x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Fernando Alonso has been a constant menace at the forefront

FIve things we learnt from Abu Dhabi Grand Prix The Ferrari driver has staked a claim for driver of the year and his showing at Yas Marina Circuit provides thrills.

Fernando Alonso, left, chats to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton on the podium.
Fernando Alonso, left, chats to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton on the podium.

Alonso in with a shout

Fernando Alonso may only have won one race this season but he continued to impress as he came within a successful pit stop of usurping Lewis Hamilton for the lead in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In a Ferrari markedly inferior to McLaren-Mercedes and Red Bull Racing, Alonso squeezed everything out of his car to finish second, ahead of Jenson Button and Mark Webber.

Sebastian Vettel is the world champion, but Alonso has consistently shown enough to be considered driver of the year. The Spaniard won at Silverstone in July and finished on the podium six times in the following nine races.

Vettel keeps on learning

Vettel is impressive even when he retires. When Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire from the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006, he was shown minutes later, still wearing his helmet, hopping aboard a yacht. His race was over and he clearly felt there was nothing left to do.

The German proved the opposite. Vettel, after being forced out on the opening lap went straight to his Red Bull garage where he analysed data and sat on the pit wall to "learn a little bit".

The show of team solidarity is the least the world champion could do as Red Bull and engine suppliers, Renault, have given him the most reliable car on the grid this year.

Button leads the way

Button is McLaren's top man. Hamilton may have secured his third win of the season, but Button, in finishing third, ensured he will finish above his teammate in the drivers' championship.

Button was forced to race for long periods at Yas Marina without his kinetic energy recovery system (Kers), yet performed admirably to hold off Webber.

Barrichello proves a point

Rubens Barrichello deserves a race seat in 2012. The Brazilian has seen his place at Williams come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. The 39 year old arrives in Brazil in two weeks knowing the curtains may soon be involuntarily be drawn on his career, but he showed he deserves to be racing next season with an impressive display at Yas.

Barrichello was forced to start Sunday's race at the back of grid following an engine problem in qualifying, but he used all of his experience to climb through the field and at one stage was even positioned in the points.

He finished 12th by the chequered flag and showed Sir Frank Williams, his team principal, a change to the driver roster should not be viewed as a necessity next year. He also proved to the other middle order teams that, if he becomes available, he is well worth investing in.

Track decision vindicated

When it was announced by organisers that the proposed changes to the track at Yas Marina had been shelved, there were whispered fears that this year's race would, as it did last year, prove something of a procession.

Richard Cregan, the track's chief executive, was confident, however, that the sport's new regulations - quick wearing tyres, the Kers power-boost system and adjustable rear wings - had rendered the need for track alterations redundant.

In contrast to last year's race where there were only 11 successful on-track overtaking manoeuvres, almost immediately after the drag reduction system was activated at the start of the third lap on Sunday, this year's race was filled with passing aplenty.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Gary Meenaghan on @GMeenaghan