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Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Pole for Sebastian Vettel and Other Predictions

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2013

Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Pole for Sebastian Vettel and Other Predictions

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    The 2013 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is this weekend, and predicting F1 has become relatively easy of late.

    Pole and the win for Sebastian Vettel.

    But Romain Grosjean has been threatening to mark his upsurge in form with a victory, and the tyre situation in the UAE could well play into his hands.

    Elsewhere, the battle between Caterham and Marussia for 10th in the constructors' championship is very much alive. This fight has been extremely interesting to follow all season, and both teams will keep fighting all the way to the final lap of the final race.

    And can Sauber bounce back from a poor weekend in India to challenge Force India for sixth?

    Here are my predictions for the weekend ahead.

Pole Position

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Red Bull have a significant advantage over the rest of the field, and this is a circuit which should suit their car.

    Sebastian Vettel has been on pole for four of the last five races. In the other, his KERS failed, but he still qualified second behind teammate Mark Webber.

    In India last weekend, Vettel was on pole by three quarters of a second from Nico Rosberg. Webber was the only one who could perhaps have challenged him, but he chose to qualify on the slower, harder tyre.

    Mercedes might have a little more one-lap pace here, and Lewis Hamilton has never been off the front row in Abu Dhabi.

    But really, the Red Bull should be too good. Pole for Vettel, with Hamilton alongside him.

Good Weekend for Sauber

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Sauber have been on a roll since Monza, where Nico Hulkenberg came home in fifth.

    More points followed in Singapore before his famous drive in South Korea. His incredible traction and brilliant defensive driving saw him hold off world champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to finish fourth.

    Esteban Gutierrez joined the party in Japan, scoring his first points of the year. Then, India was a bad race—Gutierrez got a drive through and Hulkenberg was forced to retire, losing a probable sixth place finish.

    But expect a big bounce-back in Abu Dhabi. The traction so evident in Korea will be a huge bonus in Abu Dhabi, especially on the two long straights (to both prevent and facilitate overtaking).

    A podium might be asking too much, but solid points are within Hulkenberg's reach. Maybe Gutierrez's too.

    And don't rule out a small queue of former world champions being stuck behind them.

Top Rookie

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    This is the fight between Esteban Gutierrez, Valtteri Bottas, Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde.

    And following on from the previous slide, Gutierrez should come out on top. He has the better car and has been showing a little bit more promise in the latter part of the season.

    So a fairly easy win for Esteban, providing he has a trouble-free race.

Top Dog

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Caterham have long had the upper hand in this battle, but things changed slightly at Suzuka.

    Max Chilton outqualified both the green cars in Japan, and Jules Bianchi repeated the feat in India.

    In the end, first corner collisions between the backmarking teams at both races robbed us of a chance to see their true race pace, but Marussia should be considered the form team.

    Caterham have responded by bringing in Heikki Kovalainen for FP1, hoping the experienced Finn can provide better setup feedback than Giedo van der Garde.

    Charles Pic should benefit the most from that, so I'll go with him to be best of the worst.

Race Winner

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    The most telling thing we've learnt from the past few races is that the only team who look capable of staying anywhere near the Red Bull in the races are Lotus.

    And this is only because the Bulls take off a higher percentage of their ultimate speed to conserve their tyres. Lotus, with their better tyre management, can run closer to theirs.

    Abu Dhabi could well be a one-stop race, and if so, that plays into the hands of Lotus—and specifically Romain Grosjean, who has really stepped up in the latter part of 2013.

    By contrast, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen appears to have stepped down and grabbed an ice cream as he prepares for his return to Ferrari. Or it's the mid-season tyre change which is holding him back.

    Grosjean has also unlocked the secret of qualifying the Lotus (when the team don't botch the strategy), and no one deserves a win more.

    So in the spirit of not picking the favourite (and with a drop of wishful thinking), I'll go with Grosjean to win.

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