2022 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying

The final race of the 2022 season took place in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit, the most expensive F1 facility in the world.

With four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking part in his final GP, can he make it Q3 for the final time in his illustrious career? It was also the final qualifying session for now for Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo, who has a three place grid penalty for his incident in the race last weekend. Surely they will want to make a good impression for their chances of making a comeback in 2024.

Q1 began with half the field immediately coming onto track. The first driver to set a time was Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri with a 1.26.135, followed by Mick Schumacher just 0.130 behind him.

The first of the front runners to start a flying lap was Leclerc in the Ferrari, immediately setting purple sectors. He set a 1.25.211 to go quickest but was very close to exceeding track limits at the final corner. He was then beaten by Perez in the Red Bull by almost four tenths.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181492 // Usage for editorial use only //

Lando Norris put his McLaren in P4 with his team mate Ricciardo directly behind him. The Mercedes finished their laps last and ended 4th and 6th, quite a way off the pace, surprising after their showings so far this weekend. At the top Max Verstappen was 0.066 ahead of his team-mate, who is hoping to secure second in the championship this weekend.

With just under four minutes left in the session the final runs began. Vettel first to cross the line put his Aston Martin in fifth. As they all cross the line, the five drivers eliminated are Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Albon and Latifi.

At the start of Q2 Mercedes decided to do their first runs on used soft tyres, clearly wanting to keep fresh sets for Q3 and tomorrow’s race. Lewis Hamilton crossed the line first with a 1.25.772, but was then beaten by his team mate George Russell with a time of 1.25.363.

The rest of the field were now on their first runs. Both Ferraris and Norris in the McLaren were setting quicker sectors than the Mercedes pair. All three of them went quicker to take the top three positions on the timing screens. Then came the Red Bulls, for once led by Perez who was some four tenths quicker than his team mate.

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The Mercedes put fresh softs on and Hamilton moved his car up to P2 just three tenths behind Perez. Russell crossed the line with a time of 1.24.940 and into P4. The Mercedes were out of sync with everyone else.

Leclerc in his Ferrari managed to find some pace to end Q2 just 0.098 away from the leading Red Bull. Sainz was P3 and Verstappen P4. Out of qualifying at the end of Q2 were Alonso, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Stroll and Zhou. Vettel did indeed get through to Q3 for his final weekend in F1 after a great lap in the Aston Martin.

Q3 was contested by both Red Bulls, both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both McLarens, and Vettel and Ocon. Once again the Mercedes cars were first onto the track. Hamilton completed his lap with a 1.24.678, with Russell next just 0.016 behind.

Both were then beaten by Leclerc and Sainz, the Ferrari drivers some four tenths quicker than the Mercedes. Then came the Red Bulls, Perez making a mistake at the final corner losing time and only making P2. Verstappen came next with a time of 1.23.988 to take provisional pole position.

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Vettel decided to do his lap with no cars on the track. He made it to P7 some 0.973 away from the leading Red Bull. With 2 minutes to go the final runs of the season began.

Leclerc improved to P2, and Verstappen improved again to 1.23.824, followed by his team mate Perez. The second row was an all Ferrari affair with Leclerc ahead of Sainz, then the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. 7th was Norris in the McLaren, then Ocon in the Alpine. The final two places in the top 10 were taken by Ricciardo and Vettel.

The race is all set up tomorrow to decide who will take second place in the World Championship. Who will come out on top, between Perez in the Red Bull and Leclerc in the Ferrari?

 

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: The curtain falls on 2019

Abu Dhabi sees the curtain drop on another Formula One season. However, it is a slightly tatted curtain and, much like the Greatest Showman – sorry to anyone who thought it was good – it is the end of a somewhat dull and monotonous year.

Of course, it has not been all doom and gloom. There have been some stunning races in 2019, like Austria, Silverstone, Germany and Brazil. However, the exciting and scintillating moments we associate so strongly with F1 have been few and far between.

With that said, the F1 bandwagon arrives at the 5.5-kilometre Abu Dhabi circuit – an excellent and enjoyable track for the drivers, not so much for the fans.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Abu Dhabi first appeared on the calendar in 2009, with Sebastian Vettel winning the race, and has played host to the last race on the calendar for eight of the last ten years.

However, the races have not always captured the eye for wheel-to-wheel magnificence. The circuit is rather clumsy to look at, especially the underground pit exit – which I am sure seemed a good idea to begin with – where it is difficult to mount cameras and no-one can actually see.

What rescues the track is the setting. The backdrop of the exhilarating Ferrari World, the grandstands and the pit complexes, and of course the pristine hotel with the LED lit roof, make the Abu Dhabi track quite the spectacle, and gives it a real feel of an end-of-season race. Speaking of which, this is the first time that the Formula One championship will have ever ended in December – hopefully the teams have remembered to pack their advent calendars.

Lewis Hamilton is a four-time winner in Abu Dhabi, and having wrapped up his sixth title already, he would love to see out the year in style with another victory.

As form has it, Mercedes have a good chance of another one-two finish under the lights. Abu Dhabi is predominantly a power track, but this has been a surprising area of inconsistency for both Mercedes and Ferrari all throughout the year, with the Honda power impressive in the back of the Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars. This was exemplified when Pierre Gasly out-dragged Lewis Hamilton to the line for a second placed finish in Brazil, so this race could yet be an interesting one.

2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

2020 will likely not include Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, and will definitely not include Williams’ Robert Kubica, and so these two drivers will probably make their F1 farewells this weekend. Although, the return of Esteban Ocon, mixed with Hulkenberg’s impressive consistency, could lead the German to believe that he has a shot at a seat in the future. Kubica’s seat at Williams seat is still up for grabs though.

Following Carlos Sainz’s remarkable podium finish in Brazil – McLaren’s first since Melbourne 2014 – he and Lando Norris, who has excelled in his first season in F1, have sealed fourth in the constructors’ in what has been a superb improvement on the last six years for the British team. 2020 could see them propel themselves even further in the right direction, but they are still a way off third best team Red Bull at the moment.

The real battle is for fifth in the Constructors’ between Renault, who currently occupy the spot, and Toro Rosso, who are just eight points behind. The midfield battle has been extraordinary this year, and Racing Point and Alfa Romeo are still mathematically in with a shot, but they are extreme outsiders. Haas are set to stay ninth in what has been an abysmal year for Grosjean and team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who managed to get both cars into Q3 in Brazil, only to fail to score points in the race.

All eyes are on the midfield then, but there are plenty of other places to look around the beautiful setting at the Yas Marina Circuit as Formula One heads into the final race of the decade.

(Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

And at the end of what has been a tumultuous year, let’s not forget those we have lost.

Charlie Whiting passed in his sleep just before the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the year. The race director was one of the most influential pioneers in F1’s pursuit of safety. He was forever on the side of the drivers and the fans, had a human side that simply could not be matched, and he had an infectious smile that warmed the heart. What he did for Formula One is the reason we are able to watch races in the way that we do today. He will be missed.

We also said goodbye to Niki Lauda. The Austrian was a three-time world champion who drove for both Ferrari and McLaren, and even continued to achieve great success after his horrific accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. In his later years, he worked as non-executive chairman of Mercedes, but he was so much more. He played a part in race weekends, strategies and was a phenomenal mentor to their drivers. Lewis Hamilton was so affected by his passing that he was excused media obligations before the Monaco Grand Prix, demonstrating the effect that Lauda had on the entire paddock, both on a racing level and on a personal level.

And finally, we lost promising French star Anthoine Hubert, whose crash at Spa in the summer claimed his life and left Juan Manuel Correa in hospital. Correa is now recovering at home. Hubert was a ray of sunshine in the F2 paddock, and had the racing prowess to match. His death rocked motorsport, and a minute’s silence was respectfully held on race day in both F1 and F3 on the Sunday – F2 chose not to race that day. He was a brightly shining star taken from us far too soon.

Though we will move on from 2019, we, as a motorsport family, will never forget them.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

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