F1 Abu Dhabi Preview: As Day Moves Into Night, the 2009 F1 Season Ends


What Happens When the Last Race Matters, Even When It Seems Like It Mightn’t

11:45pm EST — While there is no contest left for the winner of either the Formula1 driver’s nor constructor’s championship, as Jenson Button and Brawn GP clinched both in Brazil just one week ago, one race remains in the 2009 season.  It is a given that Red Bull will be the second-place constructor, though Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello will be battling for second-place in the driver’s championship.  Perhaps most important, however, is the battle for third in the constructor’s standings between historic rivals McLaren and Ferrari, who are currently separated by one point.  The end-of-season prize money is considerable, and necessary in this time of cost-cutting.

While it might not seem to be, the Abu Dhabi GP this weekend at the Yas Marina circuit is likely to prove entertaining for a number of reasons.  Firstly, being the last race of the season, it is likely that multiple announcements about the 2010 season (or at least rumors about them) will appear from the paddock this week.  Also, the Yas Marina circuit is completely new.  The F1 media had a stop-over between the Japanese and Brazilian GPs, with various journalists taken for a ride in a two-seater F1 car by recent driver David Coulthard, hoping-to-be a F1 rookie in 2010 Bruno Senna, or Martin Brundle.  James Allen has published some on-board footage of laps from the promotional day, which gives the viewer fascinating information about what the track looks and feels like.

According to Coulthard, “it’s a two-stage track.  The first half of the lap until corner nine is typical of the new type of track.  There’s the fast section at the beginning from Turn One to the Turn Four tight hairpin with the grandstand literally overhead…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.”  There are nineteen turns on the circuit, which will become more interesting as the day turns into night during the GP.  Not to be confused with the accidental twilight race that occurred as the season opener in Australia, this weekend’s Abu Dhabi GP has been designed to light up like the Singapore GP, though the start will be at 5pm local time.

Adding to the possibility for drama, the pit lane exit is a tunnel, and the end of the speed limit requirement occurs before the driver enters the tunnel to return to the circuit.  There are no cranes inside the tunnel to clear cars, but there is apparently “a trapdoor in the wall through which marshals can quickly recover any crashed cars,” according to James Allen.  The marshals in attendance will include 350 British marshals flown in by the British Automobile Racing Club.   Most recently, the circuit officials announced Sunday that all 50,000 grandstand tickets for this Sunday’s race have been sold.

Finally, many current F1 drivers do not yet have signed (or at least announced) contracts for the 2010 season.  Some have even been publicly informed that they are driving for their jobs.  A good showing at Abu Dhabi is very important for all drivers, but particularly these.  If the circuit does not provide enough excitement and good racing through its layout, expect these drivers to do so.  While it may not seem terribly important, this final GP weekend of the 2009 season could prove entertaining indeed.

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