F1 2016: Abu Dhabi GP Preview

After 20 races, the championship will be decided at the final round in Abu Dhabi. The race at the Yas Marina Circuit will see Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go head-to-head for the 2016 title.

Rosberg is the driver with the advantage holding a 12 point lead over team-mate Hamilton. This means that reigning champion Hamilton must finish in the top three to win the championship, but even at that it will still be in Rosberg’s hands. If Hamilton wins the race Rosberg must be third to be champion. If Hamilton is second then Rosberg can finish any position down to 6th and if Hamilton is third then Rosberg can finish no lower than eighth.

Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit
Number of Laps: 55
Circuit Length: 5.554km
Number of Corners: 21
Lap Record: 1:40.279 Sebastian Vettel (2009)
Previous Brazil winners still on the grid: 4
Most Successful Team: Red Bull (3)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Supersoft, and Ultrasoft

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a day to night race which starts at twilight and ends under the lights. It is a circuit which features a mix of long straights, heavy braking zones, and fast and slow corners. The three sectors are very distinct and overtaking is possible. There are two DRS zones and grip levels are medium. Track temperatures drop during the race due to conditions going from day to night.

Rosberg won the race in 2015 but suffered heartbreak in 2014 when his car suffered mechanical issues when he was fighting for the championship. Hamilton has won the race in 2011 and 2014, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen winning the four other runnings of the Abu Dhabi GP.

This weekend will also mark the end of Felipe Massa’s F1 career as he retires. Jenson Button had been set to take a sabbatical, with a possible return to race in 2018, however he has recently said he is treating this weekend like his last Grand Prix. Between them they have entered 558 Grand Prix – Button is the third most experienced F1 driver of all time. They will both be missed in the F1 paddock and will be hoping for a good race to sign off their careers.

F1 2016: Brazilian GP Preview

The 2016 Formula One grid features five world champions – Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Sebastian Vettel. All five have won one or more of their championships at Brazil and this weekend could see a new champion crowned in the form of Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg currently has a 19 point lead over team-mate and a victory in Sao Paulo will see him become World Champion, regardless of what Hamilton does. There are a number of other ways that Rosberg can become champion as well but he can’t win it if Hamilton wins the race.

Circuit: Autodromo José Carlos Pace
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.309km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:11.473 Juan Pablo Montoya 2004
Previous Brazil winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (12 victories)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft

The Autodromo José Carlos Pace features a number of elevation changes and a number of bumps making it a unique challenge for teams and drivers alike. Throw in often mixed weather conditions and some areas with little run off area and it normally throws up an exciting race. The race no longer hosts the final race of the season – that will be held in Abu Dhabi – but this year’s championship can still be won there as it has so many times before.

It is quite a flowing track meaning that brake wear is low while there is a high demand on ERS deployment. Drivers will change gear approximately 42 times per lap and will sit at full throttle for 60%. It is quite a short circuit meaning drivers will circulate 71 times during the race. There is also a high possibility of safety cars.

In the run up to this year’s race a number of pieces of the 2017 jigsaw have fallen into place. Renault have confirmed that Jolyon Palmer will remain next season to partner Nico Hulkenberg. Kevin Magnussen is expected to sign for Haas – with Esteban Gutierrez recently confirming his departure from the team. Esteban Ocon will move from Manor to Force India to partner Sergio Perez. This leaves just Sauber and Manor to confirm their driver line-ups for next year.

In qualifying, a few teams still have finely poised head-to-head battles between their drivers. In the qualifying head-to-heads Hamilton, Vettel, and Hulkenberg all lead their mates 10-9 so with two races remaining can still be beaten.

This weekend will also be special for Felipe Massa as he prepares to retire from Formula One at the end of the year. He has won his home race once before – a bittersweet victory in 2008. He crossed the line in first and for a few seconds he had done enough to win the world championship, until Lewis Hamilton did enough to become champion by finishing fifth. It was a highly emotional podium for Massa in front of his home crowd which he handled with dignity. It would be a fitting end to his career to have one last podium at home.

 

F1 2016: Mexican GP Preview

Following the US Grand Prix, Formula One heads to South America for the second running of the Mexican Grand Prix.

The Mexican Grand Prix was previously on the F1 calendar from 1963 to 1970 and again from 1986 to 1992, but made a return in 2015. Last year’s race was won by Nico Rosberg – who also started from pole position – finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Circuit: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.304km
Number of Corners: 17
Lap Record: 1:20.521 Nico Rosberg (2015)
Previous Mexico winners still on the grid: 1
Most Successful Team: Lotus, McLaren & Williams (3 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez features the longest run to turn one on the current calendar which stands at 800m. The circuit itself is a mixture of long straights, fast flowing sections and a tricky stadium section at the end of the lap. It is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar but features its own unique challenges. Due to the location of the circuit, it is the highest on the calendar in terms of altitude which has an adverse affect on the cars. Teams will need to run higher downforce levels to compensate for this and brakes can also be difficult to cool.

Because of the fact that Formula One only returned to the track last year, and a lot of reconfiguration and profiling work was held prior to that, grip levels will probably still be low. There are plenty of run off areas at most parts of the track should drivers find themselves making any mistakes.

There will be two Mexican drivers on the grid for this year’s race – Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez. Gutierrez is still looking for his first points of the season while Perez is currently best of the rest in the drivers championship – outside of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers.

Rosberg currently leads the championship by 26 points – still more than a race victory. With 75 points up for grabs and Hamilton winning at the US Grand Prix, the championship is still very much up for grabs. However, if Rosberg wins this weekend and Hamilton fails to finish in the points then Rosberg will become world champion. Rosberg won last year and was fastest in two out of three of the practice sessions as well as taking pole position. He will be hoping to repeat that form this year to return to the top step.

 

F1 2016: US Grand Prix Preview

Formula One heads stateside with the US Grand Prix in Austin this weekend.

With just four races remaining Nico Rosberg heads his team-mate by 33 points – more than a race win – with Mercedes having secured the constructors championship last time out in Japan.

Lewis Hamilton has won three of the four previous outings at the Circuit of the Americas and he was the winner of the 2007 US Grand Prix when it was held at Indianapolis for the last time. He will be hoping to win his first race since the German Grand Prix earlier this year.

Circuit: Circuit of the Americas
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.513km
Number of Corners: 20
Lap Record: 1:39.347 Sebastian Vettel 2012
Previous US GP (in Austin) winners still on the grid: 2
Most Successful Team: Mercedes (2 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

The track has become a firm favourite amongst fans and drivers over the past four years due to its mixture of high and low speed corners, elevation changes, and ample overtaking opportunities.

The run to turn one is uphill meaning drivers arrive at the first corner blind. Drivers will reach top speeds of 340km/h with around 54 gear changes per lap. The first sector of the lap is fast and flowing while the second half of the lap features more low and medium speed corners.

Last year the weather conditions played a big part with torrential rain delaying qualifying until Sunday morning. Forecasts for this weekend look more promising and similar to the three other holdings of the US Grand Prix in Texas.

Rosberg is firmly in control of the championship with a 33 point lead over Hamilton. He has won nine races so far this season, including four of the last five. Hamilton is no stranger to overcoming points deficits to his team-mates however he is running out of time to do so. While Mercedes may have won the constructors, Red Bull have proven in the last few races that they can be a force to be reckoned with. Daniel Ricciardo won in Malaysia and has been on the podium at Austin before while Verstappen has finished second at the last two races. They now have a 50 point advantage over Ferrari. The battle between Force India and Williams remains close with Force India currently 10 points ahead of Williams. McLaren are pulling away from Toro Rosso while Haas are solidly eighth. Sauber are the only team yet to score in 2016.

 

F1 2016: Japanese Grand Prix Preview

Following the Malaysia Grand Prix, which saw the championship swing very firmly in Nico Rosberg’s favour, it is time for the Japanese Grand Prix – a firm favourite race amongst drivers and fans alike.

Daniel Ricciardo led home a Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia when Lewis Hamilton’s engine blew, causing him to retire from the lead. Rosberg now leads the championship by 23 points having finished in third place.

Circuit: Suzuka
Number of Laps: 53
Circuit Length: 5.807km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:31.540 – Kimi Raikkonen (2005)
Previous Japanese Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (9 wins)
DRS Zones: 1   
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft

The Suzuka track is a unique figure of 8 configuration and features a number of high speed corners. Drivers spend about 65% of the lap at full throttle with 42 gear changes. There is a mix of fast, medium and slow corners with the only significant braking event happening at the chicane at the end of the lap. The track is narrow and features little run-off.  Like Malaysia, track temperatures and the threat of rain are something to consider over the weekend. As it’s an older established track, grip is high but with high levels of degradation.

McLaren are the most successful team at the Japanese Grand Prix but it is Hamilton and Mercedes who have won the last two races. Before that it was Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull who won two in a row. Red Bull were the best of the rest in Malaysia behind Mercedes, and took a 1-2 in the race when Hamilton retired. This is a track they have gone well at in the past so could be ones to watch this weekend.

Hamilton will be wanting to overcome his difficult weekend at the Malaysia Grand Prix and he is the form man at Suzuka. He had dominated qualifying and much of the race before his engine gave up on the 40th lap in Malaysia. Rosberg now leads the championship by 23 points – nearly a race victory – and with only five races in the year left, Hamilton will be wanting to start eating into that lead as soon as possible.

F1 2016: Malaysia Grand Prix Preview

Despite having been on the Formula One calendar since 1999, teams and drivers are heading into the unknown this weekend. The entire circuit has been resurfaced and a number of modifications have been made to corners including banking and elevation changes.

ircuit: Sepang International Circuit
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.543km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:34.223 Juan Pablo Montoya 2004
Previous Malaysia winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (6 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Hard, Medium and Soft

The Malaysia Grand Prix has traditionally held an early spot in the calendar – usually after the Australian Grand Prix – but this year will host round 16 of the championship. Ferrari are the most successful team at the circuit and it was here last year that Sebastian Vettel took his maiden win for the Scuderia.

Lewis Hamilton won the race for Mercedes in 2014 and will be needing a win this weekend after seeing his team-mate win three in a row and take back his championship lead. Vettel has won the race on four occasions, Fernando Alonso three times, Kimi Raikkonen twice, Jenson Button & Hamilton once.

The Malaysia Grand Prix has a significant history for Alonso, Raikkonen and Button. In 2003 Alonso scored his first ever F1 podium at the track, Raikkonen took his first ever race win and Button joined them both on the podium for his first in F1. This weekend will also see Button’s 300th Grand Prix celebrated.

Drivers will be at full throttle for about 65% of the lap with about 57 gear changes per lap. There is a mix of medium and high speed corners and about 15% of the lap is spent braking. Pirelli have brought the hard, medium and soft compound tyres for the weekend and high tyre degradation is always a factor . Humid conditions can play a big part in the weekend with warmer conditions causing cooling problems.

F1 2016: Singapore GP Preview

The Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore first appeared on the F1 calendar in 2008. It was the sport’s first ever night race and remains the only one still held completely under the lights at night.

Teams, drivers and personnel remain on European time to help them deal with the odd timings of the Singapore Grand Prix. Due to the length of the circuit – 23 corners, the most of any race this year – and the probability of safety cars, the race normally pushes the two hour limit and is a tough challenge for drivers.

Circuit: Marina Bay Street Circuit
Number of Laps: 61
Circuit Length: 5.065km
Number of Corners: 23
Lap Record: 1:50.041 Daniel Ricciardo (2015)
Previous Singapore Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 3
Most Successful Team: Red Bull (3 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft

As is the case with any street circuit, there are low grip levels and the average speed is the second lowest of any on the calendar – Monaco being the slowest. 45% of the lap is spent at full throttle with approximately 80 gear changes per lap.

Pirelli have brought the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyre compounds with the latter making its first appearance since the Austrian Grand Prix earlier in the year. Drivers will have to contend with degradation as well as the humidity and extra challenges a street circuit brings.

The 2015 race proved to be a weakness in Mercedes’ armour with Nico Rosberg finishing fourth and Lewis Hamilton failing to finish. They struggled in qualifying and were unable to match the Ferraris and Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. It was Sebastian Vettel who won the race for Ferrari with Ricciardo second and Kimi Raikkonen in third.

Last time out it was Rosberg who won, beating team-mate Hamilton who had a disappointing start to the race. Vettel was third ahead of Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas. The result means that the gap between the top two in the championship stands at just two points, with Rosberg getting right back in contention with Hamilton.

Mercedes will be hoping to avoid the difficulties they suffered at the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix. Elsewhere in the championship, Red Bull are ahead of Ferrari and they are a team who have won the modern Singapore Grand Prix more than anyone else. Ferrari have won it twice with other previous winning teams McLaren and Renault unlikely to win it this year.