Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: Bizarre 2020 Season Ends at Yas Marina

In a season that has seen multiple drivers miss races due to illness and teams/drivers winning races that usually do not, the 2020 Formula 1 campaign ends at Abu Dhabi with drivers and constructors points positions still to be determined. 

The mundane Yas Marina circuit will host the season finale after Racing Point’s Sergio Perez earned his first Grand Prix win in his 190th start at the Sakhir Grand Prix.  Will Lewis Hamilton clear COVID-19 protocols to race after last week’s absence?  Who drives for Haas in place of Romain Grosjean?

Track Guide

Sunday’s race at the 5.554 km Yas Marina Grand Prix layout marks the end of a three-week Middle East trek. Yas Marina is known for the unique architecture, lights and pit road exit underneath the track itself. However, the racing here leaves a lot to be desired. 

Outside of two long straightaways with DRS zones connected by a chicane, the remainder of the track is low to medium-speed corners, which usually provides a processional race.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Grip will be at a premium early in the weekend, but will improve through practice and qualifying. Track position will be at a premium with the lack of overtaking areas and tyre wear not being as severe like Bahrain.

Last Time Out

With Hamilton missing a Grand Prix for the first time in his career, Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Valtteri Bottas took pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix on the Bahrain outer layout. Alongside was teammate and Hamilton substitute George Russell.

Sergio Perez became the first Mexican to win a Formula 1 race in half a century

The young Englishman took advantage of a great start to lead going into the first turn.  Behind him, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Perez made contact which collected Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The crash ended Leclerc and Verstappen’s races on the spot while Perez fell to last. 

However, the veteran Mexican driver (who is still looking for a 2021 seat) charged through the field on hard tyres and made crucial overtakes through the pit-stop sequences.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Jack Aitken replaced Russell at Williams and his crash off the final turn caused a comedy of errors so bad that Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff to drop an expletive during a live post-race interview. 

In the process, Russell lost the lead due to having Bottas’ tyres mounted after a late call to pit under the full safety car. Bottas was stuck on his hard tyres which proved costly in the end.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Russell was able to claw back through the field and was within two seconds of Perez before suffering a puncture which ended Russell’s chances and gave the soon-to-be unemployed Perez his maiden victory. 

Ocon scored his first career podium and Stroll took his second podium of 2020 after the equally insane Italian Grand Prix. 

Points Battles and Who Is Driving?

Bottas comes into Abu Dhabi with a 16-point advantage over Verstappen in the chase for second in the drivers’ championship. Perez’s win vaulted him into a 13-point lead over Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo for fourth. 

Ricciardo could still finish 4th in the driver’s standings

There’s an 11-point gap between four drivers (Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Alexander Albon, Lando Norris) to decide sixth in the drivers’ championship. Qualifying will be a major factor in who comes out on top in these battles.  

On the constructors’ side, Racing Point has a 10-point lead on McLaren for third after a double podium in Bahrain, while McLaren leads Renault by 12 points.  Each organisation has shown great pace and performance at different circuits, so this battle will go down to final lap.

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

Lewis Hamilton will return to driving for Mercedes this weekend. This means that George Russell reverts back to Williams and Jack Aitken’s Formula 1 cameo comes to and end.

What is known is that Pietro Fittipaldi will be in the Haas again this weekend, as Romain Grosjean’s burns are still too severe to race. His horror-crash in Bahrain has effectively retired the Swiss-born Frenchman from Formula 1. He should get a test in an F1 car when he is fit again to say goodbye to the sport.    

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Session Times

Practice 1: 11 December         9:00 – 10:30 (4-5:30 AM EST)

Practice 2: 11 December         13:00 – 14:30 (8-9:30 AM EST)

Practice 3: 12 December         10:00 – 11:00 (5-6 AM EST)

Qualifying: 12 December       13:00 – 14:00 (8-9 AM EST)

Race: 13 December                 13:10 – 15:10 (8:10-10:10 AM EST)

(Session times are UK GMT time, unless stated)

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend?  Host George Howson with panellists Mikael Kataja, Alex Booth and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Abu Dhabi Prix Preview.  Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

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