Because this is the first ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, I thought I’d begin with a little summary of my early thoughts on the circuit. It’s a place where overtaking is possible, and has the longest straight in F1. It also has a pit tunnel rather than pit lane, with a speed unlimited exit that could see a crashed car blocking others from rejoining the race (a cunningly positioned crane will prevent long delays though). The race will run from twilight to night, and, interestingly, during qualifying each session took several laps for the cars to get up to speed (possibly because night is always very cold in desert conditions and tyres had difficulty getting up to speed).
It’s also worth noting that Hamilton was blisteringly fast. He was miles ahead of the field in terms of pace, getting pole by a long stretch despite having only a marginal fuel advantage over the Red Bulls in 2nd and 3rd. The two straights are also ideal for his car’s KERS, both to pass anyone who might get ahead of him (or, more likely, clearing traffic having pit stopped) and to stave off would-be passers.
The Red Bulls are pretty damned good, albeit behind Hamilton, and should both come away with podium spots.
Kovalainen qualified in 13th, but is probably going to be demoted 5 spots for a gearbox problem. Be interesting to see how he does in a car ideally suited to the circuit. I suspect he may creep into the points, but the odds are presently 2.5 and that’s too short given the opportunity for bad luck or sheer mediocrity to strike.
Hmm. The situation looks pretty clear-cut (Hamilton top dog, Red Bulls secondary with all others further behind), which is making finding any value difficult.
I’ve backed Raikonnen at 1.8 to get into the points. Yes, he starts in 11th, but he only needs to climb three places, has KERS, and has 30kg more fuel than those ahead of him so may leapfrog them come the pit stops.
Pitting may be the key here. The exit tunnel has potential for mischief, and there’s another factor I mentioned earlier: tyres. It seems that the cars took several laps to get up to speed during qualifying, which I presume is due to tyre temperatures falling off a cliff due to it being night time in the desert. Now, come the race start all’s equal, but when they start pitting it might (and I emphasise ‘might’) prove to be the case that the same thing happens and the recently pitted car typically moves backwards for a few laps.
If that’s true Hamilton will be least affected, because his ragged-edge driving style makes tyre temperatures less of a problem (punctures, on the other hand…), and Button’s silky smooth style will be difficult for him.
Unfortunately I can’t see beyond Hamilton winning it, with the top 3 of qualifying getting the podium spots. I don’t see much value there, but if you do want to back Hamilton, go for the winning car market with McLaren as (once again) the odds are marginally longer.
So, just one tip: Raikonnen to get points at 1.8. Wish I could’ve seen more, but the race looks pretty cut and dried.