong team player, a great motivator and incredibly quick so we have plenty to look forward to as we enter a new era for the team.”

Alonso, who won both his world championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006, is also looking forward to the challenge posed by the stunning new Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

“I always enjoy the challenge of a new circuit and the track in Abu Dhabi looks very impressive. It will be a new experience for everyone so it’s important that we maximise all the sessions and learn as much as we can quickly to try and find an advantage.”

“I think the facility looks amazing and will be great for the people of Abu Dhabi. We went there a few years ago for the street demo and saw how much enthusiasm the fans have for Formula One.”

Hill confident Silverstone can secure British GP

Damon Hill says he is confident a deal can be struck with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to host the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010 after Donington Park missed another deadline to demonstrate it has the finance in place.

Simon Gillet s Donington Ventures company won a 17-year contract to host the British Grand Prix, but a catalogue of legal battles, missed deadlines and most significantly the absence of any sound financial backing to deliver a £100 million upgrade of the circuit has cast major doubt over the event.

Bernie Ecclestone s latest deadline for Donington to get the money in place was Monday midday, but he confirmed that this deadline has been missed.

He also backtracked on his previous comments at this year’s British Grand Prix in June – that he expected Silverstone to host the event should Donington fail to get a financial plan in place.

“This is business. We have offered them a deal,” Ecclestone told Saturday s Daily Express. “The contract they have is the contract we like. We are not prepared to charge less.

“Do we need a British Grand Prix? No.”

British Racing Drivers’ Club President Damon Hill said he is hopeful that Silverstone will step in to host the event, but he made it clear that the Northamptonshire track would not sign up at any price.

“I’m confident a deal can be worked out,” he told BBC Radio Northampton. “The contract can be of any combination of years, but it has to be affordable.”

“There’s a huge desire to get the deal done, but we’re not prepared to put [Silverstone] at risk financially.”

Abu Dhabi GP a sell-out, organisers say

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the stunning Yas Marina Circuit next Sunday is a sell-out, organisers have confirmed.

Around 50,000 tickets have been sold for the event, which will be Formula One first twilight Grand Prix, with the race starting around dusk at 1700 hours local time and finishing in the dark under floodlights.

“We’ve had an amazing response locally, nationally and internationally and every ticket has been sold,” confirmed Richard Cregan, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit.

“This will be an historic race of firsts: the first F1 race at Yas Marina Circuit; the first day into evening F1 race – with only one driver who will forever be recognised in F1 history as the winner of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“For all the fans attending the event, we aim to give them a truly memorable experience.”

Organisers are also offering an array of F1-related entertainment activities for residents in Abu Dhabi.

“This free programme ensures that everyone in Abu Dhabi is able to experience the excitement of the race as they watch it live at the city’s Corniche beach,” Cregan added.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

14-4517-yas-marina-hotel1The gloves are off: stunning new Abu Dhabi venue set to host epic F1 free-for-all.

The 2009 F1 World Championship may be a done deal, but next week’s inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the breathtaking new Yas Marina circuit is set to be every bit as significant as last week’s title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix, as just about every driver on the grid has a point to prove, a score to settle, or an employer to impress going into 2010.

Even newly crowned world champion Jenson Button will be under pressure to deliver. The 29-year-old will have to demonstrate he has it in him to stand his ground alongside the likes of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen when the predicted Ferrari-McLaren line-ups are confirmed for next year not to mention justify his demands for a salary increase.

He will have to prove, by going all-out for the race win, that his performances in the second half of the season genuinely have been due to him racing conservatively and protecting his championship lead, and not, as some have suggested, because he struggled with what was no longer the best handling car.

Elsewhere Raikkonen, Alonso, Kubica – and Rosberg too for that matter – will be looking to give their respective teams one final hurrah before leaving for bigger and better things in 2010. Although you have to wonder whether Kubica’s switch to Renault really is going to elevate him up the grid in 2010.

On the flipside of the coin Heikki Kovalainen, Nick Heidfeld, Jarno Trulli, and rookies Romain Grosjean and Kazuki Nakajima, will be desperately looking to keep their existing employers happy and hang onto their race seats next year.

Kovalainen in particular seems to be working against the grain with the rumours that Raikkonen on Rosberg will line up alongside Hamilton at McLaren – and he may find refuge at his former Renault team.

As for the new circuit the drivers will be going into the unknown. Abu Dhabi, which features an underground pit lane, will be Formula One racing s first twilight Grand Prix, with the race starting around dusk at 1700 hours local time and finishing in the dark under floodlights.

abu-dhabi-yas-marina-circuit

Ex-F1 star turned pundit David Coulthard is one of the few members in the F1 community to have driven the new Yas Marina Circuit.

“Having had the opportunity to drive the circuit, what struck me is that it s a two-stage track,” Coulthard told the official F1 Website, who got behind the wheel of a two-seater Grand Prix car at a recent media day. “The first half of the lap until corner nine is typical of the new type of track.

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Source: ArabianBusiness.com

“There s the fast section at the beginning from Turn One to the Turn Four tight hairpin with the grandstand literally overhead, giving great viewing for the spectators. The 1.2 kilometre back straight should give an opportunity for some slipstreaming and overtaking.

“The back section of the circuit has a real street circuit feel to it, where you come along the section that takes you to the hotel and then passes underneath it, via a series of 90 degree right-handers and left-handers before opening out to the end of the lap and a medium speed corner on to the start-finish straight.”

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Coulthard described the unusual pit lane – actually a tunnel under the circuit – as particularly challenging for the drivers as they enter and exit the pits and was similarly impressed with the high standard of the new venue s infrastructure.

“There are great facilities and air-conditioned garages which will make working conditions in the heat a little bit easier and also having an evening race will obviously take some of the heat out of what can be a very hot venue,” he added.

“I think the twilight aspect of the race will be more of a visual treat for the spectators and the TV audience, but I think for the drivers it will be absolutely fine, as there is enough overhead lighting to make it blend seamlessly from day into night, no problem,” commented Coulthard.

17 AbuDhabi EN RGB 72dpi

What they drivers say:

LEWIS HAMILTON: “We ve had a fantastic second half of the season, and it would be perfect to end the year with a win it would send us into the winter fully motivated and pumped up for the 2010 season. All the signs point to Abu Dhabi being another strong track for us there are plenty of slow corners leading onto long straights, where KERS will be very advantageous.

“Seeing as it s likely to be the last race for KERS, it would be fantastic to send it off with a perfect result that would be a very fitting farewell for all the engineers who have worked so hard to make the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes system the best in the business.”

ROBERT KUBICA: “I have not been to the Abu Dhabi circuit so far. As we do not have a simulator I only know the track from the Internet and from a couple of presentations. The track looks very interesting. The facilities and the buildings around the circuit especially seem to be outstanding. However, before having done the first laps on the track with a Formula One car, it is really difficult to judge the circuit itself. But of course I know this situation from the past.

In 2008 both Valencia and Singapore were new on the calendar. Fortunately I consider myself a driver who does not need a lot of track time to be on a good pace straight away. I guess that a lot of cars will be out on the track on Friday in order to understand the track and to learn as much as possible. I am really looking forward to going there. It will be my last race for this team, but I hope very much to see them on the grid again next year.”

YM3 full

NICK HEIDFELD: “I’m very pleased to be getting another taste of summer and will be flying out to Abu Dhabi a few days early with my family. I’m really excited about the new circuit. Everyone who’s been there already has described it as an incredible place. I think it’s always great to discover a new track. I haven’t found the lack of a simulator to be a disadvantage at other new circuits, and this way it’s even more exciting when you drive out of the garage for the first time.

“This will be a very special race for all of us in the team. So far I haven’t really had that feeling of saying goodbye. But that will change in Abu Dhabi for sure, and will probably be quite intense. I very much hope that the team is given a place on the grid for 2010 soon.”

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN: “I had a very strong race in Brazil and I m determined to rack up a points finish in Abu Dhabi to make sure we hold on to third position in the constructors championship. From what I ve seen of the track, it looks pretty good it s got a couple of fast corners at the start of the lap, but then there s a real low-speed, technical section towards the end.

“It still looks like it will be a tough track for overtaking, but the facilities look amazing totally world-class and I think the idea of a dusk race is very good for our sport. Singapore has set the standard very high with its night race, but Abu Dhabi looks like it will set new standards in Formula 1. I can t wait to get out there.”

Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi-thumb-450x358

Technical Insight with BMW Sauber’s Willy Rampf: “I always find it exciting to compete at a new venue. The circuit in Abu Dhabi has a whole series of predominantly slow and medium-speed corners, but also two very long straights. Since the track is also very wide, we can probably look forward to a lot of overtaking moves.

“Of course, we have carried out the usual simulations, but one significant unknown is how the tyres will respond on the new asphalt. We will only discover the answer to this question during the course of the weekend. The ambient temperatures are sure to play a major role. Although the race is not scheduled to start until 5.00 pm, we can still expect the outside air temperature to be well over 30 degrees Celsius.

“Brazil was the first race in which we’ve been able to fully exploit the potential of the car since the extensive package of modifications were introduced in Singapore, and we’re also expecting to have a strong race in Abu Dhabi. We’ll be pulling out all the stops to finish the season on a positive note.”

Brawn under pressure to accept Button’s salary demands

Brawn GP are under growing pressure to accept Jenson Button’s demands for a higher salary to stay at the team next year after Bernie Ecclestone added his weight to the row by accusing the team of arrogance.

Button insists he wants to stay at the Brackley based team in 2010 after winning the world championship in last week’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

But according to reports, Button’s management and the Brawn team are at loggerheads in the negotiations to renew the Briton’s contract, with Button demanding a return to his £8 million salary – he agreed to take a cut to £3 million to drive for the team this year after Honda pulled out of the sport at the beginning of the year.

“They are being a little bit arrogant considering how long they have been in Formula One,” F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone told the Mirror.”They should remember they have only been in the sport 10 minutes really.”

Button’s manager Richard Goddard insists that the row could have been resolved several weeks ago.

“Brawn could have sorted Jenson out weeks ago and none of this would be going on,” Goddard told BBC Sport.

“We’ve been trying to agree terms with them. He’s made it clear he wants to stay.

“Had they agreed a contract there would be no speculation, which won’t die until Brawn offer him new terms.”

In a warning shot to Brawn, Goddard added: “A lot of quality seats may still be available, so it’s down to Brawn to make us an offer.”

Todt hopeful F1 will improve

Newly elected FIA President Jean Todt is confident that Formula One will recover from the spate of scandals and controversies that have damaged the sport’s reputation in recent years.

Todt, widely perceived to be part of Formula One’s ‘old order’ and the preferred candidate of choice by outgoing president Max Mosley, crushed Ari Vatanen in Friday’s election by securing almost 75% of the vote amongst member clubs.

Speaking in a news conference after the election he told reporters: “I like action, I like to make things go forward and I am really happy to see that so many countries chose me,” he told Reuters. “But everything is yet to be done, in cooperation with all the clubs, to unify the FIA.

“The day the election is over, everybody must share the same goals including those who did not support me. I am not closing the door to anybody.

“I disagree with those who say everything should be changed. During the campaign, I spoke about constructive change and adaptation to the fact that things are different from what they were 10 years ago.

“We are facing a new crucial era for cars, the environment and global warming. And it has strong implications for motor racing.

“It is true to say that over the years, and not only the last two, a lot of problems have arisen but F1 remains one of the major sports.

“All the controversies have opened the eyes of people involved in this business and I am optimistic that things will improve.”