Formula 1: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview, Predictions, and How To Watch

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 17: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes, Fernando Alonso of Spain and Alpine F1, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Aston Martin F1 Team, Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Scuderia AlphaTauri and Nicholas Latifi of Canada and Williams talk in a press conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 17, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

It’s time for the Formula 1 season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Who can finish on a high and build momentum for 2023?

After 21 races over eight months, spanning the entire globe, the 2022 Formula 1 season is approaching its conclusion. This weekend marks the final race of the 2022 season with the F1 circus heading to Abu Dhabi for the annual season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

While this year’s race won’t be able to replicate the drama of 2021, we can still expect some good racing and fun battles. Teams and drivers will look to make one final push for championship position and put in a good result to build momentum heading into 2023. For four drivers though, there will be no 2023. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel will retire from F1 after this weekend, his 299th race. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher, and Nicholas Latifi are all without seats on the 2023 grid, making this their last F1 race, for now.

All eyes will certainly be on the front of the grid this weekend. After a dominant second half, Red Bull’s gap to its rivals has shrunk, and the top three teams are as even as they’ve been all year, setting us up for a fun finale. That parity was on full display last weekend in Sao Paulo. After a shocking pole position for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, we were treated to two chaotic races over the weekend.

The F1 Sprint saw leader Max Verstappen fall to fourth at the hands of both Mercedes and Ferrari who showed more pace than Red Bull. On Sunday it was all George Russell, who swept the weekend’s races and showed his poise on his way to his first F1 Grand Prix victory.

There was no shortage of incidents on Sunday, from Daniel Ricciardo and Magnussen crashing out on Lap 1, Lando Norris sending Charles Leclerc into the barriers, and most notably Verstappen coming together with Lewis Hamilton. The 2021 championship rivals collided at Turn 2 with Verstappen receiving a five-second penalty which would ruin his race. That incident turned out to be an afterthought with what Max did at the end of the race, however.

Verstappen’s Questionable Decision

Late in the race, Verstappen was trailing his teammate Sergio Perez, with the pair running in seventh and sixth, respectively. The team ordered Perez to let Max by so he could chase down Leclerc in front and take some points away from the Ferrari driver to aid Perez in his fight for second place in the drivers’ championship. As the end of the race approached, Verstappen hadn’t yet caught anyone in front, and the team instructed him to give the position back to Perez. Instead, he continued on his way to a P6 finish, unwilling to return the favor to Perez.

Verstappen was irate with the team after the race finished, and exclaimed that he “had his reasons” for not letting Perez by. Rumors have swirled as to why this is the case, with the most popular stemming from Monaco this year. Perez crashed in Q3 while ahead of Verstappen both on the track and on the provisional grid after their first timed laps. This ended qualifying and prevented Verstappen from improving his time, and Perez ultimately went on to win the race. Some have speculated Perez crashed on purpose, and that Max has been holding a grudge since then. Max declined to comment on his reasons post-race, so this is still just speculation.

Even if this is the case, Max’s act was childish. Perez has gone to the ends of the Earth the last two seasons to help Max win his two championships, even giving up the lead at times to allow Max through. Off the top of my head, Abu Dhabi 2021, France 2021, Turkey 2021, and Spain 2022 all come to mind when thinking of times Perez sacrificed his own race to benefit Max. To suddenly go cold against someone like that who has been integral in your championship fights is a terrible look. No matter what Perez did, to decide on retribution when racing for P6 when you’re 100+ points ahead in the championship is extremely odd. Either there is more to this story or Verstappen has some maturing to do. It will be interesting to see how the two get along in Abu Dhabi.

The Circuit

The Yas Marina Circuit is a 5.281 km (3.28 miles) long circuit located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The circuit first hosted the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009 and it has since become the annual finale to the F1 season. It has hosted several championship-deciding moments, such as last year’s winner-take-all finale and Sebastian Vettel’s first championship win in 2010. Lewis Hamilton has the most wins on the track with five, and the race lap record is 1:26.103 from Max Verstappen in 2021. The circuit was updated in 2021 which shaved several seconds off the lap time. Slower, tight chicanes were removed in favor of corners that allow for closer following and more overtaking opportunities.

A Lap of Yas Marina

Drivers begin by heading down the short main straight into the 90-degree Turn 1. The next three turns make up a long, flat-out curve before the hairpin at Turn 5. Turn 5 is one of the remodeled corners and it is where Verstappen passed Hamilton in last year’s finale. Then comes the long 1.2 km straight with the first DRS zone that leads into a hard braking zone. This breaking zone comes at Turns 6 and 7 which are a tight chicane and leads directly onto the next long straight with the second DRS zone. This is a great chance for drivers to re-overtake others who passed them before on the first straight.

Turn 8 is essentially a straight with Turn 9 being the other major remodel on the track. It is now a long, swooping left-hander, replacing the old technical section which was quite slow. Turns 10 and 11 are flat out and lead to the hotel section, a series of 90-degree corners that pass under a hotel at the track. This section of corners makes up the rest of the lap, with drivers carrying as much speed as they can before heading back to the main straight.

Sunday’s race will be 58 laps long.

Abu_Dhabi_Circuit.png
Credit: Formula1.com

Championship Standings

Let’s take one final look at which battles can be settled on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Of particular focus will be second in the Drivers’ Championship and the battles for 2nd, 6th, and 8th in the Constructors’ Championship.

Driver Standings

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing – 429 points*
  2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 290 points
  3. Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing – 290 points
  4. George Russell, Mercedes – 265 points
  5. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 240 points
  6. Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari – 234 points
  7. Lando Norris, McLaren – 113 points
  8. Esteban Ocon, Alpine – 86 points
  9. Fernando Alonso, Alpine – 81 points
  10. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo – 49 points

* 2022 champion

Constructor Standings

  1. Red Bull Racing – 719 points*
  2. Ferrari – 524 points
  3. Mercedes – 505 points
  4. Alpine – 167 points
  5. McLaren – 148 points
  6. Alfa Romeo – 55 points
  7. Aston Martin – 50 points
  8. Haas – 37 points
  9. AlphaTauri – 35 points
  10. Williams – 8 points

*2022 champion

Race Predictions: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

For the first time in what feels like forever, I’m not going with Max Verstappen. It treated me well, for sure, but I’m going with the seven-time champion this weekend. Lewis Hamilton is still searching for a win this season, and I believe he gets it in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes have come on strong in the final part of the season, and Red Bull has some internal issues that may affect their focus this weekend. So give me Lewis for his sixth win at Yas Marina.

  1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
  2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
  3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

How To Watch (United States TV Schedule, All Times EST)

  • Practice 1: Friday, November 18 – 4:55 a.m. – ESPN2
  • Practice 2: Friday, November 18 – 7:50 a.m. – ESPNews
  • Practice 3: Saturday, November 19 – 5:25 a.m. – ESPN2
  • Qualifying: Saturday, November 19 – 8:55 a.m. – ESPNews
  • Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Sunday, November 20 – 7:55 a.m. – ESPN2
Featured Image Credit: Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images