Preview | The final piece of Hamilton versus Verstappen in Abu Dhabi

09-12-2021 08:47 | Updated: 09-12-2021 10:22
by GPblog.com
F1 News
Preview | The final piece of Hamilton versus Verstappen in Abu Dhabi

It can hardly be more exciting. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have exactly the same number of points ahead of the final race in 2021. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be all-decisive in this season's thrilling title race. Read all you need to know about this weekend in GPblog's preview.

The Abu Dhabi GP

In 2007 it was announced during the F1 Festival in Abu Dhabi that in 2009 an F1 race would be organised for the first time. The Yas Marina Circuit was built and was completed prior to the first race in 2009. It was the last race of the season and for the first time, F1 raced from day to night. However, with all the artificial lights on the circuit that was not a problem.

Sebastian Vettel was the winner of the first two editions and the second one was very special. There he won the world title as an outsider at the expense of teammate Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. It was the first world title for the German, but also for Red Bull Racing.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, it was exciting again in Abu Dhabi, as Nico Rosberg often managed to put off the title fight until the last race. Hamilton won the title in Abu Dhabi in 2014 and 2015, but in 2016 it was Rosberg who won, despite frantic attempts by Hamilton to hold him up and put him in contention.

Until 2020, the Yas Marina Circuit was actually Mercedes territory, but that changed in 2020. Max Verstappen took pole and drove to a dominant victory. Whether Mercedes was already busier here in 2021 and what impact the coronavirus had on Hamilton, however, we will never know.

The Yas Marina Circuit

The setting for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been the Yas Marina Circuit since the first race. On Yas Island, the racing takes place in the evening, so the designs of all the buildings around the circuit are shown off to their best advantage with their lighting. The circuit also shines with a lot of artificial light.

The biggest criticism of this circuit has always been the lack of overtaking possibilities. In 2010 Alonso experienced to his frustration how difficult it was to overtake. The Spaniard was stuck behind Vitaly Petrov and saw his third world title go up in smoke. In 2021, that should be different, with some adjustments.

There are two major changes with the same goal: making overtaking easier. After the first three corners, there was normally a technical sector with some slow corners. Because it was difficult to follow here, it became difficult to overtake on the first straight. The corners are now removed, which should make overtaking easier.

After the two long straights there was normally a chicane with little room to overtake, but now there is a long and wide bend. This bend should provide the necessary overtaking possibilities, also because there are different lines to drive. Whether this is to Verstappen's advantage remains to be seen, as these changes remove the slow parts of the track, which are normally to the advantage of Red Bull's car.

Formula 1 in 2021

The scenario of the 2021 Formula One season couldn't have been better imagined by a film writer. Hamilton and Verstappen are fighting a fierce battle for the world title this year, with some moments of contact already. In the last race in Saudi Arabia that was the case again, for which Verstappen received a five- and ten-second penalty.

Nobody wants the Formula One championship to be decided by a steward's penalty, but with the title rivals on equal ground it is very simple: the driver who manages to finish ahead of the other will be world champion. The two Red Bull Racing and Mercedes teams will do everything they can to stay ahead of the other.

This will make for a unique battle in Abu Dhabi and there is also a battle amongst the teams. Mercedes has a nice margin on Red Bull, but anything can happen in the last race. Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez will also have important roles to play.

Weather forecast

As expected, the weather forecast for Abu Dhabi is not very exciting. It is according to Weather.com It is sunny, warmer than 25 degrees all weekend and the chance of rain is not more than five percent a day. There is also hardly any wind here, so there will be no spoilers during the final race of the season.

Prediction for the Grand Prix

In Saudi Arabia, Verstappen was particularly fast over one lap and last year he took pole on the Abu Dhabi circuit. Of course, the circuit has been modified somewhat, but these two things speak in favour of the Dutchman. He will be keen to take his first world title, especially after all the criticism Mercedes has thrown around in recent weeks.

Hamilton on the other hand knows that he won't get many chances for that eighth world title. You never know if Mercedes will build a good car again in 2022 and then the British driver's days will start to countdown. Besides, the momentum is on his side with already three victories in a row.

Although the changes to the track will encourage overtaking, the position on the track remains essential. Safety cars do occur in Abu Dhabi, but not as regularly as in Saudi Arabia. They are often boring races with the man on pole winning. So while there are chances to catch up, Saturday will be essential for Hamilton and Verstappen.

Looking at that fact, Verstappen has a slight edge. The Dutchman was lightning quick in Saudi Arabia and has already taken pole in Abu Dhabi. If he can repeat that in 2021 the world title will be very close, and if he has a bad start there's always the chance of the 1990 Senna-Prost scenario.

Abu Dhabi 2021 Grand Prix schedule

Friday

First free practice: 09:30-10:30

Second free practice: 13:00-14:00

Saturday

Third free practice: 10:00-11:00

Qualifying: 13:00-14:00

Sunday

Race: 13:00-15:00

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