There is not much changed, from a week ago, except the track, and some updates.
Red Bull are still there, especially with the Vettel package. Apparently, according to James Allen, Webber has never done well at the Yas Marina circuit, perhaps that is why he is dropped back compared to Vettel in single lap practice times.
McLaren are back, at least with the Hamilton package, and he sits a meagre 0.168 back, still almost 2 tenths, but the next fastest, Jenson Button is another 4 tenths back, a whopping 0.661 off Vettel’s pace.
But from Button, in 3rd (0.661 back) to Alonso in 7th (0.836) is a mere 0.175, similar but less than the difference between the top two! Anything may happen in this bunch, and as the famous Murray Walker refrain would say, “… and it usually does.”
So while in single lap pace, one might think it a bit gloomy for Alonso, he is closer to third than Hamilton is to pole.
If I were Alonso, I wouldn’t mind being third, with Vettel on the front row against Hamilton, who has nothing to lose in going all out for the win, and on this track, of at least average difficulty to pass, a tussle between the top two, into the first corner could work extremely well for Alonso, as long as he is on the third row of better.
But things are gloomy in race pace for the Alonso-Ferrari championship drive, where according to Vettel, McLaren are on top in Abu Dhabi. He has reportedly called on Red Bull to up their game, to get onto better race pace terms with McLaren.
Lotus was quiet except for Grosjean’s ability to make the soft tires work better. Kimi was again sporting the ‘device’ intake scoops on the air dam; but there has been a distinct ‘talking-down’ of ‘the device’ of late, and it may well go the way of the dodo.
I have a feeling about Grosjean, and there has been a icy restraint from Eric Bouiller since Kimi’s surge and self-styled media stunts, and Grosjean’s ongoing crash habit, concerning Grosjean’s standing with the team. All season long Grosjean was the darling of Boullier, now there are headlines, like, “Lotus still evaluating Grosjean before finalizing new contract” (www.autosport.com), and “Boullier in no rush for Grosjean” (www.planetF1.com); and the Lotus F1 web site, now plastered with images of Kimi?!?
Still, Grosjean has already shown flashes of brilliance, out-qualifying Kimi regularly before his latest and twitter-inducing first lap wipe-outs.
I have a feeling that he could go large on qualifying at Abu Dhabi; we shall see; it’s just a feeling.
But the straight money is on Vettel and Hamilton for the first row, and the rest of Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari to scrap it out behind.