x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Stage set for 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The curtain will fall on one of the most exciting F1 seasons for years in a dramatic finale in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning in Brazil and taking the championship race down to the wire.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning in Brazil and taking the championship race down to the wire.

Spectators at Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will see history made as for the first time in Formula One's 60-year history four drivers will fight it out to be crowned world champion.

The second staging of the race at Yas Marina Circuit is a fitting occasion for what is sure to be a gripping finale to what has been one of the most absorbing and unpredictable seasons in the championship's history.

After an exciting year that has seen the title lead change hands 10 times, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton could all walk away from Abu Dhabi as the man who succeeds Jenson Button as champion.

With a number of fascinating permutations and scenarios, the 55-lap race looks as if it will be a real thriller, and Richard Cregan, Yas Marina Circuit's chief executive officer, is delighted his track is going to be the scene of the decider.

"I think we have a real race on our hands this weekend and Abu Dhabi will get to crown the new world champion," he said. 

The constructors' championship had been won by Red Bull-Renault in Brazil on Sunday and Cregan added: "Now this is the big race that everyone can focus on winning. It is obviously going to put pressure on the drivers and they won't even have much time to get over the jet lag because they all start to arrive on Tuesday. It will be a great race."

The Ferrari World indoor theme park opened earlier this month on Yas Island, an occasion that could be crowned by a Ferrari driver winning the drivers' title.

Fernando Alonso, the double world champion, has an eight-point lead coming to Abu Dhabi. The Spaniard has bounced back from a difficult first half of the campaign to win four of the past eight races and of the four still in contention he is the only driver who has his destiny in his own hands. If he finishes first or second he is guaranteed to take the title and complete a remarkable first year with his Italian employers.

But he will have to work hard to achieve this as he will be up against the Red Bull drivers, Webber and Vettel, who have had the fastest car at most circuits in 2010. Fresh from their one-two victory in Brazil, they will be keen to repeat Vettel's win last year at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Of the Red Bull pair, Webber, only eight points behind Alonso, has the best chance of becoming champion. The Australian has had the strongest season of his career and his consistency has seen him not outside the top two in the championship since August. For him, though, a win alone will not be enough: he needs someone other than Alonso to finish second.

His teammate Vettel may be the only one of the four men in contention not to have led the championship outright at any stage but, trailing Alonso by just 15 points, he still has his own realistic title aspirations. The German can be champion if he repeats his 2009 success at Yas Marina and Alonso is outside the top five.

The dynamic between Vettel and Webber is finely balanced and promises to add to the excitement at Abu Dhabi. If Vettel won with Webber second, as happened in Sao Paulo on Sunday, they would finish level on points but the German would take the title by virtue of having more race wins - both men have four apiece coming into this weekend.

Vettel, who has out-paced Webber in the past five races, will be confident of getting the better of his teammate, with whom he has had a strained relationship ever since they collided in Turkey in May, but the win would not be enough for him without Alonso having problems. If Vettel is leading Webber in the latter stages of the race with their Ferrari rival running in the top four, then it is likely he will cede position to allow his teammate to take the title.

Reigning champion Jenson Button saw his 2010 championship hopes expire in Brazil, leaving his predecessor Lewis Hamilton the only Briton still in contention. Hamilton, however, faces the toughest task of the four still in the running. The McLaren-Mercedes driver is 24 points behind Alonso and not only has to win but also must see his former teammate fail to finish in the points.

And that's not all; he cannot have Webber finish in the top five or Vettel in the top two if he is going to make it a British champion for a third successive year.

Sunday's race at Abu Dhabi is, of course, about more than just the championship contenders and will see four new or rebranded teams from last year - BMW Sauber-Ferrari, Lotus-Cosworth, Virgin-Cosworth and Hispania Racing Team-Cosworth (HRT).

Michael Schumacher, the seven-times world champion, will also make his first appearance at Yas Marina in a racing capacity as he completes his first year back in the sport with Mercedes GP since coming out of retirement.

Other drivers new to Abu Dhabi spectators will be Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Nico Hulkenberg (Williams-Cosworth), Vitaly Petrov (Renault), Lucas di Grassi (Virgin), Bruno Senna (HRT) and Sakon Yamamoto (HRT).

With a number of seats for next season still up for grabs, notably at Williams and Renault, some drivers will be looking to impress in Abu Dhabi to secure drives. Nevertheless, it is the four title contenders who will have the most to gain and lose when the red lights go out to signal the start of the second Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.