Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix 2013: 5 Key Storylines to Watch in Yas Marina
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Even though Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel wrapped up a fourth consecutive constructors' and drivers' championship double in India last weekend, there are several other storylines bubbling under the surface that make Abu Dhabi compulsive viewing.
Vettel himself may be able to relax and simply enjoy himself now, but the same cannot be said of many other drivers on the grid, who have their very futures still to fight for. All eyes will yet again be on the Pirelli tyres as they are bringing exactly the same compounds as in India.
Here then are the five key storylines to watch out for in Abu Dhabi.
5. How Long Will Teams Go on the Pirellis?
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Whilst most teams opted for the safety of a two-stop strategy in India, Lotus decided to shun Pirelli's advice to not go beyond 35 laps on the medium tyre and risked running both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean to the end.
Although they were forced to pull Raikkonen in on the penultimate lap, Grosjean stayed out for a staggering 47 laps on the medium tyre to secure a surprise podium. It prompted an angry response from Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery that their directive had been ignored, but Lotus responded that they had already cleared running longer with race director Charlie Whiting.
Last year, most teams opted for a one-stop strategy. With the same compounds of medium and soft being supplied for Abu Dhabi, it will be fascinating to see how long teams risk running the quicker wearing tyres this time round.
4. Will Lotus Team Tensions Continue?
The decision by Lotus to run on a one-stop strategy in India made for great viewing, but again raised tensions within the team.
With Kimi Raikkonen running third and his tyres wearing fast, Romain Grosjean closed up and prepared to coast by his teammate.
However, Raikkonen was having none of it, prompting an angry exchange between the Fin and trackside operations director Alan Permane—the latter quoted on Autosport as telling Raikkonen to “get out of the f***ing way,” with Felipe Massa also in close attendance.
It’s not the first time this season the teammates have crossed swords, with Grosjean expressing his disappointment at having to race Raikkonen for position in Korea when he felt he was the faster driver.
It was clear from India that Raikkonen is still motivated to finish his Lotus career on a high, but at what cost?
Grosjean continued his recent run of form by topping the timesheets in Abu Dhabi in FP1.
3. Drivers Fighting for Their Lives
Whilst Kimi Raikkonen can relax knowing he has a top chariot to race in 2014, the same cannot be said for a number of other drivers.
Several teams are still to confirm their 2014 line-ups, with Lotus, McLaren, Force India and Sauber amongst them.
Nico Hulkenberg’s future remains as cloudy as ever with Lotus still to finalise an investment deal with Quantum Motorsports, which would allow them the freedom to hire their preferred driver. Should the deal fall through, Autosport reports that Lotus would conclude a deal to take Pastor Maldonado from Williams due to the money he brings from PDVSA.
Sergio Perez’s recent impressive showings should be enough to keep him at McLaren, but the likes of Felipe Massa and Paul di Resta have three races remaining to prove their worth to potential suitors for 2014.
2. The Brawn Ultimatum
It had been reported on BBC Sport on Tuesday that Ross Brawn would leave his position at Mercedes at the end of the season because the two parties have failed to reach an agreement on a role that would keep him there.
However, non-executive Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda told The Times—as reported on Autosport—that the speculation was “rubbish” and a decision would not be made until the end of the season.
Nico Rosberg stormed to a late second place in India, and if Mercedes finish the season hot on the heels of Red Bull, it may be possible that Brawn reconsiders his options for 2014.
Especially if Mercedes finds a role that suits.
1. Will Vettel Make It a Magnificent Seven?
Sebastian Vettel’s victory in India means he has now won six races on the bounce, matching a feat only achieved by three other drivers in the sport’s history.
Jim Clark scored six wins on the bounce in 1965. If Vettel wins on Sunday, he will match the achievement of boyhood idol Michael Schumacher, who romped to seven wins on the bounce in 2004.
However, the bigger picture is Alberto Ascari’s incredible nine consecutive wins from 1952-53. Should Vettel win the last three races of the season, he will match the Italian legend whilst beating his own record points tally.
Can he keep the run going in Abu Dhabi?