Just a week after Sebastian Vettel extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship with victory in India, the Formula One paddock moves on to the Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Race, Sunday 13:00 BST).
In India, Vettel continued his recent dominance to record a fourth consecutive victory, extending his championship lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to 13 points with just three rounds remaining.
Alonso, though, will take some heart from his run to second position that saw him outstrip Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber along the way. It is difficult to ascertain how quick Vettel could have gone in the final stages if really pushed, but Alonso will nevertheless be encouraged by recording a fastest lap.
The race for the 2012 drivers’ championship is now all but definitively a two-horse race. Renault’s Kimi Raikonnen only managed a seventh-place finish in India, leaving him 67 points off the championship lead with only 75 points left to race for. Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton are, mathematically, still in the race, but realistically out of contention.
Red Bull hold such a commanding lead in the constructors championship that it would take a miraculous series of events to erode it. The more interesting constructor battles are further down the order, most notably Sauber’s attempts to catch fifth placed Mercedes whilst holding off a late challenge for their own position from Force India.
The Yas Marina Circuit combines six of the slowest corners in Formula One with a section of long flowing curves and two long straights where the cars reach upwards of 300 km/h. It is therefore vital to have a balanced car that provides sufficient downforce to negotiate the more twisty sections, but not so much as to significantly hamper straight line speed.
Red Bull’s double DRS system will again provide an advantage to them in qualifying, improving performance through the sweeping turns two, three and four and along the straights without requiring the team to make too many downforce concessions.
Vettel has secured pole positions in two of the three Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to date and in two of the last three races in 2012. He is the clear favourite to secure first on the grid for Sunday’s race, but the odds on him doing so are not particularly attractive.
There is little doubt that the Red Bull will be quick in Abu Dhabi, so backing Vettel’s team-mate Webber to qualify in the top two looks to be a better value choice.
Mercedes should, in theory, run well at the Yas Marina circuit as it has a similar layout to Monaco, where their two drivers were, on pace alone, both in the top three in qualifying. They have struggled in recent races, failing to successfully implement their own double DRS system, but barring disasters should be able to squeeze at least one car into the top ten in qualifying.
Nico Rosberg has made the final session of qualifying in both of the last two Grand Prix, out-qualifying his team-mate Michael Schumacher on both occasions. He therefore looks the more likely of the two to do so again in Abu Dhabi.
Vettel has not only twice qualified on pole position in Abu Dhabi, he has also won the race two times, including the victory that secured him his first drivers’ championship in 2010.
With a Red Bull that currently looks the class of the field underneath him and with his confidence sky high on the back of four wins on the bounce it is difficult to suggest betting against him making it five on Sunday.
Sauber announced this week that they have, as expected, contracted Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg for the 2013 season. Hulkenberg has enjoyed a solid season and has been particularly impressive in recent races, securing three consecutive points scoring finishes.
At last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix both Force India cars qualified and finished in the top ten and Hulkenberg has indicated in pre-race interviews that he is confident they will be again be strong this time around. Back him to bring home some points for the fourth race in succession.
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Mark Webber to qualify in the top two @ 4/6 with SkyBet.
- Bet on Nico Rosberg to reach qualifying session three @ 11/10 with Ladbrokes.
- Back Sebastian Vettel to win @ best odds of 10/11 at Blue Square.
- Bet on Nico Hulkenberg to secure a “points finish” (ie: a top 10 finish) @ 4/5 with Ladbrokes.