x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will still see 'the biggest fight'

Despite Sebastian Vettel all but wrapping up the championship, race in the capital will be a thrilling spectacle, insists Mohammed ben Sulayem.

Red Bull-Renault driver Sebastian Vettel on his way to victory in Singapore.
Red Bull-Renault driver Sebastian Vettel on his way to victory in Singapore.

DUBAI // Sebastian Vettel all but wrapped up his second successive Formula One world title with a commanding victory in Singapore on Sunday, but that will not take any of the gloss away from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next month, according to Mohammed ben Sulayem.

With nine wins from 14 races this season, the reigning world champion is top of the driver's standing with 309 points, 124 more than Jenson Button, and needs just one more to seal the title. If Button does not win in Japan in two weeks' time, Vettel will not need even that single point.

So the championship will certainly already be decided when the F1 roadshow arrives in the capital for the penultimate round of the championship from November 11-13, but ben Sulayem, president of the UAE's Automobile and Touring Club and a vice president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), believes that could make the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix even more exciting.

"The driver's championships is decided, but after that comes another championship," ben Sulayem said. "I believe once it is over and everybody knows it's over, it becomes a new championship. Every GP then becomes a championship and you see the biggest fight because everybody wants to win it. There are no calculations then and it is all about winning the event.

"I remember, from my own career, it was the end of the Middle East Championship here in Dubai. Technically, I just needed to finish the race to win the championship. I remember [Qatar's Saeed] Al Hajri broke down, so won the championship automatically.

"But in the race, everybody was trying to beat me and it was a huge fight because everybody had forgotten about the championship as it had already been decided."

Drawing on his experience of winning the Middle East Rally Championship 14 times, ben Sulayem does not think it will not be easy for Vettel to get that single point.

"When I was in a championship, the toughest time was always when I needed one or two points because I forgot about the event itself and think about the championship that I started nine or 10 months ago," he said.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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