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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Abu Dhabi GP talking points: Ferrari's big chance, Robert Kubica in action and George Russell's GP2 title push

There is plenty to watch for on the first day of track action at Yas Marina Circuit on Friday as the opening day of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gets underway

Friday at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is practice day.

The Formula One drivers and teams will be on track for three hours, spread over two sessions, as they work on nailing their set up for the weekend ahead.

But there is also practice and qualifying sessions for the two support series, Formula 2 and GP3, so there is plenty to watch for.

Here is a rundown of the main things to watch for.

Ferrari's chance

Ferrari have never won in Abu Dhabi in nine previous visits. But this should be the Italian team's best chance to change that statistic.

The long straights that make up sector two of the track should suit the strong horsepower of the Ferrari power unit and Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen should be right up there at the top of the timesheets.

The two 90-minute practice sessions should give an early indication of Ferrari's pace.

Both Vettel (2009, 2010 and 2013) and Raikkonen (2012) have won in Abu Dhabi in the past, but with different teams.

Ferrari were off the pace in Brazil, compared to Mercedes and Red Bull, but they were quicker in both the United States and Mexico so this does look like a good chance for Italian delight at the track that is the home of Ferrari World.

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Valtteri Bottas under pressure

Valtteri Bottas has not won a race since he prevailed in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago. He is unfortunate not to have done, in fairness, given he lost out in Azerbaijan due to a puncture, a safety car period cost him when he was leading in China, and he was ordered to give him the lead to Mercedes-GP teammate Lewis Hamilton in Russia.

But the Finn is in danger of being the first Mercedes driver since Michael Schumacher in 2012 to go a season without a victory.

He out-paced Hamilton at Yas Marina Circuit last year and he needs another strong display this weekend to give him some momentum for 2019.

Robert Kubica back on track in Abu Dhabi

Thursday was a special day for Robert Kubica as it was confirmed he will be returning to the F1 grid in 2019 with Williams, seven years after he almost lost part of his right arm in a horrific rally crash in Italy.

UAE race fans will get to see the Pole in action on Friday. In his current role as reserve driver he will take part in opening practice at 1pm at Yas Marina Circuit.

Kubica jokingly warned journalists on Thursday not to expect him to be charging around the track on Friday. He will be looking to help set up the Williams for race drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin for Sunday's 55-lap race, as well as beginning his own development ahead of the 2019 season.

George Russell's Formula 2 mission

George Russell spent Thursday looking forward to 2019. He sat in the main news conference alongside world champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso and impressed with his mature answers.

The Briton will race for Williams in 2019 in his rookie year and the grin on his face tells you all you need to know about how much he is loving life right now.

But, the 20 year old has other business to take care of this weekend in Abu Dhabi - namely sealing the Formula 2 title.

The support category has its practice session at 11.30am, with qualifying at 7pm.

Russell only needs 12 points going into the weekend to guarantee the title, and fourth in Saturday's feature race will achieve that.

If he takes pole in the qualifying session then he would only need sixth place to be assured of top spot.