13th November 2010, 02:45 PM
A recipe for the ultimate sundowner
The Yas Marina circuit last year added a new dimension to the Formula One calendar when it hosted its debut race. Situated in a kind of ‘grown ups Disney World' on the man-made Yas Island about 20km for Abu Dhabi city centre, it is a totally self-contained resort with top-class hotels and restaurants, a spectacular yacht marina and of course, the amazing Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park, all right next to the track.
Throw in the dramatic transition from daytime sunshine to a spectacular Arabian sunset and you have a race which matches Monaco and Singapore in terms of glamour and spectacle. Then you add the final topping of the four-way shootout for the Drivers' World Championship and it is no surprise that every one of the 41,000 grandstand seats is sold out for the entire weekend.
So who will come out on top? Fernando Alonso arrives with 246 championship points, eight ahead of Mark Webber and there are 25 points available for a win, 18 for second and 15 for third. It is (forgive the pun) pointless discussing any lower scores, because unless one of the championship contenders is in the top three - they are history.
Even if Webber were to win in Abu Dhabi, second place would still give Alonso the title by a single point. Only if the Ferrari driver were to finish third or lower would the Australian win the championship.
If Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel were to head a Red Bull 1-2, Vettel and Webber would tie on 256 points while third, fourth or even fifth place would allow the Alonso to snatch the crown.
Meanwhile there are several wild-cards. Lewis Hamilton will arrive in Abu Dhabi as the outsider in the title chase after claiming fourth place in Brazil. That takes his tally to 224 points and should his rivals hit trouble, a win could still give Hamilton his second drivers' championship. Meanwhile the improving Mercedes, Massa's Ferrari, Kubica's Renault and Button's McLaren could easily push the championship contenders down the order and out of contention.
However the formbook has to favour Red Bull. They dominated last year's inaugural race at the Yas Marina track, with as last week in Brazil, Vettel heading Webber in a team 1-2. Meanwhile neither Ferrari nor McLaren featured in the top ten.
Vettel could and will, still bid to win the title for himself. However were he to be leading with team-mate Webber and then Alonso close behind, allowing the Aussie though to take the win and the title wouldn't be team-orders. It would be a sensible, sporting gesture.
Whatever one may say about Ferrari's ‘team orders' in Germany; their single-minded focus has put Fernando Alonso firmly into the driving seat into the last lap of the title race. Much as I would love to see Webber win the championship, I just have a feeling that Red Bull's previous lack of team strategy could hand the title to the Spaniard.
Meanwhile the dramas in Abu Dhabi won't just be confined to the track. It is going to be fascinating to follow the continuing story of what Lotus Racing (as is) will be called next year. Tony Fernandes' team believes they secured the rights to the Team Lotus name for 2011, having bought it from the owners of the original Lotus F1 team.
However the Proton-owned Lotus Group which makes the road going sports cars is contesting that. The company's aggressive new boss, former Ferrari brand manager Dany Behar, is reported to be looking at taking a EUR 60 million stake in the Renault F1 team that could involve that outfit being renamed Lotus-Renault in 2011.
Watch out for the two sides facing off for a war of words in the Abu Dhabi paddock this weekend, even as Red Bull and Ferrari fight it out on the on the circuit. This could be set to be a battle that goes on long after the chequered flag.
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