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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Explainer: When the F1 cars are on track and what to watch out for at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of the 2018 Formula One season, takes place this weekend.

There are plenty of opportunities to watch the cars both on and off the track.

Here is your guide of where to be, and when, at Yas Marina Circuit when the cars hit the track on Friday.

Friday

First practice, 1pm

Always a challenging session for the teams as the track is it at its greenest, with a fair amount of dust around. Do not expect to see too much in the way of rapid pace from the front runners in this 90 minute session. This, along with final practice on Saturday, is of limited use to the teams as it takes place in daylight conditions rather then in the evening twilight when the race on Sunday takes place.

Second practice, 5pm

This is a session of two halves. The first 45 minutes will see the drivers do qualifying simulation runs with low fuel. But the second 45 minutes will see the cars packed full of fuel as teams work on set-up for the 55-lap race.

There is no refuelling in F1 so each car will start the race with 105kg of fuel, meaning having a car that handles well in the opening laps when it is at its heaviest is vital.

So don't be worried if on Friday your favourite driver is suddenly six seconds off the pace compared to earlier in the session. There is no problem. He is just running with a lot of fuel.

Other action

There are two support series - Formula 2 and GP3 - taking place over the weekend.

GP3's first practice session is at 10.15am in the morning, with the qualifying session at 3.10pm.

Formula 2 cars are on track for practice at 11.30am, with qualifying taking place at 7pm.

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Saturday

Final practice, 2pm

A last chance for drivers to work on their car set-up, even if it is being held in daylight conditions.

This is usually the opposite of second practice. Cars will start with a full tank of fuel and then at the end of the session go for a practice qualifying simulation run on low fuel to get warmed up for qualifying.

This is usually a very good guide to who will be the leading contenders for pole position.

Qualifying, 5pm

The hour that decides the starting grid for the race. It is split up into three parts, a format that has been in place for 12 years.

Part 1 lasts 18 minutes and every driver must set a lap time. The slowest five drivers are eliminated and will start Sunday's race from 16th to 20th.

Following a short break, the second session takes place lasting 15 minutes long. Again every driver must complete at least one lap, with the bottom quintet going into grid spots 11 to 15.

The final 12 minutes of action decides the top 10, with the fastest time earning pole position. Nico Rosberg in 2014 is the last driver to be quickest on Saturday and not go on to win the race.

World champion Lewis Hamilton has the most poles in 2018 with 10. Sebastian Vettel has five, Valteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo both have done two, with Kimi Raikkonen one.

Other action

The GP3 race is the first action of the day on Saturday, with the race getting under way at 12.30pm, and consisting of 18 laps. Anthonie Hubert is the championship leader, with an advantage of 32 points over nearest challenger Nikita Mazepin.

The Formula 2 race, lasting 31 laps, starts at 6.40pm. Britain's George Russell, who will drive in F1 with Williams in 2019, leads the standings by 37 points from Alexander Albon, with a maximum 48 points still to be won over the weekend.

Sunday

Race, 5.10pm

You can see the cars on track from 4.40pm, so it is worth getting to your seats early.

The drivers will leave the pits to head around the track to arrive in their grid positions ahead of the start of the race. If they wish to do an extra installation circuit they must drive through the pit lane to continue circulating.

Each car must have left the pit lane by 4.55pm. Any cars that don't will start from the pit lane, meaning they will be starting last as they are not given the green light to exit until the field has exited Turn 1 after the start.

At 5.10pm the grid will leave the grid for a single parade lap with no overtaking allowed. Once the cars return to their starting positions the race gets under way once the five red lights on the starting gantry above the straight all light up and then go out.

The 55-lap race should take between 90-100 minutes to complete. Given the fact that Yas Marina's track surface is traditionally fairly kind to tyres this seems likely most cars will be on a one-stop strategy.

Hamilton has won 10 times in 2018, with Vettel taking five wins. The Red Bull Racing drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both have two each and Kimi Raikkonen won for the first time since 2013 in the United States in October.

Other action

The GP3 race is the first action of the day again, with the race getting under way at 12.10pm, and consisting of 14 laps.

The final Formula 2 race of the season, lasting 22 laps, begins at 1.35pm.