Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2016 Preview: Start Time, TV Info, Weather, Schedule, Odds
So it all comes down to this. After the longest season in Formula One history, the 21st and final race will decide the world championship between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg has the advantage, sitting 12 points ahead in the drivers' standings, but Hamilton has won the last three races, albeit with Rosberg knowing he just had to finish second in each of them to clinch the title.
Now, at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg needs just a third-place finish, even if his team-mate wins, to secure his first championship.
In the back of Rosberg's mind, though, will be the 2014 season finale, also held in the Gulf city. He started on pole in that race, with an outside shot at stealing the title from Hamilton, but engine problems relegated him to 14th place, while his team-mate won the race and the championship.
Rosberg's car has been relatively bulletproof this season—can it hold up for one more race?
Meanwhile, this will be the final F1 race for two stalwarts of the grid: McLaren's Jenson Button and Williams' Felipe Massa. Button won the drivers' championship with Brawn in 2009 and Massa nearly took the title in 2008, before a stunning, final-lap sequence allowed Hamilton to snatch it on the final corner.
Let's hope for an equally thrilling finish this weekend.
Keep reading for a full race-weekend preview, including TV times, championship standings, a circuit map and guide, tyre and DRS information, weather forecast, odds and session times.
Rosberg continues to lead the championship, although his lead is down to just 12 points. Still, with only one race remaining, it might be just enough to win the title.
Max Verstappen is now ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and just five points behind Sebastian Vettel for fourth place in the drivers' standings—a measure both of the Dutch teenager's skill and the disappointing finish to Ferrari's season.
Here are the top 10 drivers heading into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
The big news in the constructors' standings is all the way down at the bottom, where Felipe Nasr's ninth-place finish at his home race in Brazil vaulted Sauber ahead of Manor and into 10th place. The financial implications, if Manor cannot scrap together a couple points in Abu Dhabi, are immense.
Meanwhile, it looks like Force India wrapped up fourth in the constructors' championship—their best-ever finish—with the 18 points they scored in Brazil, coupled with Williams' lack of a top-10 finish.
Here is the table for the constructors' championship:
Yas Marina Circuit
The 5.554-kilometre Yas Marina Circuit is set just outside the city of Abu Dhabi on the coast of the Persian Gulf. It hosted its first F1 race in 2009, and this will be the fifth time the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been the final race of the season.
"Abu Dhabi is a cool place and the fans we meet come from all over the world," said Sergio Perez, according to Force India's race preview. "The facilities at the track are impressive and I've always liked racing there. It's a very fast track, with big braking zones and quick changes of direction. You need a car that is very stable at the rear to make the most of the braking zones."
Check out the official F1 circuit guide video to see a lap from a driver's perspective.
Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4
After a relatively short pit straight, Turn 1 is a third-gear, 155-km/h left-hander. Following another short blast, Turns 2, 3 and 4 form a fast, flowing section. Turn 2 is a quick left-hander, taken at 255 km/h, with the drivers building speed through the sweeping, right-hand Turn 3 before hitting 300 km/h on the run to Turn 5.
Turns 5, 6 and 7
These three turns form a tight, technical section. Turns 5 and 6 make up a slow, left-right chicane, with the drivers braking to approximately 95 km/h by the entrance to Turn 6.
Turn 7 is the slowest corner on the track, a 65-km/h hairpin leading on to the long back straight.
Turns 8, 9 and 10
After the kilometre-long straight, Turn 8 is one of the best overtaking opportunities on the lap, with drivers braking from more than 330 km/h to just 80 km/h for the sharp left-hander.
Turn 9 follows immediately, a right-hander leading on to the long, sweeping run to Turn 11. While this is really another long straight, it is actually numbered as Turn 10.
Turns 11, 12, 13 and 14
The final section of the lap is somewhat reminiscent of Monaco, and not just because it is run around the harbour. There are plenty of 90-degree turns and slow corners.
"The track has some long straight lines, but you mainly want to focus on getting the low-speed corners correct, especially through the last sector," explained Romain Grosjean in Haas' race preview. "That's what you have to focus on in Abu Dhabi."
Turn 11 is the first of these—a sharp, 90-km/h right-hander (and another good passing opportunity). Turns 12 and 13 are a right-left chicane, with Turn 13 taken at approximately 115 km/h. Turn 14 is another 90-degree-plus left-hander, taken at 120 km/h.
Turns 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19
Turn 15 is a flat-out kink, followed immediately by the 275-km/h Turn 16 as the track keeps moving to the right, hugging the water. Turn 17 is a sharp right-hander, followed almost immediately by Turn 18, another near-90-degree corner.
Turn 19, taken at approximately 115 km/h in third gear, leads out on to a short straight where the cars will hit 250 km/h.
Turns 20 and 21
The two final turns are double right-handers, with the pit exit on the inside of Turn 21, just before the cars turn into the corner. That final turn is taken at approximately 180 km/h, feeding the cars back on to the start/finish straight.
The pit exit, after crossing under Turn 1, is all the way down at the outside of Turn 3—an awkward place to put it.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Tyres and DRS Zones
The Yas Marina Circuit has a low-abrasion surface, so Pirelli is bringing the three softest tyre compounds this weekend: medium, supersoft and ultrasoft. This will be the ultrasoft tyre's fifth appearance this season and the first since Singapore in September.
Not everyone is convinced that the ultrasofts will be useful during the race, though. In Williams' race preview, chief technical officer Pat Symonds said, it "could prove a difficult tyre to use as the numerous corners that make up sector three may well push this tyre above its ideal operating temperature, particularly as the prescribed pressure is significantly higher than we have used with this tyre before."
Still, both Williams drivers have selected seven sets of ultrasofts for the weekend; only Force India's Nico Hulkenberg has more, with eight sets available.
For the final championship showdown, both Merc drivers will have the same tyres available: four sets of softs, two supersofts and seven ultrasofts.
There are two DRS Zones in Abu Dhabi with two separate detection points. The first detection point is on the short run from Turn 6 to the hairpin Turn 7, before the 1,140-metre back straight. The activation point comes approximately one-third of the way down the straight.
A left-right chicane (Turns 8 and 9) follows the straight, with the second detection point coming immediately after the exit and the activation point following shortly after on the long, sweeping run leading to Turn 11.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Weather
Despite being situated on the Persian Gulf coast, Abu Dhabi is in the desert, so weather conditions will be hot, dry, sunny and hot.
The high for Friday is 29 degrees Celsius, dropping to a balmy 28 degrees on Saturday and just 27 degrees on Sunday, according to BBC Weather at the time of publication.
Of course, the second free practice session, qualifying and the race all start at 5 p.m. local time, so the temperatures will be slightly cooler as the sun goes down. Still, the low for Sunday is 23 degrees.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Odds
As he has been nearly all season, Hamilton is the favourite in Abu Dhabi. Of course, he needs more than just a win to overtake Rosberg for the championship.
The best odds available for the top 10 favourites in Abu Dhabi are:
Once again, fastest lap is the only game in town if you want to pick someone other than a Mercedes driver. The Mercs haven't set the fastest lap for the last four races and have done it just twice since the British Grand Prix in July. Daniel Ricciardo has three fastest laps this year and is 14-1 to do it in Abu Dhabi. Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap in Japan and the U.S. and is 19-1 to do it this weekend.
This will be the eighth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and it has only been won from pole position twice (including last year, by Rosberg). The odds are 9-4 that the winner will come from second on the grid or 11-2 that he comes from third or fourth place.
All odds are taken from Oddschecker and correct at the time of publication.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Session and TV Times
Here are the times for the three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race:
|Practice 1||Friday||1 p.m.|
|Practice 2||Friday||5 p.m.|
|Practice 3||Saturday||2 p.m.|
The above times are in local Abu Dhabi time (GST, UTC +4). You can convert the times to your local time zone using the helpful tool on the official F1 website.
|Session||Day||Time (Sky)||Time (Channel 4)|
|Practice 1||Friday||8:45 a.m.||8:55 a.m.|
|Practice 2||Friday||12:45 p.m.||12:55 a.m.|
|Practice 3||Saturday||9:45 a.m.||9:55 a.m.|
|Qualifying||Saturday||12 p.m.||12 p.m.|
|Race||Sunday||11:30 a.m.||1 p.m.|
In the United States, NBC has live coverage of all the sessions on NBCSN, CNBC and the NBC Sports app, with programming start times as follows (all times ET):
|Practice 1||Friday||4 a.m. (NBC Sports app)|
|Practice 2||Friday||8 a.m. (NBCSN)|
|Practice 3||Saturday||5 a.m. (NBC Sports app)|
|Qualifying||Saturday||8 a.m. (CNBC)|
|Race||Sunday||7 a.m. (NBCSN)|
Enjoy the race and the rest of the weekend!
Matthew Walthert is an F1 columnist for Bleacher Report UK. He has also written for VICE, FourFourTwo and the Globe and Mail, among others.
Follow him on Twitter: