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Abu Dhabi preview quotes - Sauber, Toro Rosso & more

20 Nov 2014

The decisive final round of the season sees the F1 teams head to the striking desert setting of the Yas Marina Circuit, where either Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg will be crowned world champion. Those involved in the 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix discuss their prospects…


Lewis Hamilton

2013 Qualifying - 4th, 2013 Race - 7th

“Brazil was a great weekend for the team. Of course, it didn't go exactly to plan for me but second place in the circumstances was a good recovery and it was a great moment to get a record-breaking one-two finish for all the people who have worked so hard to give us this amazing car. I really felt like I connected with the fans in Sao Paulo and their support was just incredible - I still can't get over it now. That really inspires me heading into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. People talk about how long it's been since I won the title - but I honestly feel like I'm fighting for my first world championship all over again. Sure, I'm older and maybe a little bit wiser than I was back then. I've learnt a lot in the years since 2008 - but I'm still the same driver. I still have the same hunger, the same will to win, and I've been giving it everything I've got from the word go this season. I've had ups and downs along the way - but I've never once given up. I've managed to fight my way back from whatever has come my way and my approach doesn't change for this race. I've got a good record at the Abu Dhabi circuit. Last year was actually the only time I've not started on the front row or finished on the podium. But I've also had some misfortune there over the years - particularly in 2012. I'm hoping that bad luck won't play a part this time around and I know that the team has been working flat out to make sure it doesn't. I'm feeling relaxed, I'm feeling confident and I'm ready to win.”

Nico Rosberg

2013 Qualifying - 3rd, 2013 Race - 3rd

“After the disappointment of Austin, Brazil was just the way to bounce back with a great weekend for both me and the team. I felt in control from the very beginning and it was a big positive to take the lessons from Texas and put them into action. Of course, it wasn't enough to regain the lead in the championship as Lewis drove a strong race to finish just behind me. But the gap is smaller than before and I absolutely believe I still have the chance to take the title in Abu Dhabi. It won't be easy, but I'll be full attack - just as I have been all season. Although this has been my first year fighting for a world championship, I've never felt more comfortable than I have done this year. The team behind us have done an incredible job and it's great that they've given both of us equal opportunity to compete with each other. There have been difficult moments just as there have been amazing moments - but this is what Formula One is all about and I hope that everyone watching at home has enjoyed the story of this battle as much as I have. Win or lose, double points or no double points, I feel proud of what I have achieved this year and especially proud to have been a part of this fantastic season for the Silver Arrows. I go into this race with no fear and with every belief that this can be my title. It's not over until that flag drops!”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“To claim two one-two finishes from another pair of back-to-back races was a great achievement. When fatigue can so easily become a factor this late in the season, everyone has stepped up their game to ensure a record-breaking end to an incredible year. Of course, our drivers were no exception and Brazil provided another tense, exciting battle - once again demonstrating how evenly matched they are. Nico controlled the race in impressive fashion - particularly given the disappointment he felt after Austin - while Lewis proved his fighting spirit once again to recover from a spin and push his team-mate all the way. Now, they head to the final race with a world championship on the line. When we look back through the season, each driver has had his share of ups and downs and both have shown great strength of character to recover from setbacks. As a team we are fortunate to have such a talented line-up and both are worthy champions in the eyes of everybody behind them at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Of course, there will be bitter disappointment for one of them and great joy for the other. While it won't be apparent to them at the time, both have long careers ahead of them and they have proven their credentials for the years to come. You only have to look back to such great battles as that of Lauda and Prost in 1984 to see what can be achieved. This was the last title for Niki, who won that year, and Prost was defeated in that battle. But he then went on to win four championships before he retired. A top driver always has the ability to engineer another opportunity and both our boys have proven themselves to be just that: top drivers. It is now down to us to ensure that this fascinating year concludes in the right way by giving Lewis and Nico a platform to settle the title purely on the track. It is fantastic for the sport to have such a finale in what has been one of the great seasons of Formula One. I for one cannot wait to watch the race in Abu Dhabi and I'm sure those at home feel the same. May the best man win!”

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes team executive director (technical)

“Brazil brought yet another exciting race with a great contest between Nico and Lewis and it was fantastic to set a new record for one-two finishes. In doing so, the team has surpassed a benchmark that I remember being set by McLaren during my first season in Formula One and one which I never thought we would see broken. That is still sinking in and is testament to what has been achieved by the team this year. In terms of the battle for the drivers' championship, it was a race which once again demonstrated how evenly matched our drivers have been all year and underlines the fact that either of them would be a worthy world champion. Unusually for Interlagos, rain did not play a role in the weekend. What we did see, however, was the impact of a revised tyre selection. It was positive to see that, despite concerns during running on Friday, the tyres performed well in the race and added to the spectacle with a three stop race, which is a credit to the job Pirelli have done this season. We now look ahead to Abu Dhabi, which has been the scene of a number of exciting title showdowns in recent years - none with such intense focus as this season with double points on the table. We will be running the weekend exactly as we would normally do with the absolute aim of giving both drivers an equal and fair shot at the title. Nothing is more important in our minds and in our preparations as we approach this race. Yas Marina is an impressive facility, with the track itself containing a large quantity of corners and requiring high skill levels from the drivers to put together a fast lap. We can expect a significant following both at the circuit and around the world for such a dramatic conclusion to the season, so we hope to put on a good show.”


Romain Grosjean

2013 Qualifying - 7th, 2013 Race - 4th

“I think it’s a good track with very nice paddock facilities which in my opinion are amongst the best on the calendar. It’s also a very special Grand Prix given that it starts in the day and finishes under lights, which makes it incredible for the fans as they can see through our visors and watch how hard we are concentrating. However, it is very difficult to work on car set-up in FP1 and FP3 as conditions are not representative of those you’ll find in qualifying and the race. Therefore, FP2 becomes even more important for both the engineers and myself, which makes it a rather pressurized session. It’s a circuit with low-speed corners - so it’s one we may have a few problems with - but I’m confident we can dial-in the car to achieve the maximum result possible. Pastor and I will be doing everything we can.

“We’ve got a few upgrades coming which should give us a bit more power and with double points on offer, you never know! We are going to try our hardest to get the best result we can and create a positive mood over the winter for the team back in the factory. When things aren’t going right for you, it’s difficult on everyone so a bit of positivity will help the whole team. Pastor and I will be trying our upmost to bring back some strong points. Sometimes a bit of luck and some clever decisions is all you need to achieve great results, and that’s what we’ll be aiming for on Sunday.”

Pastor Maldonado

2013 Qualifying - 15th, 2013 Race - 11th

“It’s always a special event and with it being the final race on the calendar this year, it’s going to be even more exciting. Away from the track, the people are always really welcoming, the weather is great and the place is spectacular. The pit and paddock complex is also amongst the best there is with excellent facilities.

“The first sector at the circuit stands out with Turns 2, 3 and 4 being particularly enjoyable and the final sector is incredibly picturesque. Although it is a reasonably new track on the calendar, the team has built up a lot of data from the five previous races there and various post-season testing sessions, so we’re used to the challenging set-up dilemma it poses. It’s a twilight race so it’s all about finding a balance between the hot daytime conditions and cooler temperatures when the sun sets. I’m sure it’s going to be one of the best races of the year. It’s been fun driving there in the past so I’m hoping to have another good race at Yas Marina.

“I think it’s crucial that we try and improve our qualifying pace because as soon as we are in the top 12, things should be on the up and we’ll be in a good position to fight for points. We’ve seen that our race pace is quite competitive so it’s all about starting from the highest grid position possible. We know this is an area we need to make big strides forwards and Romain and I are working closely with the engineers to improve our qualifying results.”

Esteban Ocon

“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to drive in my first session at a Grand Prix and I am tremendously grateful to Lotus F1 Team and Gravity Sport Management. The practice session on Friday will be my first time driving the Yas Marina circuit and my first time in the latest generation Formula 1 car, so there will be a lot to learn, especially as I will be completing the team’s programme for the free practice session. For the test day we will have far more time me to learn and develop with the car so I’m really looking forward to Abu Dhabi.”

Federico Gastaldi, Lotus deputy team principal

“I think it is a great place to sign off. Obviously with the drivers’ title still up for grabs it will be exciting at the very front to see who can win what has been a great battle. The ambience of the track and the surrounding area is excellent and it is a venue which is now well established on the calendar. The track is interesting with lots of different challenges. With the race going in to the evening, the lights and atmosphere make it a very distinctive event and a good one commercially for the sport with lots of celebrities and partner guests enjoying the weekend.”

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director

“We would really like to be fighting for points with both cars. We made good progress in Austin and we should be nearer to that level of relative performance than we were in Interlagos where we knew we would face a challenge due to the nature of the track. For Abu Dhabi we believe that the E22 should perform quite well, particularly on the soft and super soft tyres. Yas Marina is a circuit where we’ve performed well in the past so we’d certainly like to end what has been a very tough season with a positive finish. The tyre selection for this last Grand Prix will make for an interesting race, with perhaps one more stop than if Pirelli had brought the medium and soft compounds. What’s certain is that it gives everyone a few more possibilities.

“We will carry on our [development] programme which is geared towards next year. We’re looking at evaluating a new steering wheel with a larger display and there will be some bodywork changes that the eagle-eyed might notice.”

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel

2013 Qualifying - 2nd, 2013 Race - 1st

“I personally have very special memories of the Abu Dhabi circuit and race; it was here in 2010 that I became world champion for the first time in my favourite F1 car, the RB6. That was a weekend I will never forget and this year the race will mark another big moment in my career; my last race with Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Of course it will be an emotional weekend as we have great memories together, but I’ll enjoy the weekend with the team and with a bit of luck maybe we’ll get a final podium. The circuit itself is impressive. The five star Yas Marina Hotel spans the marina and across the track and is a spectacular landmark. One of the challenges of the track can be turn one which is very difficult to see and very fast. Also, turn 10, after the long straight which we take in first or second gear depending on the gear ratios, can be a good overtaking opportunity. I will arrive a bit earlier for the weekend as we have a show run with Infiniti in Dubai on Wednesday, which gives me a bit longer to enjoy the sunshine and warmth before we go back to winter in Europe!”

Daniel Ricciardo

2013 Qualifying - 10th, 2013 Race - 16th

“Like many modern circuits it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into making the Yas Marina Circuit as safe as it possibly can be. Of course that’s absolutely the right thing to do but the consequence is that there’s lots of run-off. It’s the way it’s got to be but you never feel like you’re putting the car on the line. However Yas still manages to get the adrenaline going. I really like the third sector, around and under the hotel. It’s got a bit more of a street circuit vibe and it’s good fun. Plus there’s the whole twilight racing thing. That’s a great idea; it seems to give the whole place a really good atmosphere and is quite different to anywhere else.”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg

2013 Qualifying - 6th, 2013 Race - 14th

"Abu Dhabi is a nice venue: very modern and with great facilities. The racing looks really cool on TV as the day turns into night and the track is pretty challenging for us in the car as well. The light is not really an issue once you are in the cockpit, but the layout makes it very easy to make mistakes and lose time, especially in qualifying. It's very stop-start, with a few chicanes and tight corners, so it is very difficult to get a good rhythm.

"It was nice to be back on the pace in Brazil and hopefully we will have similar pace in Abu Dhabi. It has been a great year for everyone in the team and it would be nice to end the season in style with some more points."

Sergio Perez

2013 Qualifying - 9th, 2013 Race - 9th

"Abu Dhabi is a special race on a circuit I really enjoy. It's where I first drove a Formula One car and that is something that will remain with me forever. The facilities are great and the track is not easy to master: this year we also have double points and that gives you even more motivation to do well. Everything in the lap requires some compromise - you need a set-up that works on fast corners, stop-start turns and the twisty final sectors. You also need to think carefully about your choice of helmet visor: you start the race with a low sun that requires a dark visor, and end the race in the night needing a clear one."

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal

"We are usually competitive in Abu Dhabi and I am really looking forward to it. It will not be easy [to snatch fifth in the constructors' championship], but we will give it everything we have and see if that will be enough. Whatever happens in Abu Dhabi, we already have sixth place in the championship secured, so there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. As a big Formula One fan, I am also eager to see the final chapter of the championship battle between Nico and Lewis - it will be exciting.

"I believe we have a lot to be proud of this season. We took on some huge challenges at the start of a new era of Formula One and we produced a competitive car. We took the fight to the biggest names in the sport; we got back on the podium on merit and did so without compromising on our philosophy. I feel that in Nico and Checo we have found a pair of drivers who are capable of pushing each other and the team at every race and this is helping us maximise the good work done by everyone at our headquarters and trackside. In 2014 we scored the biggest points total in our history and we want to build on this result to create an even stronger 2015."


Felipe Massa

2013 Qualifying - 8th, 2013 Race - 8th

“The track is like a street-circuit in one sector with slow corners and barriers quite close, and then a traditional circuit in the other with very long straights and flowing corners. We race in the evening but practice during the heat of the day, so to adapt the car towards cooler conditions is important, it can save a lot of time if you get this right. Being the final race of the season and with double points it is a very important race to finish in the top ten.”

Valtteri Bottas

2013 Qualifying - 16th, 2013 Race - 15th

“Abu Dhabi is going to be an exciting race and it could play out one of two ways. The double points could be interesting and we will try and play it to our advantage. We have been trying to secure our position in the championship and so continue to focus on this, but I can still finish fourth in the Drivers’ Championship I will focus on this as well. It’s a nice place to go to, the temperature is warm, the people are friendly and the facilities good so I am looking forward to the race.”

Rob Smedley, Williams head of vehicle performance

“Abu Dhabi has a great mix of long straights with high straight-line speed, big braking and a tight twisty section at the end of the lap. Our main focus is going to be on the third sector and getting the balance right there, which is always difficult due to the changes throughout the weekend with the temperature. You get a large variation in temperature throughout the sessions. It’s important to focus on the dusk to early evening track as that is the time the race will take place. The track has great facilities and you always get a really good crowd, who will hopefully be behind us. Our ambitions remain the same, to finish with a decent haul of points and finish third in the championship.”


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“It’s always a pleasure to return to Abu Dhabi and this year’s event will be even more significant than usual, with the drivers’ championship being decided and double points available. The strategy is normally greatly affected by the unusual track evolution, due to the falling temperatures caused by the late afternoon start. This was the case in Bahrain as well, which turned out to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season earlier this year. As a result, the free practice sessions will be particularly crucial, as the teams try to gather as much information as possible about how the car will perform on both compounds: not just with different fuel loads, but also with different track temperatures. As so many points are on offer, there is a big opportunity for teams that have less to lose to try an unexpected strategy, in order to make some potentially significant gains.”


Jenson Button

2013 Qualifying - 13th, 2013 Race - 12th

"I really like going to Yas Marina. I've been on the podium there three times and it's a fun, tricky track to drive on. It's a circuit of a number of almost completely different sections: fast corners and two long straights in Sectors One and Two, and a tight, twisty, slow-speed bit in Sector Three. It means set-up is an interesting challenge, but, as it's not such a fast circuit, it doesn't require quite as much downforce as some of the other circuits we've been to recently.

"The result at Interlagos was a great boost for the team. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by the guys and girls back at the factory and a consistent push to develop the car right up until the last race of the season. I managed the tyres as well as I could and it paid off, so we'll be aiming for more of the same in Abu Dhabi. Tyre wear isn't quite so crucial there because the race takes place at dusk as the temperature is dropping, so we'll try to get as much out of the car's performance as we can up to the very last lap.

"Abu Dhabi is a great place and a cool location to host the last race of the season. It should be an exciting race, as everyone will be pushing to finish 2014 on a high. For the whole team our ambition is to fight hard but fair as always, and get the result that is deserving of all the hard work everyone has put in to increase our performance throughout the year. I'm really looking forward to it."

Kevin Magnussen

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

"Although I've never raced at the Yas Marina circuit before, I drove there in the Young Driver Test in 2012, so it's great to finish this season by going back to a place with such good memories. It's another anti-clockwise circuit, too, like Austin and Interlagos, so by now we should definitely be in the swing of things!

"Jenson's result in the last race in Brazil was really positive for the whole team, and shows that our car's performance is definitely improving. For me personally it was a tough weekend as the car definitely had potential, but we didn't manage to get the most out of it on my side of the garage, so that's something we'll really be focusing on in Abu Dhabi.

"Yas Marina is a great circuit to drive on as it has the best of both worlds: a technical, slower-speed section as well as fast, sweeping corners and long straights, which make it great fun. The atmosphere is fantastic there too, and I'm really excited about racing at dusk for the first time. I really want to finish this season with a decent result for the whole team, who have all worked so hard to keep improving our package race by race."

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

"Yas Marina is a fantastic place to come to as the 2014 season draws to a close. It's a very impressive facility and racing at dusk is a wonderfully unique spectacle for F1 fans all around the world to enjoy. It's also positive for the sport that the championship will be decided in the final race, so the atmosphere is sure to be electric throughout the entire venue.

"This year has been a huge challenge for the whole McLaren team, but our definite progress as the season has unfolded has been very encouraging. Our push for development has been relentless and this will only continue into the winter as we prepare for next season. We are still improving the car even for Abu Dhabi, with all of our efforts being channelled into next year's car and moving McLaren ever closer to where we should be, back towards the front of the grid.

"The race in Abu Dhabi also marks the end of a very significant era in McLaren's history, and we'd like to thank Mercedes for our hugely successful and historic partnership over the past 20 seasons. With double points at stake, we are fully focused on securing the best possible finish in order to consolidate our position in the constructors' standings, and the aim for the whole team is to conclude the season with a positive result.

"It's important that we carry strong momentum into the closed season, so it would be great to reward the hard work of everyone at the factory in Woking with some valuable points. At Yas Marina there will be some big winners and big losers as the chequered flag falls, thanks to double points, so, providing we can maintain our recent improved pace, we are aiming to be in the former camp. As usual, we will be pushing from the moment we arrive to configure the optimal set-up on our car, so that we can take as much valuable information into the winter development phase as possible. Here's to an exciting weekend for both the team and the sport as a whole."

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne

2013 Qualifying - 14th, 2013 Race - 17th

"A great track facility, nice hotels to stay in, good food and lovely sunny weather – a pleasant way to end the season. As for the track itself, it is not one of my favourites, but it does present some interesting challenges. The race itself is bound to be interesting because of the double points on offer. The fact the race starts in daylight and ends under floodlights also adds something to the ambience. I think the atmosphere in the paddock will be electric this weekend because it's the championship decider."

Daniil Kvyat

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

"Last year I was in Abu Dhabi, but not to drive in FP1. I was only focussing on my GP3 weekend, which went very well as I won the championship, making it a very memorable weekend for me. I was aware of everyone watching me very closely as it had already been announced that I would be racing for Scuderia Toro Rosso the following year. It was important to show what I was made of. I like the track a lot, as it has an interesting and technical layout, which encourages you to push hard. It will be very different in a Formula One car naturally and I'm looking forward to finding out what it's like. The season comes to an end on Sunday night and although everyone needs a break sometimes, you like to do what you do, so in a way it's a shame it will be over. But I will be pleased to recharge my batteries in preparation for next year when a new challenge lies ahead and I am already looking forward to that."


Esteban Gutierrez

2013 Qualifying - 17th, 2013 Race - 13th

“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is another great event, and I will enjoy driving on this track. It will be important to find a good set-up, and this is where we need to put our focus the most on Friday. The track is quite spectacular with nice surroundings that are quite unique. One example is the hotel on top of the track. All in all, the atmosphere is special. The race starts late in the afternoon, which makes it even more interesting, and I would say the event has a bit of the same style as Singapore. It is very exciting to come back to Abu Dhabi, and I am looking forward to enjoying the race weekend there. We will keep fighting for a good result.”

Adrian Sutil

2013 Qualifying - 18th, 2013 Race - 10th

“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the last race of the season. It is always a great event attended by many fans. The track itself is in perfect condition, it is very modern and it has some run-off areas. As the circuit has a few long straights, engine power will be crucial. On the other side, there are also hairpins and some slow speed corners. Besides that, the surroundings are also nice. We will again do our best to score points, and, especially on this weekend, we have to take the opportunity for double points. I am looking forward to an exciting weekend.”

Adderly Fong

“I am very excited about my Formula One debut in Abu Dhabi, but also at the same time a little bit nervous. Last month I drove the Sauber C31 for the first time in Valencia, and it was good to get the mileage to be able to familiarise myself with the speed of a Formula One car. Obviously the C33 is a bit different, as it is a new generation car with a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged engine. It will be interesting to see how the ERS and the brake-by-wire systems work. As I will have only 90 minutes in FP1, I will not have a lot of time to get used to the car. However, being able to drive during a Formula One weekend is a great privilege, and I am very happy to have the opportunity. It is good that I already know the track as at the same time here last year I did a GP3 race.”

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Sauber head of track engineering

“The power demand of the race in Abu Dhabi promises a tough weekend at the end to our toughest season to date. Nevertheless, after some steps forward were witnessed in the recent qualifying sessions, the team is fully focused and pushing for a result we all feel we would deserve. The set-up will be biased towards low-speed cornering. Stable braking and strong traction are also relevant for the lap time. We are pleased with the allocation of soft and super-soft tyres for the weekend, as the race at sunset will help keep their temperatures under control.”