RACE DEBRIEF

    It’s the final round of the 2022 Formula 1 season, with Red Bull holding both titles – and the cards – going into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Let's take a look at who might be in for a good weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, and see who the fans are backing on F1 Play, the official predictor game of F1.

    Vying for pole

    Kevin Magnussen ripped up the script last time out in Brazil as a well-timed and well-executed lap in Q3 got the Haas driver his and the team’s first Formula 1 pole position. Abu Dhabi doesn’t generally deliver the same sort of shocks.

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    In the last five years, Max Verstappen has taken two poles here, Lewis Hamilton has taken two, and Valtteri Bottas has taken one. In fact, since the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009, only McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes – and only six different drivers – have taken pole position here.

    Red Bull, who took pole in Japan and Mexico, are on form – but Ferrari still lead the stakes when it comes to qualifying wins this season and they should be neck-and-neck favourites-wise with the team in blue on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes might have been rapid in Brazil, but their only pole position of the season came at the low-speed Hungaroring, and it's not clear if their W13 car will suit the Yas Marina track.

    Pole positions in the last five years:

    • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2020 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2017 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: It’s taken a while but at last we have a proper three-way fight in the F1 Play voting ahead of this weekend’s season finale. Max Verstappen holds the edge so far but only with around 35% to date, with Mercedes pair George Russell (23%) and Lewis Hamilton (20%) next after their super show in Sao Paulo.

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    Verstappen is aiming for a third-straight pole at Yas Marina

    In the mix for victory

    Last year saw a fraught battle for the win and the title between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton here, but this year it looks like Verstappen and Red Bull have the advantage in Abu Dhabi where, in the hybrid era, only Mercedes and Red Bull have won.

    Qualifying is super important at Yas Marina Circuit; only once has this race been won from outside the front row, when Kimi Raikkonen took victory from P4 on the grid in 2012. And in the last six Grands Prix here, the pole-sitter has gone on to win.

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    This weekend, Red Bull can match the Silver Arrows’ tally of six wins at Yas Marina, and it seems that they are favourites to do so, with the reigning constructors’ champions having won nine consecutive Grands Prix until last weekend in Sao Paulo when Mercedes took a shock one-two.

    Ferrari should be Red Bull’s closest challengers, but Mercedes have upped their game in recent weekends.

    Wins in the last five years:

    • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2020 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2017 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: Really tight here and F1 Play voters love the chances of Hamilton claiming a first win of 2022 in Abu Dhabi. He has 37% of votes so far, just behind pace-setter Verstappen (43%). Russell, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite so many friends in this category, polling just 12% so far as we head deeper into race week.

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    Russell is F1's latest winner – but Mercedes might find it hard to repeat the feat in the UAE

    Podium outsiders

    Mercedes’ performance in Brazil means they can no longer be called “outsiders” for the podium. In fact, Lewis Hamilton has nine podiums this season – as many as Carlos Sainz – while Russell is just one below that tally. Equal in points for second in the standings, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez have 10 podiums apiece.

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    Any of the drivers from the top three teams have a realistic chance of hitting the rostrum on Sunday, and the true outsider is McLaren’s Lando Norris, who remains the only driver outside Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to have scored a podium this season.

    This being a high-speed circuit, perhaps Ferrari would expect to have the advantage over Mercedes – but it remains to be seen how the Silver Arrows will perform at a circuit on which they have dominated since 2014.

    Podiums in the last five years:

    • Mercedes – 7
    • Ferrari – 4
    • Red Bull – 4

    FAN VIEW: Very much the usual suspects here, just a question of which of the big six are not seen as complete locks. Right now, it’s the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz bringing up the rear in F1 Play voting, with the Monegasque having a very slight edge over his team mate following Sao Paulo.

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    Perez and Leclerc go into the race level on points

    Points potential

    This should be an open battle in the midfield, as every team on the grid has scored at least two points in the last five Grands Prix weekends.

    Alpine and McLaren should be considered shoo-ins for points, the former having scored in all but three rounds this season while McLaren have scored in all but four. Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon will all be gunning for the top 10, while outgoing McLaren racer Daniel Ricciardo has a three-place grid penalty hanging over him from Brazil.

    READ MORE: Why Red Bull had no answer for Mercedes and Ferrari in the Sao Paulo GP

    Alfa Romeo have returned to the points in recent races, but Aston Martin have scored more consistently – with Sebastian Vettel looking to bow out on a high as his glittering career comes to an end. Add in AlphaTauri, and you have three teams in contention to round out the top 10.

    As for Haas, they may struggle to score in Abu Dhabi, having only done so in 2018. Williams last scored here in 2017 and, although their car is slippery in a straight line, they might also struggle in this season finale.

    Points in the last five years:

    • Mercedes – 175
    • Red Bull – 126
    • Ferrari – 86
    • McLaren – 31
    • Alpine/Renault – 31
    • AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso – 28
    • Aston Martin/Racing Point/Force India – 21
    • Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 6
    • Haas – 3
    • Williams – 1

    FAN VIEW: Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are both finishing the season strong, and they’re fancied again to finish in the points at Yas Marina. There is good support on F1 Play for Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren and Kevin Magnussen of Haas after that famous pole in Brazil last Friday.