F1 / Preview / Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton should end the season in style but he is the shortest price of any  to win a race this season, so is there better value elsewhere?

Jensen Button


Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

Formula One stages it’s first ever day night race at the new Yas Marina circuit and the close proximity of the walls, off cambered nature of some of the turns and sand blowing conditions may well produce an error strewn race. Unfortunately for the race organisers, there’s nothing of any real significance to play for this weekend with the titles already decided and several drivers having final races for their current team. 

Past winners

There have been 17 races over the past 20 years that have been staged either at a new track or one absent from the calendar for a sufficient period that for most of the drivers it has been a new experience. 14 of 17 have been won by a front row driver and nine by the fastest qualifier. As you might expect, retirements have been marginally greater (about 5%).

9/16 races this season have been won by the fastest qualifier (only 2 by the other front row starter) which is pretty much the average over the past seven seasons.  Drivers who finished on the podium in the penultimate race of the season (Webber, Kubica and Hamilton) have a good record of success in the final race with wins in 15/20.

Leading Qualifiers

A fourth pole of the season for Lewis Hamilton (Pole) from which he’s managed to convert one into a victory in the season’s other night race – Singapore. Given that pole has won 9/17 in a our new track sample; that he will be assisted off the start by KERS and that the McLaren has looked the best package this weekend makes it very likely that last year’s champion will sign off in style.

Sebastian Vettel (2nd) has yet to win from second on the grid in three previous attempts and none have given him a podium finish either. The two wins that the second fastest qualifier has managed this season have come with another team on pole and over the past five years, 22% of races have been won from such a situation.

Mark Webber (3rd) has a 5/10 record for finishing ahead of his team-mate when starting one position inferior (1/3 this season). 10 previous third fastest starts have given him no wins, four podiums and seven scoring races. Third place starters this season have been on the podium 10 times and that’s four more than for those starting just ahead.   

Rubens Barrichello (4th) has out-qualified his team-mate for the 10th time this season but in four of the previous nine has finished in arrears and two of three failures have been when he’s started just ahead of Jenson Button. 3/6 second row starts for Brawn have landed him on the podium.

Other top-10 qualifiers

This is Button’s (5th) highest starting position since he finished seventh from 5th in Valencia in race 11. That was the last time he had failed to finish higher than his starting position and is only one of three failures to do so in the 12 races he’s started anywhere other than pole. Jacques Villeneuve (1997) is the last champion to finish lower than his starting position in the final race of the season and the last to retire was Michael Schumacher in 1995.

Jarno Trulli (6th) from his starting position has failed to finish in any of his last three for Toyota and has only 3/19 career points scoring races and only one return in his last 10 whereas he’s scored points in 7/10 when starting in fifth. It should be noted though that the sixth placed starter has failed to score points in only 2 of the last thirteen races after retiring in the first three.

Robert Kubica (7th) starts just ahead of his team-mate, Nick Heidfeld (8th) as BMW race for the final time. It’s the seventh time that he’s just edged his team-mate in qualifying and in the five that he’s completed he’s finished ahead on four occasions.  Kubica has scored points in 7/10 from this row which includes a second at Interlagos two weeks ago. Heidfeld has an almost identical record for BMW from this row – 6/10 points scoring races and a podium at Montreal last year.

The final row of Q3 has Nico Rosberg (9th) and Sebastien Buemi (10th). Until he retired in Brazil (1st retirement this season), Rosberg had moved up the order in his previous six starts from a similar qualifying position. Brazil was his first retirement in 25 races. This is Buemi’s second top-10 start of the season and he managed a seventh in Brazil for his third points scoring race of the season.

Best of the rest

For Ferrari the season can’t end soon enough and their decision to halt development on this year’s car sees Kimi Raikkonen start in 11th and Giancarlo Fisichella last of all. With KERS and a full fuel load, Raikkonen should make some progress but his two previous non-Q3 starts this season have failed to see him score points. Two of the other Q2 qualifiers – Kamui Kobayashi (12th) and Jaime Alquersuari (15th) – are the least experienced in the field and drivers with a less than 10 race experience have retired in 40% of races. Another candidate for retirement is Adrian Sutil (18th) as he has a 43% retirement at tracks where he hasn’t raced before and a similar record when failing to finish in his previous race.

Heikki Kovalainen (13th) has started outside Q3 in 10/16 this season with retirements in four and points in just two. Fernando Alonso (16th) marks his final start for Renault by matching his worst starting position of the season and would need a safety car and similar circumstances to Singapore last year to make significant progress.

Our View

Lewis Hamilton should fly round this track and, despite having slightly less fuel than the rest, there is nothing to suggest he won’t win but at a best price of 1.52 there’s not much value to be had. Vettel’s record from second and that of all drivers from that position this season, suggests he should be laid for a podium finish.

The record of champions in the final race of the season and Button’s this season should see him move up the order. Furthermore, the Brawn tyre should be more suited to the track than that of the Red Bull and as Barrichello has struggled to stay ahead of Button when starting just ahead, there is a more than reasonable chance of Button finishing on the podium and we wouldn't discount a Hamilton/Button dual forecast (6.0).

Our perennial favourite, Jarno Trulli, has a poor points scoring record from sixth and our only reservation about laying him is the record of the sixth fastest this season. Don’t be surprised if he fails to make it to the finish. Another who may struggle is Sutil with his 43% retirement record at tracks where he hasn’t previously raced and a 56% record when starting for Force India from a Q3 position. Nico Rosberg has been making a habit recently of finishing higher than he starts and until he retired in Brazil was on track to be the only driver this season to complete in all races.

Jenson Button podium finish 2.88  Betfair, or buy race index at 23 SI
N Rosberg buy race index at 8 SI
Adrian Sutil not to finish 3.5 Paddy Power



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