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Abu Dhabi F1

Mika’s Tip

It does not take much insight to predict a 19th win of 2023 for Max Verstappen on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. He has totally dominated Formula 1 this season and, even when he has had to work for the win, as happened in Las Vegas last weekend, he has the speed and confidence to come through. He has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the last three years, so my tip is to enjoy watching who will join him on the podium!

Mika’s Memories

It’s incredible to consider that Abu Dhabi has been hosting a Formula 1 World Championship event since 2009 and, since the event also took place during the Covid pandemic, this year’s race will be the 15th time we have visited the Yas Marina circuit.

Only three current drivers have won here – Max, Lewis Hamilton and my friend Valtteri Bottas.

Lewis has won five times, the first time in 2011 when he was racing for McLaren-Mercedes. His further victories came during Mercedes’ dominance between 2014 and 2019, Valtteri winning in 2017 and Nico Rosberg in 2015. Max’s win in 2020 was only his second Grand Prix win of that season and, in some ways, it marked the start of the transition from Mercedes to Red Bull which led to that controversial end to the 2021 World Championship and Max taking his first title.

Championship Form

I think Charles Leclerc’s brilliant last lap overtake on Sergio Perez in Las Vegas showed just how hard Ferrari’s drivers are fighting for every point. With only 4 points separating Ferrari from Mercedes in the World Championship for Constructors, both teams really have to put together as perfect a weekend as possible in their push to finish 2nd behind Red Bull.

Don’t forget that it’s the position in the teams’ World Championship which decides how much prize money each team receives, so the difference between 3rd and 2nd is millions of dollars!

Ferrari locked out the front row last weekend before Carlos Sainz was hit with that tough 10-place grid penalty. My feeling is that the pure speed is there at Ferrari, and we know that track position is always so important.

Mercedes have suffered a couple of difficult weekends in Sao Paulo and Las Vegas, so I am sure that team boss Toto Wolff will be pushing the team and drivers to make sure Ferrari don’t overtake them in the teams’ championship in this final race. Lewis and George Russell will both know they need a strong weekend. They really won’t want to see the Ferraris in front of them at any point.

Personally I think it’s going to be a very close fight because Ferrari have had seven pole positions this season and Charles has been on pole in three of the last four Grands Prix. Even if the red cars do not have the ability to keep the Red Bull of Max Verstappen behind in the race, a strong qualifying is a big advantage. That’s one reason I always liked going flat out in qualifying. Starting from the pole makes life a lot easier!

The team most likely to spoil the party for Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari is McLaren, for although Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso can never be discounted, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are equally determined to finish the season with a strong result. McLaren’s team boss Andrea Stella is confident their car will suit Abu Dhabi, so expect to see the papaya orange in the mix.

Aston Martin is only 11 points behind McLaren in the fight for 4th in the teams’ series, and I am sure Fernando and team mate Lance Stroll will give it everything to close the gap, particularly if McLaren has any bad luck. One thing is sure, in the final race of the season a lot of drivers will be going for it, pushing hard to finish the season on a high. There’s plenty to look forward to!

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