Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live coverage

All the action from Yas Marina Circuit as the Formula One season reaches its climax

  • Lewis Hamilton with runner up Nico Rosberg celebrate after winning the 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu DhabiImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Nico Rosberg cheers his teammate Lewis Hamilton on the podium.Image Credit: AP
  • Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany is carried through the crowd as he celebrates winning the World ChampiImage Credit: AP
  • Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany celebrates after winning the 2016 world championship.Image Credit: AP
  • Mercedes' Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads the pack during the race.Image Credit: REUTERS
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • The start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be marked with the Etihad Airways and Fursan Al Emarat fly past.Image Credit: Supplied
  • The start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be marked with the Etihad Airways and Fursan Al Emarat fly past.Image Credit: Supplied
  • Sparks fly off the car of Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo.Image Credit: AP
  • Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Senegalese Ferrari follower, Moko is an unmissable sight in the paddock with his eye catching African dress. HImage Credit: Euan Reedie/Gulf News
  • British man Michael Scobbie went down on one knee before his unsuspecting girlfriend, Shannon Stewart, in the Image Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Euan Reede/Gulf News

Gulf News reporter Euan Reedie reported live from Yas Island on what promises to be a rip-roaring weekend of racing, with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton battling it out for the world title. Follow it as it happened here...

Nico Rosberg: Being world champion is a unique feeling

A relieved and jubilant Nico Rosberg savoured “the unique feeling” of winning his maiden Formula One world drivers’ championship on Sunday, but admitted: “It was a very, very tough weekend for me.”

The 31-year-old German finished second behind his Mercedes team-mate and his ferociously competitive defending champion Lewis Hamilton in the season-ending Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to seal the title by five points.

Rosberg also became the second son of an F1 world champion to emulate the feat – which Keke achieved in 1982 – after Graham and Damon Hill.

“I am very, very glad that it’s over,” said Rosberg after the Yas Marina Circuit race. “It’s a unique feeling. It's unreal. I am very, very proud. I have done the same feat as my dad achieved."

"He will be here in half an hour and I am so excited to see him." Rosberg added. “Every Saturday night, I get a message from him and most of the time it’s like ‘pedal to the metal’ tomorrow, full stop, exclamation mark.”

Both drivers complimented their team and each other, Hamilton showing great sportsmanship as he swallowed his disappointment at losing his champion's crown to Rosberg.

Remarkably, Hamilton won a record ten races without taking the title.

He said, despite facing a possible reprimand from his team for twice disobeying official instructions to drive faster, that he felt proud and pleased with his own display

"Honestly, I feel great and I want to say thanks to my family for all the support, and this team - I think that's 32 wins since I joined this team."

Hamilton added: "I did all I could and Nico had a clean year and without any issues, but he did a fantastic job and it is a great feeling to win the championship. Congratulations to him."

On the team's promptings to make him drive faster, he said: "I don't know why they just didn't let us race."

It was the 53rd win of Hamilton’s career, but his antics irked his team and Rosberg in the closing laps and the team's technical chief Paddy Lowe came on the radio to order him to driver faster.

His final lap was nine seconds slower than the lap that took him to pole and was clearly designed to push Rosberg into an awkward position as Sebastian Vettel closed in in his Ferrari.

Hamilton ignored two instructions from the team to increase his speed, but was unable to engineer a situation in which Rosberg could be attacked and passed.

Third-place was Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, who eulogised Rosberg thus: “In my point of view, I don’t think you win world championships by luck. Sometimes you might have fortunate situations and unfortunate situations in cars and sometimes have a better year.

“Today, Nico is world champion and is a deserved world champion.”

Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Nico Rosberg finishes second to claim the 2016 Formula One World Championship.


Rosberg bridges generation gap to win first world title

"We did it!" was the scream from Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes cockpit as the German clinched his first Drivers’ World Championship title by finishing second to teammate Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

‘Doughnuts’ followed as Rosberg celebrated winning the title his father Keke won in 1982 for Williams, climbing out of the cockpit to kiss the Silver Arrow that carried him to a total of 385 points, enough to beat race-winner Hamilton by just five points at the end of a season-long battle between the two.

Hamilton’s third Abu Dhabi victory was the three-time champion’s 10th of the season, one more than Rosberg, his third at the Yas Marina Circuit and the 53rd of his Formula 1 career.

Was this just another day at the office, Rosberg was asked on the podium? “Hell no,” said the tearful German, “that was definitely not the most enjoyable race I’ve ever had!. With Max [Verstappen, of Red Bull] in the beginning and those guys coming at the end, really not very enjoyable in those last laps. Very, very glad it’s over, unbelievably ecstatic.’

Hamilton thanked his British fans and the team before mentioning Rosberg, but eventually said: “And big congratulations to Nico, of course, for his first world championship – good job, man’.”

“I did everything I could these last four races,’ added Hamilton, “and that’s all I could really ask of myself. I’m going to have a lot of fun tonight, celebrating with the team and everyone. You can’t win them all: we had a lot of problems this year and inevitably that’s why I’m in this position.”

Third was Sebastian Vettel, who threatened to put the cat among the pigeons with a late-race charge that carried him on to Rosberg’s gearbox in the last few laps of the 55-lap race, but though the German tried a last-lap lunge on his compatriot at Turn 10, Rosberg held his nerve as four cars sprinted for the line.

The fourth was Verstappen’s Red Bull, which recovered from a Turn 1 spin on the very first lap to put pressure on the Mercedes duo until Vettel’s last-stint pace proved too much even for the Flying Dutchman.

Behind him was his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian unable to match the front-runners’ pace in the end after the two Red Bulls, starting on Supersoft Pirellis unlike the Mercedes and Ferraris, set a string of mid-race fastest laps following their pit stops.

With Kimi Raikkonen bringing the second Ferrari home sixth, seventh and eighth were highly significant positions for the Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg, having his final race for the team before moving to Renault, and Sergio Pérez. 

Felipe Massa, in the 250th and last Grand Prix of his career, could manage only ninth for Williams and with the sister car of Valtteri Bottas out after just eight laps, that allowed Force India to achieve their own target of finishing fourth ahead of Williams in the Constructors’ Championship – the team’s highest position in its nine-year F1 history.

Fernando Alonso finished off another testing season for McLaren by taking the final point in 10th place, but it was an unhappy ‘au revoir’ to F1 for his teammate Jenson Button. The popular Briton was out with suspension damage before quarter-distance.

Seventeen of the 22 starters made it to the finish, with fastest race lap going to Vettel with a time of 1:43.729, an average speed of 192.756 km/h, on lap 43.

 

Like father, like son... but not entirely



Germany's Nico Rosberg (L) and his father, former Formula One World Champion Keke Rosberg.


At the age of 31, Nico Rosberg has become the 32nd world champion in Formula 1’s 67-year history and the third German to win the title. 

Nico is also the second Rosberg to see his name engraved on the trophy: his father Keijo – better known as Keke – was the first when he became the sport’s 20th world champion back in 1982.

“I’m very, very proud, of course, to have done the same feat as my dad achieved. He’s coming here in half an hour or so, I think, and it will be very exciting to see him. My mum’s going to be coming with him, the whole family together, it’s going to be wonderful.”

After the Hills, Graham and Damon, the Rosbergs are the second father-and-son pairing to win the sport’s most coveted prize. A closer look at their F1 careers is an enjoyable exercise in both nostalgia and up-to-the-minute news.

Keke Rosberg took part in his first World Championship race in South Africa in 1978 at the age of 29, racing for Theodore. 

That was a one-off appearance for one of F1’s many short-lived teams: Theodore did not figure again until 1981, by which time Keke was with Fittipaldi.

Nico came into the sport in 2006 with one of the giants of Formula 1, Williams, for whom he set fastest race lap on his debut in Bahrain in what was the opening race of that season.

Keke too raced for Williams between 1982 and 1985. In his first season, he posted his maiden GP victory in the ‘Swiss’ Grand Prix, run at Dijon in France. At the age of 33, it was his 49th start, and along with five other podium finishes it was enough to make him world champion.

In four seasons with Williams, Keke started 62 times, won five races, was on pole four times and set three fastest laps before a final season with McLaren in 1986. All of his F1 wins came at Williams; none of Nico’s did. 

In his own four seasons with Williams, Nico started 70 times, didn’t win or take pole, and set two fastest laps before going to Mercedes in 2010. Nico’s first race win came in his 111th F1 start in China in 2012; he was 26.

The world title apart, Rosberg father and son share one other cherished motor racing memory. On May 26, 2013, Nico won the most prestigious race on the F1 calendar, Monaco. Thirty years and 11 days before, on May 15, 1983, Keke Rosberg had won the Monaco Grand Prix. But Nico has gone on to win twice more on the streets of Monte Carlo, in 2014 and 2015.

The fundamental difference between them is that Keke raced under the flag of his native Finland; Nico opted instead to use the German nationality he took from his mother, so he follows Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel as world champions from that country.

Keke raced 114 times, Nico now has 206 Grands Prix on his CV, from which he has taken 23 wins, 30 poles and 20 fastest laps, so the bragging rights are clearly his. One abiding memory of Rosberg Senior is his habit of grinding out a cigarette, growling “Let’s do it” and climbing into the cockpit. 

Rosberg Junior is a non-smoking, urbane, thoroughly modern young man who speaks many languages with the same apparent fluency. One, obviously, was as eloquent as the other behind the wheel. 

 


Roger Federer 'like a baby' at Yas Marina Circuit

Abu Dhabi: He may appear the epitome of calm and composure on court, but tennis legend Roger Federer admitted he was extremely out of his comfort zone at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. 



Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer.


“I’m like a baby out here. I don’t understand what’s happening to me,” the 17-time grand slam champion told media in the Yas Marina Circuit paddock.

“I’m nervous; I don’t know what it is.”

Federer was a guest of F1 world champions Mercedes and spent time ahead of the season-ending race meeting dignitaries such as the sport’s supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, and the Yas Marina Circuit Chief Executive Officer, Al Tareq Al Ameri.

He was accompanied by his parents and wife Mirka.

“It’s very interesting to see everything and hear it,” added the 35-year-old Swiss, who has been out of action since losing in the Wimbledon semi-finals to Milos Raonic in July due to knee surgery.

“It’s great to be here at the decider. I am enjoying it. Formula One is great. I’m very excited. I’ve been in the [Mercedes] garage meeting everybody here. Everyone has taken great care of me.

“I’m caring about the drivers and hope that they’re going to be safe. The weather’s okay, so that’s a given.

“I’m excited to see who’s going to win and I will feel bad for who’s not going to win. Nico’s had a very rock-solid season.”

Earlier on Sunday, Federer had confirmed his participation in the International Premier Tennis League (ITPL) in December.

With current World No 1 Andy Murray and superstars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal absent, Federer is the biggest name to grace the event. This is a major boost to the competition, which has been cut back to four teams and three venues this season.

Federer is scheduled to play in Hyderabad December 9 and 10. The final takes place the following day but as per the rules only the top two from the four-team round-robin phase will progress.

Seen as tennis' answer to the Twenty20 format in cricket, the ITPL – which was inaugurated in 2013 – consists of innovations such as power points, player substitutions, no service lets and a shot clock. 

The number of players participating has been trimmed, which means only a select few will take part in the event with Serena Williams, Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych among the stellar names confirmed. 

Other players expected to take part include Nick Kyrgios, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco, Ana Ivanovic, Eugenie Bouchard, Martina Hingis, Sania Mirza, Daniel Nestor and Rohan Bopanna.


Jenson Button shattered by final-race failure

Abu Dhabi: A devastated Jenson Button said his retirement from his final grand prix – the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – was a failure like no other on Sunday.



McLaren driver Jenson Button of Britain talks to a tv crew.


The 2009 world champion's front right tyre gave way on the 13th lap of the Yas Marina Circuit race, forcing him into the garage and an early finish. 

It brought an end to a 305-race career that started with Williams in 2000 and included 15 race wins and a world title with Brawn seven years ago.

“I don't think we've ever had a failure like this," Button said on the radio, before leaping out the car.

Having saluted the crowd standing on his cockpit, the Briton was greeted by his mum and McLaren backroom staff.

Ahead of the season-ending race, he had posted an emotional message to his official Instagram page

The 36-year-old also paid tribute to his late father John, saying he hoped he would be looking down on him.

Button wrote: "So I hear today is a pretty big day for me! Today is the day that I will be strapped into an F1 car for probably the last time. It's been an eventful 17 years!

"I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone that has helped and supported me through the years including family, friends, team members and fans and last but not least my dad who I'm hoping is looking down on us with pride, miss you papa.

"From when the light goes out at the start of my final race here in Abu Dhabi to when the chequered flag drops, I will give it my all and drive with my heart knowing that whatever happens today I will always know I reached my goal and dream in life to become a Formula One world champion.

"I arrived with dreams and leave with memories."

Button had initially said he would take a sabbatical from F1 and return in 2018, after being a McLaren ambassador and test driver.

But on Thursday, he confirmed his intention to retire and he will be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne.


Fursan Al Emarat team line up with jets ahead of GP display



Fursan Al Emarat display team line up with their jets ahead of 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix display


Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s national aerobatic display team, Fursan Al Emarat, were pictured lining up next to their seven Aermacchi MB-339NAT aircraft prior to taking off and thrilling the 60,000-capacity crowd with a fly-past over the start line ahead of the title deciding 2016 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday

Led by Captain Nasser Al Obaidli, Fursan Al Emarat joined an Etihad Airways A380, flown by A380 Chief Pilot Ali Al Jabri, in formation in Abu Dhabi airspace before wowing racegoers with an impressive fly-past at 210 knots and 900 feet over the iconic Yas Marina Circuit’s start line.


Boy meets racing hero Lewis Hamilton

Abu Dhabi: Eight-year-old Nathan Ampofo-Anim enjoyed the experience of a lifetime when he met his racing hero Lewis Hamilton at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

This was made possible by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), Etihad Airways, Yas Marina Circuit and Starlight Children’s Foundation.

A young motorsport fanatic, Nathan who has sickle cell anaemia, an incurable and debilitating hereditary blood disorder, was referred for a wish to Starlight Children’s Foundation, a UK-based charity that grants once-in-a-lifetime wishes for seriously and terminally ill children. 

“I was already really excited to be in Abu Dhabi for the race weekend, but being invited into the Mercedes garage and meeting Lewis Hamiltion today was the best day of my life. He is my hero and I hope I will be a successful driver like him one day,” said Nathan.

Nathan travelled to Abu Dhabi with his parents and five year-old brother thanks to Etihad Airways and also spent time sampling a traditional Arabian heritage experience at Yas Marina Circuit in addition to enjoying the After-Race concerts. Nathan and his family also visited Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld.


So near for one, so far for the other

Issued on behalf of Scot Sport...

Abu Dhabi:  Like GP3 before it and Formula 1 that followed, the 2016 GP3 series went down to the wire at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday – and there were two winners in the 22-lap sprint.

The race victory went to DAMS driver Alex Lynn, but Pierre Gasly won the ‘other’ race between himself and PREMA Racing teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, to clinch the drivers’ championship and leave the Italian agonisingly short of glory in his rookie year.

Gasly, the 20-year-old from Rouen in France, took pole for Saturday’s feature race and won that 31-lapper to turn Giovinazzi’s seven-point advantage into a 12-point lead of his own.

Starting from eighth on the reverse grid, Gasly failed to score a point on Sunday but that did not matter: his 22-year-old rival could manage only sixth place, and the three points left him nine short of Gasly’s title-winning total of 219.

In his final GP2 appearance, Lynn claimed a third victory of the season by a comfortable 4.945 seconds from series veteran Johnny Cecotto, the Venezuelan making a return as ‘supersub’ for the Rapax team and pulling off a last-lap pass on ART Grand Prix’s Sergei Sirotkin to relegate the Russian to third.

The first lap produced the major moment of the race when Trident’s Luca Ghiotto tagged the MP Motorsport car of Daniel de Jong, eliminating the Dutchman and earning himself a five-second penalty for his trouble.

From that point, on it was all about Giovinazzi and his desperate bid to claim the podium place that would have kept him in the title picture, but the five-time winner never threatened to add to that total and spent more time fending off RUSSIAN TIME’s Artem Markelov than passing rivals himself.

A lock-up on lap 18 put paid to any slim chances remaining for the young Italian, while Gasly calmly stuck to his 2016 pattern of winning the feature race then taking it very carefully in the sprint and was unfazed when another driver leaving the series, Campos Racing’s Mitch Evans, stole eighth place and the final point late in the race.

Giovinazzi had to settle for second place overall with 211 points to Gasly’s 219, while Sirotkin’s spirited performance over the Yas Marina Circuit weekend saw him leapfrog Raffalle Marciello of RUSSIAN TIME to take third place overall on 159 points – the same total as the Italian, but with a superior countback record.

Fastest race lap of 1:52.646 on lap 14 was a minor consolation for Ghiotto.


Motorsport legends spotted

The paddock at Yas Marina Circuit is full of motorsport legends. One such celebrity here, as a guest of Mercedes, is tennis ace Roger Federer.

 


Hughes ends GP3 season with win in thrilling sprint

 



Jake Hughes of DAMS celebrate after winning the GP3 race-2. Virendra Saklani/Gulf News


The title may have been decided on Saturday at Yas Marina Circuit, but anyone watching the GP3 sprint race on Sunday would never have believed it as Jake Hughes raced to his second win of the season for the DAMS team.

With the top eight on the grid made up by the top-eight finishers on Saturday in reverse order, Hughes started from the front row and eventually emerged from a frantic few first corners in the lead from Campos Racing’s pole-sitter Konstantin Tereschenko.

The race’s major incident happened right then as ART driver Alex Albon, pipped to the title by Charles Leclerc on Saturday, collided with Arden International’s Tatiana Calderon on the main straight and was catapulted into the barriers on the left.

Happily the driver, unlike his car, was undamaged, but it was his first double no-score in the nine-weekend racing season.

After two laps behind the Safety Car, Hughes decided the best way to avoid trouble was to stay out in front, which he did from the restart until the end of the 14-lap race, claiming a second win to go with his sprint race success at Hockenheim in Round 5.

But there was plenty of action behind him as Arden’s Jake Dennis and Jack Aitken scrapped all race long for the other podium places with ART’s Nirei Fukuzumi.

In the end it was Aitken who came second, 2.8 seconds down on Hughes, with Fukuzumi third a further 4.3 seconds behind, the Japanese driver’s third podium of the year.

The other battle that lit up the closing stages of the race was between Antonio Fuoco in the Trident and Saturday race-winner Nyck de Vries of ART. ‘Tony Fire’ is how the English speakers in Fuoco’s entourage refer to him, a direct translation of his name – and he was in fiery mood as he tried repeatedly to force his way past the Dutchman, shaking his fist each time his moves failed to come off.

Fuoco eventually earned a five-second penalty for causing a collision, dropping him to 17th of the 20 finishers.

Last year’s Abu Dhabi winner Alex Palou came fifth, ahead of Tereschenko and Steijn Schothorst, as the three Campos Racing drivers staged a superb race within a race of their own and were separated by less than half a second at the end.

New champion Leclerc started from 17th and blazed his way through the field in a bid to seal his title-winning season with a final point, but Swiss driver Kevin Joerg in the DAMS denied the ART star and took eighth place.

Leclerc finishes a stellar year with 202 points to Albon’s 177, with the luckless Fuoco stuck on 157 in third ahead of Dennis (149), Aitken (146) and De Vries (133), the six drivers to make it into triple figures in the series’ seventh season. 


Today's schedule

 

Hi, Welcome back to our live blog from the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The main event is, of course, the GP at 5pm. Here's the schedule for the rest of the day.

Formula One Paddock Club Pit-Lane Walk 15:15 - 16:15
Formula One Fastest Lap Of The Year Award - Starting Grid 15:20
Formula One End-Of-Year F1 Drivers’ Photograph - Starting Grid 15:25
Formula One Drivers’ Track Parade 15:30
Formula One Starting Grid Presentation 15:45 - 16:15
Formula One National Anthem 16:46
Air Display Etihad Flypast & Aerobatic Display (Al Fursan) 16:47
Formula One Race 17:00

* Please note that this timetable is subject to amendments
 

Well, I’ve reached the chequered flag again in this high-octane, daily blog. Join me again tomorrow afternoon.

It should be a cracker.

Here’s the schedule:

  • GP3 Series Second Race (14 Laps or 30 Mins) 13:00 - 13:35
  • GP2 Series Second Race (22 Laps or 45 Mins) 14:20 - 15:10
  • Formula One Paddock Club Pit-Lane Walk 15:15 - 16:15
  • Formula One Fastest Lap Of The Year Award - Starting Grid 15:20
  • Formula One End-Of-Year F1 Drivers’ Photograph - Starting Grid 15:25
  • Formula One Drivers’ Track Parade 15:30
  • Formula One Starting Grid Presentation 15:45 - 16:15
  • Formula One National Anthem 16:46
  • Air Display Etihad Flypast & Aerobatic Display (Al Fursan) 16:47
  • Formula One Race 17:00

* Please note that this timetable is subject to amendments


Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix offers ‘ultimate luxury’

Moko

Image Credit: Euan Reedie/Gulf News

Yas Marina Circuit, the venue for Sunday’s season-ending Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, has been hailed by one of the Formula One’s greatest devotees.

Moko, from Senegal, attends most of the 21 races on the F1 calendar and believes that Yas and its environs offer “ultimate luxury”. He is also “excited” that the UAE capital will be hosting a title decider between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton on Sunday.

Moko will be one of 60,000 fans at the sold-out showpiece, but few will match him for colour and charisma.

He wears traditional African dress and copious amounts of jewellery and is on first-name terms with many of the F1 fraternity.

“So far this year, I’ve been to 16 races,” Moko told Gulf News. “It was an interesting season with the dominance of Mercedes between two drivers. That brings an edge to Abu Dhabi.

“I am excited that Abu Dhabi will decide it [the title]. It’s a race at night and has glamour with everything else surrounding it. The [music concerts] entertainment makes it more special.”

Moko was also quick to leap to the defence of F1 over suggestions that it is losing fans because it is too predictable.

“I don’t understand what you mean about popularity,” said the Senegalese, a fervent Ferrari follower since the late 1970s.

“Every two weeks, more than 400 million people watch races. You journalists always come in with the idea of numbers dropping. But having 400 million viewers every two weeks, I don’t know any sport in the world that gets that kind of audience.”

F1 will “never be boring”, Moko maintains, despite a third successive season of domination for world champions Mercedes.

He pointed out that the German team’s hegemony had followed similar periods of sustained success for outfits such as Red Bull and Ferrari “every two or three years”.

“It’s the most wonderful sport in the world with high technology,” he added.

Can the sport be improved, though?

“It’s like your house. You may get a new painting, new plumbing. You have to upgrade. The sport is not dead. Some people just forget what Bernie Ecclestone [the sport’s supremo] has done.”


Hamilton throws down gauntlet with third Abu Dhabi pole

Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the best possible place – pole position, his third in Abu Dhabi, his 12th of 2016 and the 61st of his F1 career.

Quickest on his first run in Q3 with a time of 1:39.013, Hamilton went again and improved to 1:38.755, and while Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg responded with a fast first sector, the German lost time in the other two, clocked 1:39.058 and will start alongside Hamilton on the front row.



Hamilton (C) after he clocked the fastest time, Rosberg was second (L) and Ricciardo third (R). AP


Hamilton is the first driver to take three pole positions at Yas Marina Circuit, a feat he accomplished with the second-fastest pole-winning time in Abu Dhabi after Sebastian Vettel’s 1:38.481 for Red Bull back in 2011.

“It’s been a great weekend so far,” said an elated Hamilton. “Today I got the car in a real sweet spot – perfect position for tomorrow.”

Rosberg, 12 points head going into the final race, did not conceal his disappointment at failing to take a third consecutive Abu Dhabi pole. “I’ve come here to try and take pole and win the race, so not ecstatic, but Lewis did a great job and I couldn’t do that time. But there’s still opportunities tomorrow.”

Behind the Silver Arrows will be Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian happy with achieving his target of third place in qualifying, and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, with their respective teammates Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen on the third row behind them.

Force India have again got the upper hand on Williams as the two teams battle for fourth place in the constructors’ standings, with Sergio Pérez seventh-fastest and teammate Nico Hülkenberg eight.

Felipe Massa in ninth is the only Williams driver in the top 10 after Fernando Alonso’s McLaren eliminated Valtteri Bottas in a thrilling finish to Q2, the middle segment of the qualifying hour.

The starting grid for Sunday's Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix following final qualifying at Yas Marina circuit on Saturday:-

1st row

Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)

Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes)

2nd row

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull)

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari)

3rd row

Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari)

Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull)

4th row

Nico H|lkenberg (GER/Force India)

Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India)

5th row

Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren)

Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams)

6th row

Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams)

Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren)

7th row

Esteban Gutierrez (MEX/Haas)

Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas)

8th row

Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault)

Pascal Wehrlein (GER/Manor)

9th row

Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso)

Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Renault)

10th row

Felipe Nasr (BRA/Sauber-Ferrari)

Estiban Ocon (FRA/Manor-Mercedes)

11th row

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso)

Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber)


Hundreds flock to the iconic Abu Dhabi Hill

Hundreds of racing fans have flocked to the iconic Abu Dhabi Hill this weekend to see the Formula One, GP2 and GP3 drivers battle for the hat-trick of title honours at this year’s 2016 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Yas Marina Circuit hill has proved extremely popular with both international and local fans alike, organisers say, and the increased demand for this experience prompted them to offer an extra 1,500 tickets for this year’s three-day showpiece.

A spokesman said: “The Hill still offers a cost-effective race experience for hardcore F1 supporters and offers a truly incredible atmosphere as thousands of fans enjoy the spacious setting in which to watch motorsport’s finest drivers battle in out on the track. With the typical mix of overseas and local visitors, die-hard fans of every nationality will again be delighted with the views on offer, and will get a perfect observation point from which to watch the racing action unfold.”

The hill affords clear views of turns 4, 5, 6 and 7, the north hairpin and the famous straight – the longest in Formula 1.

Dean Spruce, aged 35, from Halifax, England said: “All the people back home will be looking for me on television as Abu Dhabi Hill gets great exposure during the whole race. I’m glad we managed to get tickets as it sells out quickly, so I was happy to hear that organisers have arranged an extra batch.

“For true fans, it’s the only place to watch the race and soak up the incredible atmosphere with likeminded people.

“And what a race we have in store. We will be cheering on Lewis [Hamilton], of course, but at least I can watch all the drama up close from here in the glorious sunshine – a perfect way to enjoy the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, whoever wins.”


2016, Daniel Ricciardo's best season

Daniel Ricciardo believes 2016 has been his best season yet in Formula One and is confident of mounting a title challenge next year.



Daniel Ricciardo during practice session at Yas Marina circuit.  AFP


The Australian has sealed third place in the drivers’ championship ahead of Sunday’s Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and admits his performance has exceeded his expectations

The Red Bull ace has enjoyed eight podium finishes this year, including victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix, to hit back from a challenging 2015 when the team battled with an uncompetitive Renault power unit before this year’s successful upgrade.

While Ricciardo scored three race wins in his breakout 2014 season — when he also finished third in the driver standings — he said his recovery from last year’s struggles and the stern competition from new teammate Max Verstappen rated this year his best on track.

“The year has been pretty solid. I have been really happy with how it has gone pretty much from start to finish,’’ said Ricciardo, at a Red Bull event at Yas Viceroy hotel on Friday evening to announce the team’s extension of their engine naming partnership with TAG Heuer for a further two years.

“Obviously there was a lot of success in 2014 and that was new success for me because it was my first real big year with wins and podiums and that, but I think on a personal level I think this year has been my strongest one.

“The level of how it has all gone with Max [Verstappen] the competition and all that, it’s been fun.

“I think it’s been a very good year. Mainly because of where we came from last year to this year, we didn’t expect to be in that position so that definitely made the results this year a lot sweeter.

“We didn’t really think we would fight for a win, let alone fight for three of them. And then I think the rate of development and improvement that the team took on was really encouraging, so there was just a really good mood and atmosphere within everyone and that made it fun.

“It gave us good energy and good motivation to go out there and drive well.’’

Having clearly established himself as the best of the rest of the Formula One field behind dominant Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Ricciardo knows the next step is to put the car and himself in championship contention.

He is confident Red Bull — second in the constructor standings behind Mercedes this year — can make a major leap forward in 2017.

“If we make the same sort of steps, I think it is realistic [that we can challenge], but we do need to keep improving because obviously Mercedes still have a buffer on everyone,’’ Ricciardo said.

“I think it’s just fine-tuning now, the package is very good, it’s just not perfect and I think we’ve just got to clean it up in a few areas and I can improve a few parts here and there and if we put all that together then it should put us on Mercedes level.’’

Preparing to enter his fourth season with Red Bull, Ricciardo, who cited his maiden career pole position at Monaco as his highlight of the year, believed his best racing is ahead.

“I think there will always be, for the next few years, some improvement,’’ the 27-year-old, said.

“It’s a complex sport, you’re always learning. I still feel like there’s places I can improve.

“Hopefully the best is still yet to come. If I’ve got a good car next year, then hopefully I can get a couple of positions further than I did this year and that will be very nice.’’


'A big deal' for Nico Rosberg

Damon Hill says it will be “a big deal” for Nico Rosberg if he becomes the second Formula One driver after him to emulate his father’s feats in winning the world title on Sunday.



Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg sits in his car during the third practice session as part of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix. AFP


Hill ruled the world in 1996 after his late father, Graham, was twice a world champion in 1962 and 1968.

Rosberg, who is 12 points ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton heading into Sunday’s Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, is on the verge of doing likewise. The German’s father, Keke, claimed the world title with Williams in 1982.

“I think it’s a big deal for someone who’s gone into the same profession as their parents,” said Hill, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News at Yas Marina Circuit. “If your parent has achieved the very highest thing, there’s always that measurement there. You can’t avoid it and you’re going to be compared if you like it or not. Did you achieve the top?

“So he’s got a great chance of getting this done and equalling his dad in his career and being able to hold his head up. That would be a nice thing for the Rosbergs.”

Does he see any similarities between the two?

“They have very different styles and different personalities, it’s fair to say,” replied the 56-year-old, who is here as a pundit for Sky Sports Television.

“Nico has got his own way of going about it. He’s done it very well and worked very hard.”

Hill was involved in a world title decider of his own when, in 1994, Michael Schumacher deprived him of glory by a single point after the pair controversially collided at the final round in Adelaide.

How does he think Rosberg and Hamilton will be feeling ahead of their ‘Duel in the Desert’?

“Lewis is in some ways off the hook from the tension it all,” said Hill. “He can’t really do any more than he’s done. He can put on a good show.

“Whatever he’s done is out of his hands. The pressure is pretty much on Nico and Mercedes, who have to deliver a good and reliable car. There might be some spoilers in there, such as Red Bull.”

Hamilton, a three-time world champion while Rosberg is chasing his maiden title, is widely regarded to be the better driver of the two.

So would a Rosberg victory be deserved?

“The sport works on points and results,” Hill said. “You can’t deprive someone of the result just because you might feel one driver is better than the other. The game is getting the points.

“He [Rosberg] is still one of the world’s best racing drivers and that can never be taken away.”

' Money can’t buy wins: it can buy the opportunity'

While excitement grew around the destination of this year’s F1 drivers’ title today, one of the most intriguing additions to F1 for 2017 was seen in the Yas Marina Circuit paddock when Canadian Lance Stroll met some of the media he will confront in his debut year with Williams.

Stroll has won titles in F4 and in European F3 but, like current sensation Max Verstappen, the 18-year-old has polarised F1 opinion already. Is he just the son of a rich father who has helped him climb the ladder, or is he a genuine talent who deserves his pace at motor sport’s top table?

Williams Deputy CEO Claire Williams has no doubt about her protege’s ability.  “He’s absolutely got the talent, we feel,” she insisted. “As with any rookie, when they come into Formula One you’ve got to give them a bit of slack in the beginning but we are going to have high expectations of him next year, but anyone that has met Lance knows and understands that he deserves that promotion into Formula One.

“He’s extremely intelligent, he’s a very quick learner, he’s incredibly charming and I think he’s going to be a great addition to the paddock next year.”

Today, Stroll has fielded a barrage of questions with aplomb. What are his thoughts on F1? “It’s another step, it’s just another car with four wheels. There’s always some things to learn: every new step feels like the biggest step you’ve done in your life.

“Maybe there are more cameras, maybe there’s more people, but I just see it as another racing series with other drivers with race helmets on their heads, and other teams competing to win races.”

Stroll has missed out what some insiders see as an important step, GP2, by graduating from F3 straight to F1. No problem: “F3 teaches you how to deliver 100% out of a car,” he stressed. “It’s a great car to learn in. We’re taking it year by year: in 2016 F3 was the goal, we delivered it, and we delivered it by a big margin. But there’s nothing that prepares you for F1 other than doing the 21 races in a Formula 1 car.’

Acknowledging the help that his father, and billionaire Lawrence, has given him, Stroll insisted he is his own man: “It’s really my choice to do what I’m doing. We obviously share a passion, we’re big motorsport fans, we love racing and that’s the reason we’re here.

“Money can’t buy wins: it can buy the opportunity, but if you don’t have those 40 Super Licence points you can’t get into F1 and I’ve got them. I worked really hard and I went to win those championships and without that I wouldn’t be here today.”


Fly-past to mark start of Grand Prix

The start of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will once more be marked with the spectacular Etihad Airways and Fursan Al Emarat fly-past at 4.47pm on Sunday.

While Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg mentally prepare themselves for an epic title battle. on the ground, Etihad Airways’ A380 Chief Pilot, Captain Ali Al Jabri, will be in the left-hand seat of the superjumbo (tail number A6-APC) as it skims the start line of Yas Marina Circuit at 900 feet and 210 knots, trailed by the nimble fast jets of the UAE’s air-display team Fursan Al Emarat.



The start of the 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will once more be marked with the spectacular Etihad Airways and Fursan Al Emarat fly past.


“It’s an honour for our flight crew to be selected to take part in the fly-past alongside the UAE’s display team and be a part of the spectacular event that is the F1 race,” said Captain Al Jabri. “The weekend is a showpiece event for Abu Dhabi and provides a huge opportunity to demonstrate our aircraft to an audience of billions.
“We’ve conducted similar fly-pasts in previous years, and based on the many positive comments we hear from people, we know they take it away as an abiding memory of the event.”

The Etihad Airways fly-past has become synonymous with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and this year’s event will see the airline’s stunning ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ livery flying over the iconic circuit to mark the beginning of the race on Sunday.

Months of planning take place before the formation is performed ahead of the Formula 1 showpiece on race day.

The total flying time is 50 minutes from take-off to landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport and once in the air, the aircraft enter a holding pattern for about 10 minutes, during which they complete several passes over Yas Marina Circuit.

Captain Al Jabri

Captain Al Jabri spoke of the incredible team effort and dedication required to ensure the best possible visual experience on race day: “Safety is obviously of major importance to us when flying the aircraft so we’ve been working alongside the display team and practising the fly past over the last few weeks.

“Many of us in the Etihad Airways crew have been involved in previous fly-pasts but we couldn’t achieve it without the support of the Fursan Al Emarat display team, the military, air-traffic control and the airport, so we can give people a spectacle that they will remember for years to come.”

The Etihad Airways fly-past will take place before and after the UAE national anthem, 13 minutes before the start of the 2016 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at 5pm.


Today's schedule

Good afternoon from our live blog at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit. Today is the penultimate day of action, with pole position at stake.

Here's the schedule:
Formula One Practice 3 14:00 - 15:00
Formula One Paddock Club Pit-Lane Walk 15:05 - 16:20
Air Display Aerobatic Display (Al Fursan) 16:15 - 16:35
Formula One Qualifying 17:00 - 18:00
GP2 Series First Race (31 Laps or 60 Mins) 18:40 - 19:45  


What's happening when on Saturday

Can Lewis Hamilton continue to get the better of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, the F1 title leader, in qualifying tomorrow?

What other legends will I bump into?

Join me at our live blog again tomorrow from around 12pm to find out.

Here's tomorrow's schedule:

Formula One Paddock Club Pit-Lane Walk 11:00 - 12:05 

Formula One Team Pit-Stop Practice 11:30 - 12:00 

GP3 Series First Race (18 Laps or 40 Mins) 12:25 - 13:10 

Formula One Practice 3 14:00 - 15:00 

Formula One Paddock Club Pit-Lane Walk 15:05 - 16:20 

Air Display Aerobatic Display (Al Fursan) 16:15 - 16:35 

Formula One Qualifying 17:00 - 18:00 

GP2 Series First Race (31 Laps or 60 Mins) 18:40 - 19:45 

 


Formula One gold coin weighing 5kg unveiled in Abu Dhabi

The moneyed world of Formula One was epitomised on Friday when a 5kg Formula One gold coin was unveiled on the first day of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Leading precious metal-asset firm, Rosland Capital, showed off the coin — the only one of its kind — to F1 fans at Yas Marina Circuit’s Paddock Club. 

It has a diameter of 200 millimetres and a depth of 8.8mm and bears an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix logo. 

The other side of the coin features Ian Rank-Broadley’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, together with the legal tender value of the coin. 

Rosland Capital also unveiled limited edition five-ounce and a quarter-ounce gold coins for fans in the Paddock Club. 

Marin Aleksov, Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles-based Rosland Capital, said: “We are thrilled to bring the biggest and best addition to the Officially Licensed Formula 1 Gold Coin Collection to one of the most glamorous and exciting race weekends of the year. The reception we have received from the F1 community to the coin collection this year has been overwhelming in its positivity.”

For more information click here

 


Formula One Paddock Club™ Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 

For the ultimate F1 experience, the Paddock Club in Abu Dhabi is your only choice, organisers say. 

Located on the upper, air-conditioned floors of the pit building, the club offers invited guests spectacular views of the Formula 1 action.

And it’s apparently the largest of its kind on the F1 circuit.

Pass-holders enjoy the privilege of VIP track access, fine food and beverage service throughout the day, an open bar on the roof terrace to mingle with other guests or continue to enjoy the fabulous atmosphere. The most exclusive hospitality service available in Abu Dhabi in occasion of the F1 race The Paddock Club is certainly a unique sports hospitality experience not to be missed, organisers say.

Watch the race unfold with all the drama that Formula One delivers from a prime location. Unrivalled views, unparalleled access, seamless service and the finest cuisine are all provided with an extraordinary attention to detail. 

Click here for more information.


Rosberg still playing second fiddle

He leads the title race by 12 points, but he hasn’t won for the last three races – and Nico Rosberg is still playing second fiddle to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton after the opening day of the 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Rosberg finished the second 90-minute free practice session exactly where he finished the first: second behind Hamilton as the British driver underlined his determination to win again at Yas Marina Circuit.


Nico Rosberg during second practice on Friday. Image Credit: AFP

With almost half an hour of the session gone, the typical FP2 ‘mini-qualifying’ runs began and we saw the effects of Pirelli’s new-to-Abu Dhabi Ultrasoft compound for the first time: Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari was first to go faster than Rosberg’s session-topping time in second practice in 2015, the German clocking 1:41.404 to shear half a second off Rosberg’s time a year ago.

Triple Yas Marina Circuit winner Vettel then went even faster with a 1:41.130 on his 11th lap of the session as Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, also on Ultrasofts, slotted in behind the Ferrari, albeit eight-tenths slower than Vettel. But neither Mercedes driver had yet appeared on the new rubber.

When Rosberg did, he eclipsed Vettel’s efforts with a first flying lap on the Ultrasofts of 1:40.940 – but that too was short-lived as Hamilton emerged on the same tyres and posted a time of 1:40.861 to go top by seven-hundredths of a second, a time that went unbeaten for the rest of the session.

As the focus switched from speed to reliability in long runs to simulate race conditions, several drivers made ‘telephone calls’ from the cockpit to report complaints: Max Verstappen about his Red Bull’s handling, the front right tyre in particular, Daniel Ricciardo about the sister car apparently losing power in the first corner, Romain Grosjean worrying about his Haas’s right rear suspension.

While Vettel inserted his Ferrari between the Mercedes and the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, honours were pretty well even between Williams and Force India, who are fighting it out for fourth place behind the ‘big three’ in the constructors’ championship.

Valtteri Bottas took seventh spot for Williams with teammate Felipe Massa in 10th– but Force India’s Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg are sandwiched between them in eighth and ninth.

Earlier, in a bizarre coincidence, with only 10 minutes of the session gone Daniil Kvyat’s day went from bad to worse: the Russian’s Toro Rosso spun at Turn 17, he limped back to the pits with a left rear puncture and was out of the car after just four laps – exactly what happened to him in the first session.

Video replays suggested something broke off the left rear wheel as the car negotiated the kerb on the left before being pitched into a high-speed spin out wide on the left, fortunately without reaching the barrier. The audio replays then suggested Kvyat’s command of English vernacular has come on in leaps and bounds.

Teammate Carlos Sainz, perhaps as a precautionary move, also took little part in the session, completing only five laps of his own while Rosberg did most with 35.

Second practice’s other casualty was Vettel, whose Ferrari stopped at the Yas Viceroy Hotel – not for an early check-in, but late in the session because of what the German reported as a possible gearbox failure with less than 10 minutes remaining.


Bumping into legends

The Formula One paddock at Yas Marina Circuit, where all the teams are based for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, is a veritable delight for petrol-heads.

That’s because you see F1 legends strolling around and freely accessible to grab for a chat.

So far today, I’ve bumped into Sir Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champion, Damon Hill, the 1993 world champion and Johnny Herbert, a one-time team-mate of Michael Schumacher.

Roll on tomorrow for more of the same…


Yas Marina CEO's third Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Al Tareq Al Ameri, the Chief Executive Officer of Yas Marina Circuit, is presiding over his third Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

And, incidentally, his first - in 2014 - was also a title decider between this year's rival for the world crown, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Al Ameri is certainly not your typical official who sits back and lets the action unfold.

Instead, he's regularly spotted in the paddock meeting and greeting fans.

Read my September interview with him here.


Meet Moko, a big Ferrari fan

Have just caught up with Formula One super-fan, Moko.

He's a fervent Ferrari fan and attends at least 17 grands prix a year.

Stay tuned for an interview with him over the weekend, but for now, here's my feature on him last year.

Senegalese Ferrari follower

Ferrari fan Moko, from Senegal, attends at least 17 grands prix a year.
 


Public marriage proposal at F1 race

Yas Marina Circuit today (Friday) saw a public marriage proposal when British man Michael Scobbie went down on one knee and proposed to his unsuspecting girlfriend, Shannon Stewart, in the Mercedes team garages.

With hundreds of fans gathered in the pit lane for the Public Pit Lane Walk event, Scobbie plucked up the courage and asked her to be his wife. He revealed afterwards that he was very nervous before making the proposal but is now delighted that she said ‘Yas’!
 

Share you F1 moments with us

Are you at this weekend's Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

If so, we'd love to hear from you.

Send your tweets, comments, photos and videos to our reporter at the race, Euan Reedie, via @EuanR1 or by email at ereedie@gulfnews.com
 


It’s Rosberg vs Hamilton in Abu Dhabi

Sunday's race will be a title decider between Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg leads the three-time world champion by 12 points in the drivers' standings and the pair have had a fractious relationship at times.

But Hamilton attempted to thaw their frosty relations at yesterday's pre-race press conference.

Read the full story here.
 


The key to this final race

Abu Dhabi: This weekend’s 2016 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the 29th time in Formula 1’s 65-year history that the tussle for the drivers’ championship has gone down to the final race of the season.

It will be also be the third time in the Abu Dhabi GP’s eight-year history that the title will be decided here following Lewis Hamilton’s success in 2014 and Sebastian Vettel’s 2010 triumph.

Read five of the best title deciders here. Welcome to our Friday Abu Dhabi GP live blog

Welcome back to our live blog of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

If you haven't bought your copy of Gulf Newstoday (Friday), check out our preview of the three-day showpiece here: http://gulfnews.com/sport/motorsport/abu-dhabi-gp/2016-formula-one-etihad-airways-abu-dhabi-grand-prix-nico-rosberg-and-lewis-hamilton-set-for-thrilling-finale-1.1934955

 



Thursday's F1 action draws to a close...

So, our coverage of Thursday's action-packed F1 has drawn to close.

Join us again tomorrow from 12pm as the first day of action at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix starts with first practice at 1pm at Yas Circuit.

Second practice will follow at 5pm.

Euan Reedie, Chief Sports Reporter, will be on hand throughout the day to bring you all the up-to-the-minute news and action.
 

All of 19 and raring to go

At the tender age of 19, meanwhile, Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc is the man in the driving seat as the 2016 GP3 series heads for its final showdown at Yas Marina.

But, as with the senior GP2 series, it’s his teammate and Thai rival, Alexander Albon, who is his closest pursuer.

Albon’s victory in the feature race at Sepang last time out was the 20-year-old’s fourth of the season, but greater consistency has left Leclerc with a handy 29-point advantage as he arrives in Abu Dhabi for the ninth and final round of the season.


Crowning glory

The feeder series for Formula One, GP2, will like its ‘big brother’ also crown a world champion this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Last month, at the 10th and penultimate round in Sepang, 22-year-old rookie Antonio Giovinazzi secured his fifth win in dominant fashion.

The PREMA Racing newcomer therefore took a seven-point lead in the drivers’ standings ahead of his team-mate and closest rival, Pierre Gasly.

The Frenchman, who has won three times in 2016 and who is just 20, is in his second season in GP2 after finishing eighth overall in 2015.

And title race between the pair truly intensified in Malaysia last time out.

For the fourth time this season, Gasly took pole position for the feature race – but his title ambitions stalled when he dwelt on the start-line and opened the door for his rival. Giovinazzi promptly raced through for victory while Gasly could do no better than 11th place. The Frenchman partly made up for it in the sprint race on Sunday with third place, but the damage was done and it’s all to play for in Abu Dhabi.


Jenson Button's last race

Jenson Button has confirmed he is regarding this weekend's Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as his "last race".

Button will be replaced at McLaren by Stoffel Vandoorne next year, but will remain involved with his team McLaren as an ambassador and reserve driver.

McLaren had suggested that the 2009 world champion could make a post-sabbatical return in 2018, but Button ruled this out at his Yas Marina Circuit press conference.

The most experienced man currently on the F1 grid, the Abu Dhabi GP will be his 305th Grand Prix start, also talked about his "life-changing memories" in the sport.

"I’m really looking forward to this weekend, and have been for a few races now,” added the Briton, who has won 15 Grand Prix and who lies 15th in the 2016 drivers’ championship with 21 points.


Lewis Hamilton-Nico Rosberg: Rivals on track, friends as kids

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have just finished a quite fascinating press conference ahead of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit.

Despite being fierce rivals on the track, the three-time world champion Hamilton talked about their fond friendship as kids.

"We had a lot in common. We loved pizza, eating boxes of Kellogg's Frosties. I still do those kind of things but Nico is solely focused on racing," said Hamilton, who is 12 points behind championship leader Rosberg ahead of this weekend's season finale in the UAE capital.

Rosberg replied that the pair share "a base of respect that will never go", insisting he respects Hamilton both as a person and as a driver.

Both spoke insightfully and intelligently about the season just gone and their hopes for tomorrow's race, among a host of other subjects.

Hamilton also spoke glowingly about his "inspirational" friendship with tennis ace Serena Williams, calling her "the greatest athlete we have".

Teams fine tuning their cars

As Abu Dhabi prepares to close out yet another exciting season of racing that will again see the world champion crowned at Yas Marina Circuit, fans of the sport were given an inside look at this year’s teams fine tuning their cars today ahead of the on-track action.

The public queued to enjoy the perennially popular Public Pit Lane Walk at the Circuit before the 2016 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Opening the pit lane to the public enabled F1 fans from across the globe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their favourite teams and drivers while they were preparing for what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the 2016 season.

Three-day ticket-holders were given the opportunity, with some only dreaming of being so close to the pinnacle of motorsport before Thursday.

“I have been to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before but I never bought a three-day ticket so the pit-lane walk is all new to me. I have to say I am loving it so far, and wish I had experienced it previously. It’s so exciting to be able to see what does actually happen at the pit garages,” said Robyn Murdoch, 37, from Canada.

“When you watch on TV at home, it’s very different. This brings it all to life and it’s especially magical this year with the fight for the title taking place at Yas Marina Circuit. My dad back in Canada is so jealous as he’s a huge Formula 1 fan. He has asked me to take as many photos as I can.”


1pm: Tense fight

For the second time in three years, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton head into the Abu Dhabi season finale locked in a tense fight for the world championship crown. Unlike 2014, it is Rosberg who is the clear favourite given his 12-point lead - but there are still several ways Hamilton could come from behind to snatch the crown from his team mate...

Rosberg will win the 2016 crown if...

  • He finishes on the podium in Abu Dhabi (regardless of where Hamilton finishes)
  • He finishes sixth or higher, and Hamilton doesn't win
  • He finishes eighth or higher, and Hamilton is no higher than third
  • Hamilton finishes fourth or lower (regardless of where Rosberg finishes)

Hamilton, therefore, must finish within the top four to stand any chance of snatching the championship - but even then he needs a helping hand from Rosberg. Fundamentally, the Briton's hopes can be

summarised as:

  • Hamilton will win the 2016 crown if...
  • He triumphs, and Rosberg is fourth or lower
  • He finishes second, and Rosberg finishes outside the top six
  • He finishes third, and Rosberg finishes outside the top eight

Interestingly, Rosberg is the form man at the Yas Marina Circuit, even if Hamilton has the better overall record. The Briton has taken two poles (2009 and 2012) and two wins (2011, 2014) in Abu Dhabi - but Rosberg has been on pole for the last two straight years, and triumphed in last year's race.

Indeed, since they became team-mates in 2013, Hamilton is yet to get the better of Rosberg in qualifying in Abu Dhabi - while the only time he has finished ahead of him on Sunday was in 2014, when Rosberg was famously hit with technical issues.


12.15pm: Press meet

Formula One title rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will appear alongside each other in a special press conference ahead of their showdown this weekend at Yas Marina Circuit at 3pm today. Departing stalwarts Felipe Massa and Jenson Button will also face questions from the press. Myself and my colleague, N.D, Prashant, will be handling these for Gulf News.

Here's the line-up:

Part 1: Jenson Button (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Williams), Felipe Nasr (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)

Part 2: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)


Rosberg to treat it 'like any other race'

An excited Nico Rosberg has vowed to treat this weekend’s season-ending Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix “like any other race” as he bids to secure his first Formula One championship title. Read more

Hamilton redeems a poor season with title

The 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the 18th and penultimate round of that season, where Sebastian Vettel was eyeing to complete his hat-trick at the desert track. Read more

I’m hunting you down, Hamilton warns Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton warned Nico Rosberg he was “hunting” a fourth world title after describing his stunning triumph in Sunday’s wet and chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix as one of the easiest of his 52 career victories. Read more

Your entertainment guide

Who better than Mr Worldwide, aka Pitbull, himself to kick off the party? The master of hits will perform at du Arena, Abu Dhabi, on November 24. Read more

And where to dine

If you’re spending the weekend in Abu Dhabi for Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, there are several high-quality restaurants and even a pop-up bar to enjoy. Read more

For more on Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, click here



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SPORT PICTURE OF THE DAY: Saturday, December 3


Corinne Suter of Switzerland, skis during the women's World Cup downhill ski race at Lake Louise, Alberta. AP