x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Looking for Yas Island title showdown

Organisers of the Abu Dhabi GP will be cheering for Barrichello and Vettel at this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Rubens Barrichello, who is still in contention for the Formula One drivers' championship, celebrates in Valencia after winning the Grand Prix of Europe, one of his two victories this season.
Rubens Barrichello, who is still in contention for the Formula One drivers' championship, celebrates in Valencia after winning the Grand Prix of Europe, one of his two victories this season.

Organisers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be cheering for the drivers' title outsiders Rubens Barrichello and Sebastian Vettel during this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix. Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, hopes they can take the title race to the final Grand Prix of the season on Yas Island on November 1. The Briton Jenson Button will be crowned world champion if he picks up six points or more on Sunday - but that is far from assured.

The German Vettel will be driving an in-form Red Bull, while Button's Brawn GP teammate Barrichello will enjoy the backing of a vocal crowd at his home Grand Prix - he grew up just round the corner from the Interlagos circuit. Cregan is hoping the two challengers can do enough to ensure will still be up for grabs at Abu Dhabi. "The fact it's still going is just fantastic for everything, for us, for the championship, and if you look at the viewing figures this year, they're very impressive," he said.

"There's a big expectancy it will go down to the wire. We're hoping it will. If anybody had asked us on the eve of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, we would have been thinking the title race was all over at that stage." The title has been decided in the final race for the past three seasons, notably at Interlagos last year when Lewis Hamilton overtook Vettel on the last corner of the final lap to beat Felipe Massa to the championship.

The law of averages is not in Abu Dhabi's favour, but Cregan said it will be a spectacular occasion for the capital regardless of events on the track. "One way or the other we're going to have a great weekend, we've a great support programme, with great participation from all of the stakeholders in Abu Dhabi and the UAE," he said. "But if we can have a championship decider on our first Grand Prix, it will obviously increase a lot of the pressure.

"At the same time it will be great for the people who have decided to make the trip here, it will give them that little bit of added spice for the weekend. "Hopefully everybody will be happy on the Sunday night, and we'll have a championship decider. That would be fantastic." The former Formula One driver David Coulthard thinks Gregan will get his wish - he tips Barrichello to take the chequered flag this weekend, despite the fact the Brazilian has a dismal record on his hometown circuit. He has never won at the track during his 17-season Formula One career.

"In Brazil, I'll put my money on Rubens. It's his home track, he's even had a Stewart Grand Prix car near the front there in qualifying," said Coulthard. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't ace it there. But you have to imagine Jenson will hold on and get across the line, although if he bins it in Brazil and Rubens were to win, he would be down to a four-point gap. "It would be terrible to imagine him losing it after leading all season, but he could."

* With agencies