After Brazil’s anomaly, the running order returned to the status quo in Abu Dhabi with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez locking out the front row for today’s Formula 1 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Fortunately for Verstappen, the last seven consecutive Abu Dhabi GPs have been won the pole sitter, including last year’s controversial season finale.
With Perez starting alongside him, the Dutchman will also not have to worry about team orders, especially if the pair can get away cleanly.
Behind Red Bull, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will start third and fourth respectively. With Leclerc viewed as a serious title contender during the early part of the season, Ferrari’s drop-off in form has been alarming and the Monegasque driver now stands on the brink of finishing third in the Drivers’ Championship.
Finally, the Mercedes team was brought back down to earth after a great showing in Brazil with a disappointing qualifying performance. The Brackley-based squad ended their final qualifying session of the year as the third quickest team, which on balance reflects their overall pace throughout the season.
However, with an entire race still ahead of us the final results are far from a foregone conclusion. As always a well executed pit stop strategy could affect a driver’s final finishing position.
What is Pirelli saying?
The Italian tyre company has opted to bring its softest range of compounds to the event with the C3 tyres serving as the hard compound, the C4 the medium compound and the C5s the softest tyres in this weekend’s range.
Pirelli also estimate that a two stop strategy would be the best way to naviagte the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the tyre manufactuerer expecting the teams and drivers to gain anywhere between four to five seconds over a one stop.
The ideal strategy based on Pirelli’s simulations would be to start the race on the mediums before switching to the hards and then selecting, based on various factors such as track position and tyre degreadation, the medium or hard compounds once agian for the final stint.
“At Abu Dhabi, a truly thrilling season comes to an end,” Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola stated.
“Last year’s modifications to some of the straights and corners on the Yas Marina track have made the circuit faster, balancing the longitudinal and lateral demands on the tyres – whereas previously it was more about traction and braking.
“Despite these changes to the layout, there is still going to be a lot of attention paid to the rear tyres in order to guarantee the best traction over long stints.”
The fight for second
The biggest talking point heading into the final round of the 2022 season was the battle for second in the Drivers’ Championship.
Given Red Bull’s pace advantage and Ferrari’s prediliction for getting their strategy wrong, the advantage has to lie with Perez. However, with Verstappen likely to pull away from the pack, the Mexican may find himself vulnerable, especially if Leclerc and Sainz can hold station behind him.
That said the W13 has been a strong race car this season. The Mercedes team have consistently punched above their weight on race day, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Lewis Hamilton or George Russell end up on the podium for one last time this year.