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Abu Dhabi preview quotes - Toro Rosso, Sauber, Williams, Pirelli, Mercedes & more

22 Nov 2016

The season finale - and title decider - is upon us in the form of the 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit. Those involved look ahead to the action...

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

“Wow, it's already the last race of the season, it's unbelievable how quickly the year has gone by! I'm keen to have some holidays now but I know already that after a couple of weekends without a race I will want to be back on track!

“But now, let's make the most out of this final race weekend. It's not over yet! What I like about Abu Dhabi being in November is that it's like travelling back to the summer for a week - back home it's cold and nearly Christmas, so I enjoy a week of sun and heat in the middle of winter!

“What I also like is the fact that it's a twilight race - we start when the sun is still out and then it gets darker and darker while we're racing, it's cool! Nice for overtaking, yes! And I have to say it's a cool race weekend in general, it's one I enjoy!”

Daniil Kvyat

“It's not the most thrilling of tracks, as many of the corners are very similar, but it's still a pleasant one to drive with a scenic backdrop. It's a circuit that's good for racing also because it's got two good DRS zones.

“I've just remembered! Here [he points at the space in between Turns 17 to 20] there's a very good restaurant - you could wave to the people while they're having dinner! The colour of the sun in the Middle East is really lovely - sort of orange - at that time of day. Our photographer friends can get really nice photos!”


Marcus Ericsson

“With the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix we approach the season finale. It is hard to believe that we have now reached round 21 - time really flies. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is always a nice race weekend. Besides enjoying driving on this circuit a lot, the fan atmosphere and the events around the track are great. It will be an exciting weekend, as not only will the world champion be crowned, but we will also fight again for our tenth position in the constructors’ championship.”

Felipe Nasr

“After my great result at my home Grand Prix in Brazil, I am traveling to Abu Dhabi with a positive mindset. I enjoy being there, as I always receive a warm welcome and a lot of support, both in the UAE and the whole of the Middle East, because of my family’s Lebanese roots. The food is really amazing, but I also like the people, their traditions, and their cultures. The season is not over yet, so our objective is clearly to keep our current position in the standings.”


Valtteri Bottas

“Abu Dhabi is a nice place to finish the Formula One season. The facilities are great there and it seems like more and more people come to this race every year. It’s the place where I had my first ever Formula One test in 2011. It’s a good track for racing and it looks very cool with the sunset. We ended the 2014 season there with a double podium so it would be nice to finish this season with another strong result. Normally it’s a good track for our car because of the long straights and short corners and chicanes, so I look forward to it.”

Felipe Massa

“It’s going to be another emotional one! You try not think about it too much when you’re in the car, you just try to do as good a job as you can. It’s a really nice track to drive, there are lots of fans who really enjoy themselves at the track and outside of the track and it is, of course, a twilight race which is interesting for us and everyone watching. I really hope the final, and 250th race of my Formula One career, can be a fantastic one. We will of course have a big party! Hopefully we can celebrate with a great result.”

Pat Symonds, chief technical officer

“After two high-altitude races we now head right down to sea level in Abu Dhabi. Although a modern circuit, it is quite challenging with the high-speed areas of Turns 2 and 3, and Turns 15 and 16, really testing the cars. However, the set-up also needs to allow good low-speed change of direction. The two long straights have independent DRS zones giving drivers two bites at overtaking, or conversely, if they accomplish the overtake on the first straight, they must defend on the second. Pirelli are bringing the ultrasoft tyre to this race for the first time, which could prove a difficult tyre to use as the numerous corners that make up sector three may well push this tyre above its ideal operating temperature, particularly as the prescribed pressure is significantly higher than we have used with this tyre before. Unlike Brazil, we can be pretty sure of a dry race here in the desert and, in spite of the introduction of the softer tyre, we would still expect a two-stop to be the favoured strategy.”


Paul Hembery, motorsport director

“Abu Dhabi is one of the circuits we know best, having completed a number of tests there previously, including some of the recent 2017 wider tyre tests that we have been carrying out since August. The new element to this year’s race is obviously the ultrasoft tyre, which should provide some extra speed on a circuit that forms a good all-round test for the tyres. In fact, all the compounds nominated for this year are very well suited to Abu Dhabi, opening up a number of different possibilities when it comes to strategy. Although the attention is on the finish of the 2016 season, we’re already looking forward to 2017, with a presentation to media before the start of the Grand Prix, then the first test with all three mule cars on track together with 2017 tyres, on the Tuesday after the race.”


Nico Rosberg

“Obviously, the result in Brazil wasn't the one I was going for. But Lewis did a great job and second place wasn't a disaster in the end. I'm looking forward now to Abu Dhabi. It feels great to be in the World Championship battle with Lewis for a third year in a row. I will give it everything to end the season with a win. I've had a great week, relaxing and catching up with my family and friends, so I feel like I'm in a good place. In Brazil, after the race, I was joking that I would still be taking things one race at a time. But, the more I think about it, the more that's actually not as crazy as it sounds. I have to treat this like any other race. Doing a good job on a Grand Prix weekend is always a challenge. Nothing in this sport is easy, so this won't be any different and I still have to go all out for a good result. I have great memories from winning at this track last year and it's somewhere I've usually been strong in the past, so I have every reason to feel confident. The closer it gets, the more I'm feeling excited. It will be a big battle and hopefully the fans will get a great show to end the year.”

Lewis Hamilton

“To finally win in Brazil was a moment I'll never forget. It had been a long time coming. I'm in a good place right now. I'm feeling super strong in this amazing car that everyone at the factories has worked so hard to give us. I've had 31 wins in four years with this team so far, which is just crazy. I'm so thankful for the great opportunity these guys have given me. We're continuing to make history together. It's not been a perfect season and I'm faced with pretty impossible odds no matter what I do this weekend. But I can't and won't give up. You never know what might happen - however unlikely it may seem. I'll be proud of myself and what I've achieved as long as I feel I've given my all and performed at my best. And, whatever happens, I'm proud of everyone who's been a part of the success we've shared over the past few years. I'm approaching this weekend the same as I do every race. I want to win and I'll give it everything to finish the season on a high.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“Last weekend we saw yet another classic Interlagos race. To come away from all the drama of the crazy weather, the re-starts and the extreme track conditions with a 1-2 finish was a special result. Of course, the bigger picture is an exciting finale in Abu Dhabi. To have the title decided between our two drivers at the final race of the season, for the second time in three years, shows just how closely matched they are. It also shows how much this team has achieved. We can be very proud of that. But, as a group, we now have one very important final duty this season - to give Nico and Lewis the platform they need to battle it out to the flag. Both of them have been exceptional and either one would make a worthy champion. It's been a gruelling year for us all, with a record-breaking calendar and the added challenge of a new regulation set to prepare for in 2017. After such a battle of endurance, the winner can say without doubt that they earned it. We are all excited to see who that will be. May the best man win.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“This is the first time we've had a 21st race in any Formula One season and it's fitting that such a record-breaking year should conclude with the drivers' championship being fought right to the very end. It's great for fans of the sport. Of course, it also means significant tension within our particular camp - but the team has shown itself highly adept at managing this type of situation over the past few years. We will approach this weekend as we would any other, with the primary objective of ensuring that the title is decided on track in a fair fight. While there have been occasional issues over the course of the year, 2016 has actually seen the strongest reliability record in the history of this team - both technically and operationally - giving us good faith in the underlying progress that we've made. The drivers too are in great shape, so we're looking forward to a close and hard-fought competition. Pirelli have included the ultraSoft compound tyre for this weekend, so we could well see qualifying times faster than ever before at this circuit. All in all, we're hoping for a spectacular finale under the magical setting of those Marina lights, giving everyone something to remember as we cap off an incredible year.”


Fernando Alonso

“I enjoy racing in Abu Dhabi every year. Not just because it’s become synonymous with the end of the season, but there’s a unique atmosphere there – a combination of the ‘end-of-term’ feeling, anticipation ahead of the winter development push and the buzz from the fans as we go racing for the final time in 2016. From the cockpit, it’s incredible to race at twilight and watch the light fade as you complete lap after lap. It brings a new dimension to the spectacle and makes the whole weekend really enjoyable.

“The faster first sector and the two long straights in the middle sector at Yas Marina mean that it isn’t a track that will naturally suit our package, but over the course of Friday we’ll work hard to dial in the car to make the most of what we have and extract as much performance as possible. It’s an interesting track to set the car up for, as although it’s in the desert, the track temperature cools a lot during the course of the race as we reach twilight, so the tyre conditions and grip levels are constantly evolving as we reach the chequered flag. It’s a really unique place and a great circuit to end the season at, and I hope we can push for a positive end to the year.

“For McLaren-Honda, this race marks the end of a significant year for the team, and the last time I’ll race with my team mate Jenson for the foreseeable future. It’s been a pleasure to work with him and I’ll miss him being in the garage next to me, but he’ll still very much be part of McLaren-Honda’s plans and I want to wish him all the best for the exciting things he has in store for the next step in his career.”

Jenson Button

“I’m really looking forward to this weekend, and have been for a few races now. It marks a very special chapter in my life and I’ll have my friends and some of my family out in Abu Dhabi with me which I’m very excited about. It’s going to be a hugely emotional weekend and I hope with the support of the fans, the team and the people that are closest to me, we can go out there and give it our absolute maximum and enjoy the weekend. It’s not the end of my career with McLaren-Honda, but it’s the start of a new phase that I’m incredibly positive about. This race marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work, dedication and passion for the sport that I love and I’m immensely proud of everything I’ve achieved in the past 17 seasons, and the fantastic progress we’ve made over the past couple of years with McLaren-Honda. It’s been an amazing project to work on and my involvement certainly won’t end here. I’m looking forward to concluding this chapter in style and starting a new one with just as much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

“Yas Marina is a pretty technical race track, with a relatively low average speed thanks to the tight corners in the final sector, which gives it many of the characteristics of a street circuit. Typically, overtaking is quite tricky there, so it’s important we do as much as we can in qualifying and hope for a strong, clean start like many that we’ve enjoyed so far this year, and make the most of our strategy in order to get the best possible result. If we use the track time productively on Friday it’ll give us the best opportunity to set the car up for the weekend and, hopefully, avoid a repeat of Brazil where I really struggled for pace in the race. Our package definitely has more potential than that, and I hope that I can push it to the limit and give the team and the fans a good end to the year.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for McLaren-Honda, cements a very positive year, where we have overcome challenges, fought hard, pushed relentlessly and seen firm progression in every area. As I always say, we aren’t where we want to be, of course, but we’re fighting fit and looking ahead to a strong winter of further development. I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in three short years - two on the track - and indebted to the incredible commitment, steadfast loyalty and unwavering support demonstrated by our team members in the UK and Japan, our Partners, and our amazing fans.

“This weekend also marks a very significant moment for McLaren-Honda, as we bid farewell to Jenson, who will be stepping out of the cockpit after the race on Sunday to embark on a new chapter both with McLaren-Honda and in his personal life. As we know, it’s farewell for now and not goodbye, and we’ll be working side by side with him over the coming year, when he’ll be as close to the team and our developments as ever. Nevertheless, it’s a poignant step in our history together and an opportunity to celebrate his 17 seasons in the sport, seven with McLaren, and celebrate his many achievements on track. We’ll certainly miss him in the garage, but we look forward to continuing our relationship and the exciting projects we’ll be working on together in 2017.

“Last but not least, we approach this weekend with positivity, but the awareness that it will be a challenging Grand Prix on a track that is complex in character and offers a set of unique parameters within which to set up the car. With qualifying and the race taking place in very different conditions from the earlier part of the weekend, setting up the car for all eventualities is tricky but is also what makes this venue so unique, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle for fans at the end of a long season. The Yas Marina Circuit and its ever-impressive facilities provide a stunning setting in which to go racing for the final time in 2016, and I hope we can finish the season on a high - for Jenson, the team and our fans across the world.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“With the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 2016 Formula One season comes to an end. It’s been a long season for the team, but for an improving team like ours, every day spent together helps us grow stronger. We’ll also bid farewell to Jenson, who has been the glue to the McLaren-Honda team alongside Fernando since the beginning. We’ll miss his smile at the track, but we’re very happy that he’ll continue to support the team’s development next year.

“The circuit at Yas Marina has a unique layout with a traditional race and street-like circuit combined into one, unlike the several previous races. Each sector is very different, from slow 90-degree turns to full-throttle straights, so it will no doubt be another busy weekend to set up both the power unit and chassis to get the maximum out of the package.

“When we see the chequered flag on Sunday evening, it will mark the transition for us to fully focus on the 2017 package. This is an exciting, albeit challenging time as we have just about three months until our next chapter begins. We hope to end our year on a positive note, and enjoy the twilight race in Abu Dhabi.”

Force India

Sergio Perez

“It’s the final race of the year and you really want to close the season with a good result. It’s an exciting time and you need to keep focused on the job even though everyone is already talking about the following season. You want to finish the year well to go on holiday with a sweet taste in your mouth, especially this year when there is so much at stake. Nobody wants to have a bad final race; it’s a pretty nasty feeling!

“Abu Dhabi is a cool place and the fans we meet come from all over the world. The facilities at the track are impressive and I’ve always liked racing there. It’s a very fast track, with big braking zones and quick changes of direction. You need a car that is very stable at the rear to make the most of the braking zones. Also, having good traction out of the corners can gain you a lot of time. There are some overtaking opportunities and the possibility to go for different strategies usually produces interesting races.

“Last year’s race was pretty exciting - fighting for the podium against the Ferraris. Even though we fell short, it was a very good race and hopefully we can have another strong weekend after Brazil.

“You always get a bit nostalgic at the end of the season. You know it’s the last time you’re going to drive your VJM09 and you don’t know what the next season will bring. I want to go into the winter with special memories from the final race.”

Nico Hulkenberg

“The final race of the season is always special, but this year even more so. It will be my final race with the team, so it will be emotional to work with the crew and the other team members for one last time. People move around teams a lot in Formula One, so I know it’s a goodbye and not a farewell. I want to enjoy this last race together and make sure it turns into a celebration: I want us to confirm fourth place in the championship, then we will see a lot of big smiles on everyone’s faces and be proud of what we achieved together.

“Abu Dhabi is a very cool place. Yas Marina is very modern and the circuit has probably the best facilities of the whole calendar. The track is not bad either and it’s fun to drive. You race into the sunset and it looks really cool when all the lights come on. It’s a unique experience.

“The pit lane exit is very tricky and one of the most memorable parts of the circuit: you release the pit limiter, accelerate for a second and then you have to brake for the very sharp left hander underneath the track. The wall feels very close and you always hold your breath every time you drive through that narrow exit! It’s a little uncomfortable because as soon as you push harder, you start to slide and it’s very easy to get it wrong.

“Looking at the track characteristics, Abu Dhabi should suit us really well. We had a few strong results in the last few years and I am confident we can get a good one this time around too. I would love nothing more than to sign off from the team in style.”

Vijay Mallya, team principal

“After scoring well in Brazil, we head to Abu Dhabi on the verge of achieving our best ever finish in the constructors’ championship. There is one final step to take and everyone is determined to get the job done and end the season on a high with a strong result.

“The final race is a great opportunity to look back at the work we have done this year. I have always been confident in our team, even when circumstances played against us in the early races and we didn’t get the results our pace deserved. We kept to our plan, trusted our direction and since May we have been on the way up. Monaco was a big turning point and the team has been going from strength to strength since then.

“Abu Dhabi is the culmination of all our efforts, but there is no room for complacency. Both our drivers have an extra bit of motivation to do well - Checo to cross the 100-point threshold, which would be the first time ever for a Force India driver; Nico to close his Force India adventure on a high. This is a track that brought us some good results in the past and it would be special to end the season in style.”


Romain Grosjean

“It’s just a great venue. The race starts in the day and finishes in the night. You have sundown in the middle of the race, which is fun. The paddock is amazing. The atmosphere is always good, and you know you’re on holiday after the race as it’s the last one of the season. I’ll still be pushing one last time, though.

“Generally, it’s a low-speed corner circuit. The only high-speed corners are Turns 2 and 3. Normally they’re taken flat - easy flat in qualifying. The track has some long straight lines, but you mainly want to focus on getting the low-speed corners correct, especially through the last sector. That’s what you have to focus on in Abu Dhabi.

“Race day’s not too bad the way it [the cooling track] changes during the Grand Prix. It’s more in between FP1 and FP2, then FP3 and qualifying, where you’re out at two different times of the day. You have a big difference in track temperature and car behaviour. That’s something you need to keep in mind. We don’t have any data from the past. We won’t know what we’re doing in advance between FP3 and qualifying in terms of aero balance and setting up the car. These are things we have to find out for ourselves when we get there.

“I won there in GT1 (in 2010 with Matech Competition). That was my first-ever GT World Championship start, and the first race with that team, and we won. It was a pretty good moment taking the win and leading the championship.”

Esteban Gutierrez

“It’s luxurious and it’s modern. It’s an incredible track. There was a lot of investment in it. Every time you get there it’s like a whole different world, like a Disneyland more or less. It’s nice to get there and have the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

“You have to compromise in the first sector, which is mainly about high-speed corners. Then you have sectors two and three, which are about straight line speed and braking into chicanes and slow-speed corners. You have to manage the tyres, and that’s the most challenging part.

“Once you are into the race, it [the track] doesn’t really change much. It changes a lot after three or four o’clock and the sun starts to go down and by the time the race starts it’s already on a very good level. Everything is more stable. The temperatures are more stable, the tyres are working better and, usually, you can manage them better by not overheating them.

“You just have to consider how the balance of the car is going to evolve during the race. Basically, what’s the plan going to be in terms of changing the car balance a little bit through the race with the front wing and with all the tools we have in the car.”

Guenther Steiner, team principal

“[With the Yas Marina Circuit] They did a great job. They made a huge investment to make it a showplace. Everything is there that you would want to have there. There is nothing missing. It’s just state of the art. It’s a fantastic place to go to for the season finale.

“[With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, the track] cools down and, hopefully, that helps us with tyre management because we are more competitive when it cools down. Our car seems to prefer a cooler ambient temperature, and like we saw in Brazil, when it got colder, we could get the tires to work in that window. I think it is getting cool enough that we get them in the window in Abu Dhabi.”


Pascal Wehrlein

“We just have to do our very best and see where that gets us. I think we have to be realistic about what is possible in Abu Dhabi, but that shouldn’t stop us fighting all the way to the finish.

“Over the last couple of races we have seen what a difference three solid practice sessions makes to our qualifying and race preparation. We have to get everything right, and at the same time, identify every little advantage and opportunity. If that happens, we have shown four times this year that we can make it into Q2, and a better starting position can make a big difference in the race. Brazil happened, so the chance to show more of what we have achieved together this year is what we are targeting.”

Esteban Ocon

“I will forever be grateful to Manor Racing for giving me the opportunity to begin my F1 career, so my objective is to help put a smile on everyone’s faces on Sunday afternoon. Getting both cars to the chequered flag with one last strong performance under our belts is my target. It maybe won’t change the situation in the constructors’ standings, but it will be a measure of what the team has done well so many times this season.”


Jolyon Palmer

“It’s a track I know really well as I’ve done a lot of GP2 Series laps there. I completed my first-ever Formula One test with Force India and then sadly it was only a few FP1 laps there last season for Lotus F1 Team. It’s a nice track and it’s a nice place to end the season. It’s a glamourous event with the additional aspect of racing into the night which is really atmospheric.”

Bob Bell, chief technical officer

“There are no particular challenges (to Yas Marina), rather it’s quite a generic track in terms of its requirements. The track surface is smooth, so ride is not too much of an issue - which is a positive for us considering the R.S.16 which can struggle somewhat on bumpier surfaces. In terms of layout, there’s a mix of long straights - a couple connected by a chicane - with some twisty stuff too meaning there’s a bit of everything.

“More particular is the timing of the race, as it takes place under twilight conditions. FP1 and FP3 take place earlier in the day than qualifying and the race, so they’re not terribly representative of competitive conditions. The track temperature decreases quite a bit after the sun sets so we need to consider this when determining a set-up for the car, making it less straightforward than at other race meetings.

“We’re expecting far more predictable weather conditions than we saw in Brazil, so it would be really nice to have both cars in Q2 and to end the race adding to our points tally for the year. It’s a realistic hope if everything goes our way over the weekend, including some misfortune for others! It would be a tremendous boost for the team going into the winter.”

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

“Abu Dhabi is our final Grand Prix in our rookie season as Renault Sport Formula One Team. It has been a tough 20 races so far on track, as we expected, but for us the story has been our real progress made behind the scenes.

“On track in Abu Dhabi we want a strong and positive race to end the season. There will be a lot of attention at the front of the field as the drivers’ championship is decided, but for us a strong end to the year would be a good endorsement of all the hard work wrought over the last 12 months. We have faith that both Kevin and Jolyon will deliver what’s expected of them for the final time this season and for Kevin we wish him well for the future.”

Red Bull

Max Verstappen

“The track design in Abu Dhabi is quite different, there are a lot of low-speed corners and combinations. The unique layout means it is challenging, a small mistake during one of the many corner sequences can ruin a lap. It is also important to have a strong car in the last sector to keep the tyres alive.

“Away from the car Abu Dhabi has some cool features that set it aside from other races, the hotel goes over the track which is pretty special, it’s great for spectators in that sector. I have had a quick look around the area and spent a bit of time in Dubai which is always good fun. Maybe this year I’ll sample a bit more Arabic food as I haven’t really got stuck into that yet.

“Of course it is the last race of the season and I think we can look back and be very happy with 2016. There is plenty of work to do for next year with the regulation changes and I think everyone is excited to see the new cars so I can’t wait to get started.”

Daniel Ricciardo

“I have always gone well on the track at Abu Dhabi, it’s been really enjoyable in the past, especially the last sector underneath the hotel, that’s great fun. It has a bit of a street circuit style to the layout which I enjoy. I had my first ever Formula One test at this track so it holds good memories and has generally been good to me.

“I love any kind of hot climate and being warm so I’m very much looking forward to getting out there. I try to get there a little earlier than usual and stay a bit afterwards to enjoy some time in the heat and get out into the desert, ride some bikes and have some fun.

“As it is the last race of the season I usually have some friends out for some fun and there is always a good atmosphere. It’s kind of like the Middle Eastern Monaco, and it definitely has that vibe to it. There are usually some celebrities and good parties knocking around that weekend which adds to the buzz of the season finale.”

More to follow.