Verstappen Abu Dhabi 2022
Max Verstappen of Red Bull celebrates after winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on November 20, 2022. The Dutchman aims his fourth consecutive win in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix celebrates 15 years of Formula One racing. The race at the Yas Marina circuit is the final showdown of a 22-race season, which the Dutchman dominated with 18 wins. Verstappen and Red Bull have already confirmed the titles, yet the race is expected to offer a spellbinding spectacle. Fasten you seatbelts and enjoy the drive.

Verstappen chases his fourth Abu Dhabi GP

By Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor 

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The venue of Max Verstappen’s first coronation as world champion. That was in 2021. A race which Lewis Hamilton lost and ceded the crown to the Dutchman. Since that controversial race, Verstappen has won two more titles and established himself as the dominant Formula One Driver. He returns to the scene of his maiden triumph after confirming his fourth title.

All eyes will be on Verstappen as the Yas Marina circuit comes alive on Sunday with high-octane clashes of gleaming Formula One cars driven by the best in the world. The Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles may not be at stake, but there’s still plenty to play for in Abu Dhabi.

Long before the F1 action picks up for the final round showdown at the Yas circuit, Verstappen claimed the Drivers’ Championship and his Red Bull Racing team the Constructors’ title. His Red Bulls teammate Sergio Perez has cemented the runner-up spot, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will take the third spot.

The Las Vegas thriller

Yet there will be plenty of stirring duels as the drivers and teams scramble for the remaining places. It still has all the ingredients for a thriller. 

The breathtaking contests on the streets of Las Vegas last week will likely spill over to Abu Dhabi. Verstappen had to overcome a penalty and an on-track collision with Mercedes’ George Russell for the Las Vegas win, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished second and Perez third.

Verstappen is insatiable. That’s why he’s the world champion. He owns two F1 championships and the third is in the bag, but that wouldn’t stop him from pulling out all the stops for a record-extending 19th victory in a 22-race season. Mindboggling dominance, really. A win in Abu Dhabi will be the seventh in a row this season for the Dutch driver and the 54th of his career. So keep a close watch on the 26-year-old, who tops the heap with 549 points.

2023 F1 Winners
Image Credit: Gulf News

The fourth place in the drivers’ standings is still up for grabs. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz has drawn abreast of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso with 200 points each. The Singapore victory puts the Ferrari driver in fourth place ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP. McLaren’s Lando Norris, currently sixth, is just five points behind Sainz and Alonso, and he’s firmly on track to challenge them for the fourth place.

Leclerc will also be in the mix, as he is only 12 points away from Sainz and Alonso. The Ferrari driver will need a fourth-place finish and the fastest lap to close the gap and hope his rivals will score low.

Mercedes have a lot at stake in Abu Dhabi. This is their final chance to grab the winner’s spot and avoid a winless season. The team last suffered a win drought in 2011.

George Russell delivered Mercedes’ last F1 victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton for 1-2 at Interlagos. That was 12 months ago. So Hamilton and Mercedes will be keen to scale the winner’s spot on the Abu Dhabi podium.

Can Hamilton win in Abu Dhabi?

That may remain a distant dream as his winless streak dates back to the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Moreover, with Red Bull and Ferrari upping the ante, it’s difficult to see Mercedes winning at the Yas.

Red Bull have ravaged the field for the Constructors’ title. With 822 points, they are far ahead of the competition and Mercedes have only 392. So the winner is a foregone conclusion, but Mercdes and Ferrari are locked in a tussle for the second spot with only four points separating them. That will be decided in Abu Dhabi.

But an exciting battle between four teams is brewing near the base of the constructors’ championship table. Williams and AlphaTauri are locked in a tussle for the seventh spot, although it would be difficult for AlphaTauri to overtake the British team. But it can’t be ruled out. Alfa Romeo and Haas are in a race to avoid finishing last.

F1 2023 Constructors' title
Image Credit: Gulf News

So there’s enough to keep the spectators engrossed in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, the first Formula One races that started in the evening and finished under the floodlights. Over the years, some newer races have employed a similar format, yet the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix retains its charm as it brings the curtains down on the season.

Last year, the Grand Prix drew record crowds of over 140,000. That record may be at risk as ticket demand has soared and the grandstand has been expanded to accommodate more F1 enthusiasts.

Fifteen years is a milestone in F1 racing. Every year, the allure grows, and this year will be no different. Verstappen won’t be singing Viva Las Vegas in an Elvis Presley jumpsuit, but his competitive fervour will ensure an adrenaline-fuelled race. Remember, Hamilton will be chasing his first win in 12 months. After all, Abu Dhabi was his stomping ground with five victories. But stopping Verstappen isn’t easy.

The flying Dutchman comes to Yas Marina with a tailwind of 18 wins. He will be gunning for his fourth Abu Dhabi GP in a row. Try stopping him.

All you want to know about an F1 race

The evolution of Formula One racing

Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

The roar of engines and screeching brakes fill the racing circuit as cars zip around at incredible speeds. That’s Formula One racing. That’s the world of motorsport. How did it all start?

The origins of Formula One racing can be traced to the races on public roads in Europe at the end of the 19th century. The appellation “Grand Prix” was first used for 1901’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans. The European Grand Prix racing of the 1920s and 30s were precursors to Formula One races.

There are several claimants to the first Formula One race. The 1947 Pau Grand Prix, won by Nello Pagani on Maserati 4CL, could be the first F1 race. It conformed to the standardised set of rules, referred to as Formula One, drawn up in 1946 by the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI), the predecessor of Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA). It defines Formula One as a premier single-seater racing category in motorsport.

Birth of F1 World Championship

The formula based on engine capacity to level the playing field became effective in 1947. It was initially known as Formula A, Formula I, or Formula 1. But the races from 1946-1950 were not part of an organised calendar. The first race labelled “International Formula One” took place at the same venue three years later. Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, who became an F1 legend, won the race in a Maserati.

The F1 World Championship was born in May 1950 when Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix — the first sanctioned championship race. There were around 20 races, but only seven were considered for the drivers’ title. Italian teams of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati dominated the early years. Fangio won five World Championship titles (with five different manufacturers), a record which stood for 45 years until German Michael Schumacher won his sixth in 2003. Schumacher and Briton Lewis Hamilton now have a record seven titles.

British F1 engineering dominated from 1958 through the 1960s as Teams Cooper, BRM, Brabham and Lotus won 11 world titles. Between Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and Graham Hill, British drivers won nine Drivers’ Championships. Lotus became the first team to carry advertising on their cars, and a car with an engine mounted behind the driver won for the first time when Stirling Moss drove Cooper to victory in the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix.

SPO Michael Schumacher  CAR1-1681486791593
Schumacher and Ferrari took a stranglehold on the podium, winning five Drivers’ titles in a row from 2000 and six Constructors’ titles from 1994. Image Credit: Reuters

Formula One technology developed rapidly in the 1970s and early 1980s, and raw horsepower was unleashed on the track with the advent of turbo-powered cars (Turbo engines were banned in 1989). The races gave rise to intense sporting rivalries and edge-of-the-seat action. McLaren’s technical superiority remained dominant, but its stars, Ayrton Senna of Brazil and Alain Prost of France, became fierce rivals, often complaining bitterly of each other.

In the 1990s, innovation and competition to build fast cars drove the technology to complex levels, but F1’s governing bodies moved to make racing safer, especially after the deaths of Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy, in 1994. It helped. No driver died on the track in the next 20 years.

Drivers from McLaren, Williams, Renault (formerly Benetton), and Ferrari won the championships from 1984 to 2008. But Schumacher and Ferrari took a stranglehold on the podium, winning five Driver’s titles in a row from 2000 and six Constructor’s titles from 1994. Schumacher retired in 2006 after 16 years of F1 races, setting many records: 91 Grand Prix wins (beaten by Lewis Hamilton last year), most wins in a season (13 out of 18), and most Drivers’ Championships (seven, tied with Hamilton).

Max Verstappen
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Rise of Red Bull Racing

After Schumacher’s exit, F1 changed, rules changed, technical regulations were changed, but racing remained fierce. That set the stage for the swift rise of Red Bull Racing, spearheaded by Sebastian Vettel, who in 2010 became the youngest champion in F1 history. The German went on to win four titles.

F1 rules and engines changed again in 2014 with the introduction of 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid power units. That ushered in a sustained period of dominance by Mercedes AMG and Hamilton. With seven world titles, the Briton staked claim to be the greatest driver of all time.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 stalled racing briefly before F1 returned to the track in 2020. Seven decades on, the Formula One saga continues, bringing together the best drivers and engineers of the world. Max Verstappen arrives in Abu Dhabi for the final race of 2022, seeking his 54th career title. Keep your eyes peeled.