Detailed review of the weekend down below:
Practice Session, FP1:
Barely anytime for teams to settle in, it is race weekend mode again. After a chaos filled India trip, I believe Abu Dhabi is like a relaxing weekend for the teams with little less hustle & bustle. It seems Grosjean has really find some form here as he topped the session with Hamilton at P2 and Vettel at P3. It was a good start from SFI indeed following a great home GP for the team as di Resta ended P7 while James ended a good P14 sitting in for Sutil. It sure looks like James is now getting into the groove nicely.
It was back to business so to speak for Red Bull’s in the second session which was more important session as Qualifying was to happen under lights in cooler temperatures. Vettel led the pack with Webber at P2 and Hamilton at P3. A bit busy session for the SFI team in there as they suffered some issues on di Resta’s car which was later on confirmed to do with brakes. They fixed it quickly as he ended P13 while Sutil ended P15, he was having a difficult time with minor offs thrice. He was facing balance issues in the car.
No real change at the top order in the final session either as Red Bull kept their cool to lead the pack. Vettel topped yet another session with Webber behind & Hamilton ending as best of the rest. A slightly mixed session for SFI in the hot conditions as di Resta ended at P12 which was very much in line of the team’s expectation. Sutil on the other hand struggled all through as he complained on the radio to end at P17, real tough time to find the right the balance on his car.
All in the expected lines for the pole battle as Red Bull were clear favourites to lead the pack. The most notable challengers were always going to be Mercedes & Lotus. Ferrari were off pace as they had another troubled weekend. After a great India weekend, SFI started with a mixed feeling. Clearly getting into Q3 was the aim but it was to be difficult for sure. But it was certain that the team were banking on race pace rather than qualifying pace.
Going from light to dark is always tricky but really good viewing on TV. The track sets in with artificial lights as the session progresses. Q1 saw lot of changes in time as the soft tyres on the fast cars brought down the time significantly. Hamilton’s late surge got him P1 with Massa at P2 & Kimi at P3. It was a mix session for SFI as di Resta was safely through to Q2 but Sutil was out of the session as he only managed to clock 18th fastest time. The team did brought some changes in his car but that didn’t work enough to get him through to the Q2 session.
The second session saw a real disappointment specially in the Ferrari camp. After a no point finish in India, Alonso failed to get through to Q3 in the end. Rosberg led the pack with teammate Hamilton and Webber behind. This session also ended the SFI challenge as di Resta qualified P12 in the end. He did a pretty good job there clocking some good lap times, very close to get into Q3. He did to what was on expected lines of the team.
Final session, fully under the magnificent lights at Yas Marina. The cars were shining under the lights as Webber stormed to pole position after a perfect & flawless lap from the Aussie. Champion Vettel completed the Red Bull 1-2 as he admitted about making a mistake in T1. Rosberg completed the top 3 while his teammate couldn’t improve on his time after spinning in the last sector. Kimi qualified well at P5 but the car failing it’s floor test meant he was DSQ and would start from behind.
Everything went normal during qualifying as Red Bull took pole with Webber this time. Mercedes & Lotus did put up some fight and Ferrari were languishing behind. A good mixture of session for SFI, both stand to gain one position as di Resta starts P11 & Sutil P17. With an aggressive & out of box strategy, points are possible for the team. Their sole aim to beat Hulkenberg & Sauber from getting good haul of points.
All in readiness for the race as it was about time for sunset and the uniqueness of the event take full advantage. The only race to start in daylight and finish under lights, it sure is a treat for the eyes to watch the cars under lights, shining ever so brightly. The only thing which we awaited is whether Webber can get a good start but he didn’t get that start in the end as Vettel took a comfortable lead from Rosberg. Field behind was bunched up as Hulkeberg rose some places while further back of the pack we saw Kimi retire before reaching the second corner even. Both the SFI made a good start as di Resta was up to P10 while Sutil up to P13 by the end of lap 1.
Vettel was far away from the field as he took a massive lead of over a pit stop at the front. Behind him his teammate Webber got to P2 after the 20th lap giving the team a 1-2 as Rosberg & Grosjean was behind Webber aiming to beat the Red Bulls. Hamilton, Alonso, Massa were always in lower half of the top 10 chasing the one stop pack of cars. The midfield pack was headed by SFI as McLaren chased them while Sauber, STR were having troubles of their own.
As the race progressed, it became certain that both the SFI were on the same strategy of one stop but having started on different compounds. Both made good progress as others made their pit stops ahead. At one stage di Resta was running as high as P3 while Sutil was at P5 but after first round of pit stops for all the others except the two SFI’s, they were well positioned inside the points table with di Resta at P5 & Sutil at P8. Both did a great job there running a good long stint without any pressure of tyres finishing off, I think they were managing the load well there. Sutil got a scare when he was under investigation for gaining advantage by exceeding track limits but he was let off in the end safely.
There was no denying that Vettel would win, the margin was to be seen and it was about half a minute from his teammate Webber completing a well deserved 1-2 for Red Bulls. Rosberg got his second consecutive P3 helping Mercedes gain more advantage over Ferrari as Grosjean ended at P4. Both SFI lost few places in the end but were still in points after making their mandatory pit stops. They were always in fight with the big teams as di Resta ended at P6 & Sutil at P10, completing another double finish after a high in India. Sutil lost a position in the end but it was a mighty effort considering he ran some 27 laps on the softs.
Both the championship is already decided and done with but still the fight for the runner up is huge in both the table. Mercedes & Ferrari are in a close fight with Lotus gaining bit by bit. Alonso seemed to have sealed his P2 in DC but Kimi could spoil his party. As for SFI, they move to 77 points which is 18 behind McLaren, it could be an interesting end for both the teams as SFI now look in a touch better place since Silverstone. Their P6 position seems safe as Sauber fall behind after no scores in India & Abu Dhabi. Just two races to go now as the action shifts to America with Austin GP first. Before that and this review, I’ll be posting my special Indian GP article to share my wonderful experience with you all.
Thanks for reading,