Perfect dress rehearsal for Hamilton as he heads Rosberg in both practice sessions in Abu Dhabi

Title contender Lewis Hamilton stamped his mark on the beginning of a weekend that could see him crowned world champion for a second time, heading his teammate Nico Rosberg in both sessions on a track he has secured two out of five poles.

With reliability becoming the issue of the day  going into the final race where double points could affect the championship, issues and problems began creeping in free practice one.

First a significant issue at Williams with the side pod bodywork cover of Valtteri Bottas’s car falling off onto the side of the track. The issue appeared to affect Massa’s car as well as he was called into the pits as there was a loosening of the bodywork on the same side as Bottas issue. The team ultimately decided to keep both drivers in the garage for the remainder of the session as a precaution as the fixed the issue.

Jenson Button also remained in the garage for the majority of the free practice one with a suspension problem as his teammate Kevin Magnussen tested out the new front nose and wing designed by former Red Bull designer Peter Pomdoro.

Despite considerable financial pressure Caterham have arrived at the circuit for the weekend after Marussia were forced to turn around at the airport. The team is also running Will Stevens this weekend who will be racing in the place of Marcus Ericsson who has already left the team for Sauber. His weekend di not start in the best fashion however, with an over revving engine that was exceeding the 1500 RPM causing Renault to investigate the issue and forcing Stevens to sit out the session.

Tempers flared as Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen went side by side as Magnussen was harvesting battery power and therefore going slower than usual, despite this fact Magnussen (who is fighting for his career at McLaren) refused to allow Sebastian to pass him and decided to fight to retain track position.

Controversy was also stirred up in the Red Bull garage by the appearance of Mario Illien, Mercedes engine designer in the nineties, who is a friend of Adrian Newey but is rumoured to have be recruited to assist with the Renault engine next year. However this is merely conjuncture around the paddock.

Romain Grosjean will have to fight to improve Lotus’ fortunes this weekend as he will receive a twenty place grid penalty due to three engine component changes and if he does not start from the pit lane he will have to take a time penalty during the race.

Kimi Raikkonen suffered yet again with braking issue as he stated nearing the end of the first practice session that the car was unstable under braking.

In FP2 Ferrari’s fortunes did not improve with Fernando Alonso’s car coming to a stop after just two laps running with an electrical problem on the straight after turn 19 that led to a gearbox failure, not a great start to his last weekend with the Ferrari team.

After an suspension issue in FP1 Jenson Button was hit with reliability issues yet again, this time with a hydraulics issue but his McLaren team worked quickly to fix the issue to allow him to run for an hour of the session.

Meanwhile Hamilton and Rosberg were trading times at the front with Hamilton coming out on top in both race and qualifying runs on the super soft tyre. The session ended with Hamilton heading Rosberg by only 0.083 of a second but in reality Hamilton looked much more in control throughout both sessions and stated in the press conference afterwards that he had never been round the track in a better car- a good omen for Lewis Hamilton fans going into the title decider this weekend.

Classifications

Free Practice One

1 HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:43.476
2 ROSBERG MERCEDES +0.133
3 ALONSO FERRARI +1.708
4 VETTEL RED BULL +1.858
5 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.885
6 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +2.242
7 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +2.359
8 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +2.437
9 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +2.507
10 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +2.554
11 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +2.573
12 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +2.655
13 MASSA WILLIAMS +3.073
14 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +3.080
15 MALDONADO LOTUS +3.235
16 OCON LOTUS +3.590
17 BUTTON MCLAREN +3.759
18 KOBAYASHI CATERHAM +4.495
19 FONG SAUBER +4.793
20 W STEVENS CATERHAM +7.208

Free Practice Two

1 HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:42.113
2 ROSBERG MERCEDES +0.083
3 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +0.782
4 VETTEL RED BULL +0.846
5 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +0.957
6 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.070
7 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +1.376
8 BUTTON MCLAREN +1.390
9 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1.433
10 MASSA WILLIAMS +1.445
11 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1.633
12 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.892
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.955
14 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +2.044
15 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +2.203
16 SUTIL SAUBER +2.650
17 GROSJEAN LOTUS +2.873
18 KOBAYASHI CATERHAM +3.392
19 W STEVENS CATERHAM +4.944
20 ALONSO FERRARI
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Gearing up for the Abu Double season finale- Abu Dhabi preview

Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit -Statistics

55 Laps

Track Length: 5.554 km

DRS Zones: First between turns 7 and 8 and the second between turn 10 and 11.

Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1.40.279 in 2009

2013 pole: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.957

Wins: 2009- Sebastian Vettel Red Bull, 2010, Sebastian Vettel Red Bull, 2011 Lewis Hamilton McLaren, 2012 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus, 2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull

Poles: 2009 Hamilton, 2010 Vettel, 2011 Vettel, 2012 Hamilton, 2013 Webber

As we head into the final showdown of this tantalisingly close Formula One season double points will be awarded at a circuit that has seen many close races and one very memorable championship decider in 2010.

The good news for Lewis Hamilton fans is that he has gained two pole positions out of five of the races held at the circuit, in 2009 and 2012, illustrating that he both enjoys and thrives at this circuit. However, he has also been plagued by retirements, most notably losing him a certain victory in 2012 when he was dominating in a McLaren before suffering from engine failure.

After winning in Brazil last week and reducing the point deficit to just seventeen points Nico Rosberg is benefitting from a momentum change and the new rules of double point; if the system was not in place then Hamilton would only need fifth, the very same position as in 2008 when he clinched the title in dramatic fashion on the final corner of the final lap.

Also brakes are deemed to be an issue around this circuit and management of brakes has largely been in Nico Rosberg’s favour this season. A mechanical failure for either of the drivers would be disappointing considering the close and largely clean battle they have engaged in all season, and the fans and the team are relishing the fair and close fight so far.

In Thursday’s drivers press conference Nico Rosberg made a point of saying that it was up to Lewis for the race to be a clean fight and that he had to ensure that he drove well and fairly for it to be so; a point of irony considering most of the controversial moments between the drivers this season, such as Monaco and most notably Spa, have focused on scrutiny of Rosberg’s driving and tactics not Hamilton’s.

The circuit is well accustomed to close title fights with arguably one of the most exciting title deciders in 2010 when a four man battle between Sebastian Vettel Fernando Alonso Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton went in Vettel’s favour after both Fernando Alonso and Webber suffered with poor pit stop strategy and ended up stuck in traffic and out of title contention.

Traffic could be an issue on Sunday as this famously difficult overtaking circuit will favour whoever starts on pole position, so Hamilton will be hoping to avoid some of the qualifying errors and misfortunes he has suffered from this season.

The race will be the final race for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull as the German joins the Italian team for 2015 and Alonso is expected to re-join the Woking based McLaren team that he parted so acrimoniously from in 2007. McLaren have stated that they will not announce their driver line up until December leaving fans concerned that 2009 World Champion Jenson Button will not receive the proper send off from his 266 race long Formula One career that he deserves.

Since it augural grand prix in 2009 Abu Dhabi has been a firm favourite on the F1 calendar hosting the first twilight race providing a unique challenge for the drivers as the race spans from day to night and the dramatically light circuit comes to life.

Often described as a processional race the circuit still proves highly challenging for the drivers as they flirt with the barriers and one of the tightest pit lane exits on the calendar.

Pirelli have decided to bring the soft and super soft compound of tyres to the race due to the relatively low speed nature of the circuit and the expected low temperatures due to the night time running: so tyre preservation should not be the pressing issue it was two weeks ago in Brazil.

Caterham have secured enough funding to return for the last race of the season with Britain’s Will Steven’s joining Kamui Kobayashi to race in his first grand prix after Marcus Ericsson announced his decision to join Sauber after the last race in Brazil.

The double points are not only important for the two leading protagonists but for other drivers and teams down the field, with a three way battle between Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas for fourth place in the championship, all separated by only three points.

Williams will also be looking to stay ahead of Ferrari in the constructors and McLaren attempt to overhaul the fifty point deficit to Ferrari for fourth.

Overall this season finale looks set to be a classic and as the sun goes down in Abu Dhabi and the 2014 season who will be crowned the victor amongst the Silver Arrows?

Race Recap: Hamilton reignites championship fight with win in Monza after Rosberg makes mistake

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza started under a cloud of controversy following the incident between the two Mercedes drivers at Spa, a cloud that would not disperse all weekend.

Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory after a perfect weekend which saw him top all three practice sessions, gain pole by over a quarter of second from his teammate and chanter to victory despite a poor start and niggling electrical  issues throughout the weekend.

At the race start Lewis Hamilton looked set to prove that bad luck was truly catching as he suffered yet another failure with the race start setup failing to engage losing three places and vitally the lead to teammate Nico Roseberg. Compounding issues was the fast starting McLaren of Magnussen who had sling-shotted his way up to second in a seemly determined move to demonstrate his worth to the Mclaren team bosses as he continues to fight for his seat at the Woking based outfit.

The Williams’ had shown pace all weekend and Felipe Massa managed to pass his teammate Vatterai Bottas to gain third ahead of Hamilton. Bottas, it was later discovered, had suffered an electrical software issue on his race start dropping from fourth to eleventh. Williams’ Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds said after the race that the start was not even recognised as a race start on their telemetry.

However, the flying Finn showcased the raw racers talent that he has shown at so many points in his first two seasons in F1 as he fought his way up the field with some fantastic manoeuvres on Vettel, Magnussen and Ricciardo to take fourth behind his teammate and score some valuable points for Williams in their fight with Ferrari in the constructors championship.

Unfortunately for the avid Tifosi the prancing horse proved more of a leisurely stroller for Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, with Raikkonen qualifying a lowly 11th after a penalty to Daniel Kyat and Fernando Alonso in seventh unable to fight for the second row of the grid let alone pole.

Rosberg began having issues when approaching turn one as early as lap nine, running off the track and through the chicane losing 1.8 seconds of his lead and allowing Felipe Mass’s Williams and his teammate to close in on him.

As Massa sat in second his Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas was fantastically fighting his way through the field from eleventh and by lap fourteen had passed local hero Fernando Alonso easily around the outside on the main straight for seventh place and two laps later put the same beautiful move on Jenson Button to gain sixth.

Meanwhile, Hamilton had also been steaming through the field passing Felipe Massa easily around the outside of the chicane for second place and had been cutting into his teammates lead by half a second a lap despite calls from his team to hang back and preserve his tyres.

Hamilton’s determination paid off as on lap twenty eight Roseberg run off the track at the chicane for a second time, this time allowing his teammate to take the lead. Within the space of a few laps Hamilton had extended his lead to four seconds and it was Rosberg’s turn to be asked to slow down and preserve tyres and fuel by the team.  The mistake by Rosberg was considered b many after the race as a sign that the pressure mounted on him after Spa was being to show, whilst others formed conspiracy theories after Toto Wolff was deemed to have smiled after the mistake.

As Mercedes held a comfortable one- two the prancing horses of Ferrari were looking a little lame as Fernando Alonso’s car slowed to a stop at the side of turn one with an electrical problem, his first mechanical retirement since 2010 and the only time he had not been on the podium at Monza in his Ferrari career. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile appeared to be off the pace down in ninth place.

Further down the field an epic battle was occurring between the two McLaren’s and Sergio Perez’s Force India. Kevin Magnussen had received a five second penalty for an earlier incident with Valtteri Bottas where the stewards had deemed him to have forced Bottas off the track; this was added to his time after the race placing him down in tenth and with a solitary point.

On lap thirty seven Bottas finally managed to pass Magnussen with a move down the main straight after being held up for at least four laps. He then set off after Vettel passing him for fourth.

Meanwhile Magnussen’s teammate Jenson Button sparred with Perez for seventh place passing him into the first corner on lap thirty nine only to run wide and allow Perez to regain the position, the constant changing of positions carried on until the end of the race with Perez ultimately the winner holding onto seventh place.

Riccardo on lap forty seven illustrated to the world and his team that his teammate four time world champion Sebastian Vettel did not intimidate him with a fantastic move down the inside of the second chicane, taking fifth place behind Bottas.

Raikkonen continued Ferrari’s 80 race long point scoring streak despite a poor weekend for the Scuderia, gaining ninth after Kevin Magnussen’s penalty and Daniel Kyvat, who had been closing in for a number of laps, suffered a brake issue going straight on through turn one.

Overall not the renaissance that Ferrari had be hoping for at their home Grand Prix and on Monday it was announced that their long time president Luca di Montezemolo will be stepping down, rumoured to be caused by a wish for a fresh start and return to winning ways for the majestic team.

The win for Hamilton signalled the turnaround of his championship fight with a dominant performance to reduce the points deficit to twenty two points with six races to go.

Race Recap: Ricciardo secures third win in Belgium after Mercedes clash

War. That was the residing feeling from the Belgian Grand Prix as teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg connected on lap one causing a puncture for Hamilton, front wing damage for Rosberg and handed a third win to the ever present Daniel Ricciardo.

The feeling around the paddock and amongst fans appeared to be that this was inevitable; a collision when fighting for the title in such a dominant car between two incredibly talented drivers appearing unavoidable.

Since the third race of the season in Bahrain the tension between the teammates appeared to be building at Qualifying in Monaco and an on-track fight in Hungary and finally that tension came to a head in the Belgium grand prix.

In Qualifying it was Rosberg who secured pole by a comfortable two tenths of a second but a fantastic start for Hamilton allowed him to take the lead of the race with an overtaking move around the outside of turn one.

Vettel then attempted to take Hamilton on the outside of La Combes, but ran wide off the track and along the sleeping policeman which allowed Rosberg to re-pass for second.

On the next lap Hamilton ran wide through Eau Rouge and Rosberg lined up alongside him before backing out of the move, tapping Lewis’s left rear tyre with his front wing end plate in the process and giving his teammate an instant puncture.

The contact damaged Hamilton’s floor as he dragged his three wheeled wagon back to the pits and came out at the back of the field where he stayed until his retirement on lap 40 to save his engine. Rosberg, meanwhile, had sustained damage to his front wing and decided to err on the side of caution and changed his front wing in his first pit stop.

Hamilton was on the racing line and Hamilton reported that apparently Rosberg had said after the race during a team briefing that he did not back out of the move to make a point to his teammate. He has been reprimanded by Mercedes with a fine after Toto Wolff stated that it was “unacceptable”. Rosberg’s action meant he was booed on the podium despite his assertion at the time that he had done nothing wrong and that the fans were wrong to boo without understanding the regulations. On the Friday after the race Rosberg issued a statement on his Facebook page apologising to his teammate to which Hamilton responded by releasing a statement saying both had done things that could be considered wrong.

Teammate battles seemed the issue of the day as Ricciardo started honing on Vettel in the sister Red Bull and on lap 9 he had passed for second place after Vettel ran wide into Pouhon. Despite Vettel pitting earlier Ricciardo managed to stay ahead of his teammate and ultimately Rosberg to take his third race win of the season and his career.

Rosberg’s day went from bad to worse as on lap 16 the Mercedes powered Williams of Bottas glided past him on the Kemmel straight to take fourth place and a later pass on Jenson Button was deemed illegal by the stewards as he had run off track limits. However, he quickly showcased his pace by steaming past Alonso for third place on lap 26 and began chasing after Valtteri Bottas’ Williams and leader Ricciardo.

After the second round of pit stops on lap 36 Rosberg came out just front of Bottas allowing Valtteri to showcase his speed and skill with a move around the outside coming into the chicane.  However, he did not hold onto third for long as Rosberg made a daring move around the inside of Bottas going into Blanchimont .

Rosberg then quickly despatched a struggling Kimi Raikkonen on older tyres for second place and then set about cutting into the one stopping Daniel Ricciardo’s 20 second lead by over three seconds a lap.

Meanwhile Fernando Alonso was fighting with Kevin Magnussen’s Mclaren for fifth place, Magnussen fantastically defended a move around the outside by Alonso and Alonso was pushed onto the grass, a move that Fernando and the stewards believed was too aggressive. After the race Kevin Magnussen was awarded a 20 second time penalty and fell from sixth to twelfth.

Despite the late charge from Rosberg Daniel Ricciardo held onto a three second gap and secured his third win of the season with Valtteri Bottas gaining a fantastic third for Williams. Rosberg extended his championship lead over Hamilton by 18 points but as was clear after the race the ramifications and price of those points was incredibly high.