For many weeks, it looked like a matter of when rather than if Sebastian Vettel would become a four-times World Champion and the German duly wrapped it up in India. Three races of the 2013 season remain though and there is still plenty to race for in Abu Dhabi, not least the runner-up spot in both championships. The Checkered Flag’s Form Guide gives you the lowdown on every driver ahead of the season’s only twilight race.
|Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing Renault – 322 Pts (2013 FIA Formula One World Champion)|
|Last 5 Races: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st||Best In Abu Dhabi: Winner (2009, 2010)|
Some may argue otherwise but four consecutive championships speak for themselves, Sebastian Vettel is the best in the world right now. The German has now won the last six Grands Prix and will be widely expected to make it seven at the circuit where his dominance began in 2010. Although he didn’t win the race, Vettel’s best performance of last season arguably came at Abu Dhabi as he charged from the pit-lane to third place and given that he should start from a little further forward this time, expect him to be lifting more silverware on Sunday.
|Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 207 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 2nd, 2nd, 6th, 4th, 11th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 2nd (2011, 2012)|
After qualifying on the prime tyre, the Indian Grand Prix started with lots of potential for Fernando Alonso but as it turned out, his race hardly ever got started. Two collisions on the opening lap, the first of which necessitated a front wing change, put him on his back foot and despite a typically dogged drive, Alonso couldn’t fight back into the points. The performance of his teammate in India will have given Fernando cause to think Ferrari will finish the year strongly though and a podium will surely be the aim in Abu Dhabi.
|Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus Renault – 183 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 11th, 3rd, 2nd, 5th, 7th||Best In Abu Dhabi: Winner (2012)|
Kimi Raikkonen won here in sensational style a year ago with his replies on the radio arguably as memorable as the drive itself but the radio transmissions involving the Finn and Alan Permaine in India didn’t reflect well on the 2007 champion, or his team. The trouble started when Kimi made life a little tougher than was necessary for teammate Romain Grosjean as he cruised up behind him and being beaten by the Frenchman again can’t have done much to improve Raikkonen’s mood. Reasserting his authority at Lotus will be one target this weekend and if he does so, a podium finish may well come with it.
|Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 169 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 9th, 5th, 5th, DNF, 6th||Best In Abu Dhabi: Winner (2011)|
After the disappointment of Suzuka, Lewis Hamilton will have wanted to bounce back in India but the way the weekend panned out in India may have been just as frustrating for the Briton. Hamilton was first outqualified by teammate Nico Rosberg and then spent much of his Sunday afternoon staring at Felipe Massa’s rear wing while Rosberg finished second. Abu Dhabi should herald a return to form though for Lewis who is mighty around here, especially in the twisty final sector and he is surely the likeliest challenger to Red Bull’s domination.
|Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing Renault – 148 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 3rd, 15th, DNF, 2nd, DNF||Best In Abu Dhabi: 2nd (2009)|
The Yas Marina Circuit is one which Mark Webber probably won’t miss a great deal given the way his 2010 title hopes evaporated but the events of last weekend will have ensured India was struck off his list of favourite venues too. Mark was the fastest qualifier on the prime tyres and second place would surely have been his without the alternator failure which halted his Red Bull. The Australian remains without a win in his final F1 season and Abu Dhabi is unlikely to see a change to that given the fact that Webber has never truly been a match for Vettel here.
|Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 144 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 4th, 7th, 8th, 2nd||Best In Abu Dhabi: 4th (2010)|
In the inter-team tussle at Mercedes, the Indian Grand Prix can certainly be chalked up as Nico Rosberg’s weekend. The German beat Lewis Hamilton to the second spot on the front row behind Sebastian Vettel but the crucial moment in his race came when he jumped Felipe Massa at the second round of pit-stops, giving him the springboard to finish second for his first podium since winning at Silverstone. Beating Hamilton again will be a tall order in Abu Dhabi but there’s no reason to think another top three finish isn’t achievable.
|Romain Grosjean – Lotus Renault – 102 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 8th, DNF, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd||Best In Abu Dhabi: 18th (2009)|
It seems that whatever you throw at Romain Grosjean these days, the affable Frenchman is able to overcome it. Lotus’ attempts to reach Q2 on the medium tyre may have backfired but Grosjean didn’t let that damage his morale and produced another sensational drive in the race to extend his podium streak, notching up another personal triumph over his teammate in the process. With the team returning to the scene of their glorious victory 12 months ago, you have to feel that the Enstone squad’s best chance of a repeat will come in the form of Romain.
|Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 102 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 4th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 5th (2011)|
Qualifying on the soft tyres in India certainly paid off for Felipe Massa as it gave him track position on the opening lap but the Brazilian’s fourth place wasn’t all down to strategy. Felipe took advantage of a double Mercedes slipstream to take second on the opening lap and after a brief spell in the lead, held off the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez to take fourth spot. Yas Marina hasn’t been the most profitable of venues for Massa in the past though but a performance on a par with India would change all that.
|Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes – 60 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 3rd (2009, 2010, 2011)|
Jenson Button must have left India as frustrated as anyone after taking no points from a weekend where McLaren were actually quite competitive. The 2009 champion was quickest in Q1 before going on to qualify tenth but a collision with Fernando Alonso on lap one gave him a puncture, forcing him onto a three stop strategy which could only produce 14th place. Jenson’s big hope will be that McLaren’s improved pace carries on to Abu Dhabi as he looks to secure a fourth podium from five starts at the Yas Marina Circuit.
|Paul Di Resta – Force India Mercedes – 40 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 20th, DNF, 11th, 8th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 9th (2011, 2012)|
Amid growing speculation surrounding his Formula One future, Paul Di Resta gave the perfect answer to his critics in India by returning to the points at Force India’s home Grand Prix. The Scotsman certainly made a bold strategic choice by pitting at the end of the first lap and eighth place was his reward at the chequered flag. Di Resta should hopefully be fighting fit this time too after falling under the weather in New Delhi so another points finish has to be the target.
|Nico Hulkenberg – Sauber Ferrari – 39 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 5th, 9th, 4th, 6th, 19th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 16th (2010)|
After a stunning series of races since arriving in Asia, Nico Hulkenberg’s sensational run of results came to an end in India although the German’s retirement came through no fault of his own. Hulkenberg was on target to finish eighth ahead of the two Force Indias but a technical problem sidelined him six laps from home, ending any realistic hopes of Sauber finishing sixth in the championship too. Points are still on offer though and the Swiss squad were competitive here last year in the form of Kamui Kobayashi, suggesting they should add to their tally on Sunday.
|Sergio Perez – McLaren Mercedes – 33 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 8th, 10th, 15th, 5th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 11th (2011)|
For a season that was supposed to be Sergio Perez’s big break, 2013 has been largely underwhelming but India was unquestionably the highlight. Outqualifying Jenson Button was a good start and while his teammate was mired in collisions and squabbles mid-pack, Sergio made the most of clear air at the front to make his two-stop strategy work. After looking after his tyres, Perez was even in podium territory late on before matching McLaren’s best result of the year in fifth but these stand-out displays only tend to come every now and again with the Mexican. The task for him is to maintain the momentum in Abu Dhabi.
|Adrian Sutil – Force India Mercedes – 28 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 16th, 10th, 20th, 14th, 9th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 8th (2011)|
Adrian Sutil’s drive was one of the unsung performances of the Indian Grand Prix with the German joining his Force India teammate in the points. Aside from Romain Grosjean, Sutil was the only driver to make a one-stop strategy work, completing 41 laps on the medium tyres before somehow getting nineteen out of the fragile softs, setting his quickest lap right at the end. With Force India having seemingly snapped out of their summer slump, Adrian can start to set his sights a little higher once again.
|Daniel Ricciardo – STR Ferrari – 19 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, 7th, DNF, 13th, 10th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 10th (2012)|
Derpite dragging his Toro Rosso into the points again, Daniel Ricciardo admitted to feeling a tinge of disappointment after the Indian Grand Prix. The Australian was in the mix with the two Force Indias but eventually finished behind them in tenth, although resisting the challenge of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari will have certainly gone down well with his future employers in the Red Bull senior team. With a thirteen point gap to Sauber in the Constructors’ Championship, seventh isn’t out of the question yet for Toro Rosso but their hopes would appear to rest on the shoulders of their departing driver.
|Jean-Eric Vergne – STR Ferrari – 13 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 14th, 18th, 12th, 13th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 12th (2012)|
The Indian Grand Prix was another race where the weaknesses of Jean-Eric Vergne were exposed. Much like his teammate Ricciardo, Vergne finished one place higher than he started but the Frenchman fell a quarter of a second short of Daniel on Saturday and instead of climbing into the points, he started in the midfield and stayed there. Abu Dhabi was one of the venues where Vergne made an early exit in Q1 last year too so clearing that particular hurdle will be the first challenge before Jean-Eric can begin to think about the top ten.
|Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber Ferrari – 6 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 13th, 12th, 11th, 7th, 15th||Best In Abu Dhabi: Debut|
Esteban Gutierrez had been one of Formula One’s biggest improvers in the second half of the season but India saw a performance much more resembling the early part of his rookie campaign. A mistake in Q2 left him sixteenth on the grid and in his haste to make up for Saturday’s disappointment, the Mexican jumped the start and hopes of points fell by the wayside. In fairness to him, Esteban was the first to admit his shortcomings in New Delhi and has the chance this weekend to show his poor showing was simply a blip.
|Pastor Maldonado – Williams Renault – 1 Pt|
|Last 5 Races: 14th, 11th, 13th, 16th, 12th||Best In Abu Dhabi: 5th (2012)|
Pastor Maldonado’s name is on the lips of many in the Formula One paddock with his future close to being decided but the Venezuelan must now focus on his driving. The Williams driver made a brave decision to start on the option tyres in India and was only two seconds away from a point at the finish after an excellent drive. Amid the joy at Kimi Raikkonen’s victory, many forget Maldonado’s superb drive to fifth without KERS in Abu Dhabi last year and with his time at Williams set to come to an end, Pastor will be desperate to produce a similar kind of performance before he goes.
|Valtteri Bottas – Williams Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 15th, 13th, 12th, 17th, 16th||Best In India: Debut|
Outqualifying teammate Pastor Maldonado by 0.664s in Q1 was an impressive result for Valtteri Bottas, even if Pastor was thwarted by traffic, but the race couldn’t quite match up for Valtteri. The Finn lost radio contact with the pitwall at a crucial moment and his first stop was unexpectedly delayed by the confusion and with the crew taking extra care after their high-profile practice problems, he lost time there too. Abu Dhabi was the place where Bottas drove a Formula One car for the first time so might it be the scene of his first points?
|Jules Bianchi – Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 19th, 18th, 16th, DNF, 18th||Best In Abu Dhabi: Debut|
As in Japan, Jules Bianchi was left to rue a weekend which promised more than it eventually delivered. The Frenchman was the quickest driver among the younger teams in qualifying but lost out to teammate Max Chilton in a fascinating strategic battle on Sunday. Bianchi started on the soft tyres and finished 0.7s behind Chilton who saved his option tyre stint for the final eight laps, with an eleven second loss in the pits making all the difference. After dominating the Brit all year, Jules now appears to have a challenge on his hands and will be keen to bounce back in Abu Dhabi.
|Charles Pic – Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 17th, 19th, 14th, 18th, DNF||Best In Abu Dhabi: DNF (2012)|
Neither Caterham driver will want to dwell on last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix after a race which started horrendously and never recovered. Charles Pic was caught up in the collision involving his teammate and Max Chilton’s Marussia and a right rear puncture put him well behind his competitors. A hydraulics leak ended his race for good later on and Charles will be glad to get out of New Delhi and start afresh in Abu Dhabi, a venue he outqualified Timo Glock at last year during his time at Marussia.
|Giedo van der Garde – Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 18th, 16th, 15th, DNF, DNF||Best In Abu Dhabi: Debut|
Like his Caterham teammate, Giedo van der Garde’s race hardly got going in India with the turn one collision hitting him harder than anyone. Although he vented his fury on the radio afterwards, the crash could probably be best described as a racing incident but that won’t make up for the broken suspension which ended Giedo’s race. Having failed to complete more than a lap in his last two races put together, Van der Garde could be forgiven for approaching this race with a little caution.
|Max Chilton – Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 20th, 17th, 17th, 19th, 17th||Best In Abu Dhabi: Debut|
Max Chilton’s rookie campaign may have started slowly but the Briton has hit form in the closing stages of the season. After outqualifying teammate Jules Bianchi at Suzuka, Chilton will have been disappointed with the 1.168s gap between the two in India but once he’d survived the turn one collision, Max set about beating Bianchi again with his decision to save the soft tyres for the last stint paying off. With ample experience in Abu Dhabi from his GP2 days, Chilton will look to edge out Bianchi once again.