Vettel show comes to Abu Dhabi

After clinching the Formula One Championship and powering his Red Bull team to the constructors title, Sebastian Vettel will be racing for more places in the record books at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Updated: November 09, 2011 20:14 IST
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Dubai: After clinching the Formula One Championship and powering his Red Bull team to the constructors title, Sebastian Vettel will be racing for more places in the record books at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The two-time Formula One champion has already won twice in Abu Dhabi, and another victory this weekend will move him within one win of matching Michael Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a season.

The 24-year-old German can also equal the record for the most pole positions in a season at the Yas Marina circuit, which he professes to love despite complaints that there are too few overtaking opportunities which have led to boring races.

"The track in Abu Dhabi is special this will be our third Grand Prix there," Vettel said. "The race starts at dusk and finishes at night, which means we have to drive with special helmet visors because of the different light conditions. The other factor is that we drive anti-clockwise. The track's a bit like Singapore from the speed, but the asphalt is smoother."

But Vettel will have plenty of drivers looking to make their own mark or salvage their seasons, including his teammate Mark Webber who sits fourth in the drivers standings but has yet to win a race this season. Then there McLaren's Jenson Button, who will be looking to tighten his grip on second with a strong performance since he is only 13 points ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

"Our car should suit this circuit so I'm very optimistic," Button said. "We saw at the last grand prix that even though we didn't have the ultimate speed to catch and pass Sebastian, we made him work hard for the win. The championship may not be at stake any more but we're still aiming to win races and put on a tremendous show."

Button's teammate Lewis Hamilton —who finished second in Abu Dhabi last year — is hoping a victory in Abu Dhabi could erase some of this season's pain that has been most notable for his gaffes and a running feud with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

The Indian Grand Prix last month was emblematic of Hamilton's difficult season. He was penalized three grid places for ignoring yellow flags warning drivers to slow down during the practice session and then collided with Massa during the race — the third time he has done that in four races.

"We've got every reason to be confident for Abu Dhabi. This circuit should really suite the characteristics of our car - we should be able to capitalize on the layout to maximize the benefit of DRS and KERS, both of which are very strong on our car," Hamilton said.

"Red Bull and Sebastian may have clinched both championships, but I'm still determined to end the season on a winning high," he continued. "I've won two grand prix this year, and I'd love to double that by the end of the year."

Seven-time Formula One Champion Michael Schumacher and Alonso who will be looking to salvage some pride from what has been an otherwise disappointing season.

Schumacher, who came out of retirement last year, has five DNFs this season, the most recent when he crashed out of the Korean Grand Prix. But the Mercedes driver rebounded to finish fifth at the Indian Grand Prix and is only eight points behind his teammate Nico Rosberg in the driver championship standings.

Alonso came into last year's race as the points leaders and appeared poised to win the championship. But an ill-timed pitstop by Ferrari to change tires backfired. The Spaniard got stuck behind Renault's Vitaly Petrov and finished seventh.

That caused much argument about the lack of overtaking opportunities on the Yas Marina track, but the introduction this year of the DRS zone, and the reintroduction of KERS creates speed differentials that should allow passing.

Alonso is third in the drivers standing but has only won once. A late season surge that got him back into contention in 2010 never materialized this year and Ferrari has struggled to keep pace with the faster Red Bull.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said it will be tough for Alonso to return to Abu Dhabi after last year's disappointment. But he said he hoped it would serve as an incentive as the team looks to close out the year with two strong performances.

"Clearly, we are not pleased, as we have said so often," Domenicali said of the team's performance in 2011. "In the remaining two races, we want to try and get on the podium and try all we can to get Fernando to second place in the Drivers' classification."

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