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Abu Dhabi as a mirror of the season: the weaknesses and strengths of the teams

Abu Dhabi as a mirror of the season
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E actually would have been the last race of the Year is enough. From the team's point of view, that was pretty much the balance of power this year. Mercedes won ahead of Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault. Sauber crossed the finish line ahead of Force India and HaasF1. That corresponded to the status of the last races. Over the season, Force India and HaasF1 were more consistent than the Swiss. That's why they are at the top of the World Cup.

But why was the season finale a mirror of this season? Why weren't there these outliers in Abu Dhabi, that a Red Bull drives for victory, a Toro Rosso annoys Renault or even one of the backbenchers McLaren and Williams finished in the points? After all, five drivers have failed. Even a Ferrari. That rarely happens.

Ferrari loved fast corners, Mercedes loved slow ones

The Yas Marina Circuit is a track that requires almost maximum downforce. On a scale of 9 out of 10. Therefore the course cannot be compared with the city races in Monte Carlo and Singapore or the Hungaroring. There are three long straights on the 5.554 kilometer route in the Arabian fairy tale land. They are missing on the 10/10 routes. And that's why Mercedes has no problem with it. Since the victory in Singapore, the Silver Arrows no longer have to fear street circuits.

The mix of straights and 21 corners, 13 of which are slower than 130 km /h, fits exactly into the profile of the Mercedes. The W09 is an all-rounder that can do everything. Slow and fast corners, straights. Its efficiency window has shifted slightly in the direction of more downforce compared to 2017. That's why he tended to do better on his fear stretches. And a little worse on its former parade routes like Silverstone or Austin. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, was an even better fit than in previous years.

Ferrari's efficiency window has shifted a bit more towards fast racetracks this year. Low air resistance was the key. Wherever downforce values ​​like 9 or 10 out of 10 were required, Ferrari was no longer as good as last year.

Instead, Bahrain, Shanghai, Montreal, Silverstone, Hockenheim, Spa and Monza were the territory of the Ferrari SF71H. The red car wasn't that good at the fast corners in 2017. And the engine did not yet have so much power that it was at least on a par with Mercedes.

No tire problems in Abu Dhabi

ProbablyFerrari has exaggerated it by reducing air resistance and aiming to maintain downforce at the same time or to achieve more contact pressure without increasing air resistance. Attempts to find Columbus's egg misled the engineers for three races. If development had proceeded normally, Suzuka would at least have been a Ferrari track.

The Ferrari had a hard time on tracks like Mexico or Abu Dhabi this year. At least one round in qualification. There was simply no downforce. Even though everything Ferrari had to offer was already on the car. The loss of time on the winding roads could not be corrected by the outstanding top speed. In the race, the deficiency was leveled out. With regard to the tires, everyone is driving below their potential.

For Red Bull, the last race of the year was definitely the most difficult place since the rebirth at the Singapore GP. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo flew in the curve labyrinth of the third sector. But there are just too many straights on Yas Island. And the route is at sea level. The Red Bull engineers thought wistfully in the thin air of Mexico.

The compromise forced Red Bull to sacrifice some downforce. So it was not enough either here or there. The tire advantage of the RB14 did not come into play either. At night, the asphalt temperature stays in a narrow window. If there is enough rubber on the track on Sunday, hardly anyone has any problems keeping the tires in their working window. Even a Williams could have survived the entire race distance on Supersoft tires.

Clean like Ferrari, Haas like Mercedes

In the midfield, Renault benefited from the curve profile. The car likes curves with short radii. The few quick corners are irrelevant. The top speed deficiency is also not so because the Renault is faster around the corner than the direct competition in the slow corners. “We're not missing much on the top cars,” says Nico Hülkenberg.

Team-mate Carlos Sainz was the fastest man in the rest of the field. In terms of its characteristics, the Renault R.S. 18 is almost comparable to the Mercedes. Just two steps down. Because the yellow-black cars showed the greatest consistency in midfield, they deservedly finished fourth.

HaasF1 did not make enough of the opportunities. And the drivers are not entirely innocent. Romain Grosjean was not at fault in Abu Dhabi, but the Frenchman was still involved in a collision on the opening lap. How many times have we heard this year that a HaasF1 driver had to drive a damaged car? The US team had no chance against Renault, Sauber and Force India far too often, even though they actually had the faster car.

HaasF1 can still be grateful that Sauber didn't really wake up until the middle of the season. Have in the second half of the seasonthe Swiss played well in the front midfield. When comparing the two Ferrari customers, it is noticeable that the Sauber is more based on the Ferrari in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, while the HaasF1 is more like Mercedes.

On average, the Sauber drivers achieve the higher top Speed, your colleagues from HaasF1 have more downforce. Example Abu Dhabi: Leclerc took Grosjean from 6 km /h on the straight. Grosjean returned the favor with a split time four tenths faster in sector 3.

Force India has collected a total of 111 points. It would only have been enough for 5th place if the team had been allowed to keep their points from the first half of the season. The fourth place in the World Cup in recent years lost too much in the first half when the development of the VJM11 suffered from acute financial difficulties.

And too many mishaps occurred in the final. On the racetrack, the Force India was a balanced car. Nowhere really bad, nowhere outstanding. His best race was Spa. That's why you couldn't expect miracles in Abu Dhabi.

Messed up base at Williams and McLaren

Toro Rosso has done bravely. There were a few highlights, but also a lot of mediocrity. Honda was still looking for its way and whipped 16 units of engine, turbocharger and MGU-H per driver through the season. That meant five motor penalties each. The double engine failure in Pierre Gasly's car showed the Japanese that the trees are not yet growing into the sky.

Next year with Red Bull, a different wind will blow. The Toro Rosso STR13 was certainly not a stroke of genius. But you could get into the top ten with him if the engine played along. Especially on routes with slow corners. Before Gasly's engine problems started, he was in the top ten in Abu Dhabi. To this day, no one in the team can reasonably explain why Toro Rosso finished fourth on his own in Bahrain. “We're still puzzling,” Gasly laughs mischievously.

McLaren and Williams were also at the bottom of the field in the final. If it weren't so sad that the two traditional British teams, of all people, would be laughed at. Both started the season on a messed up base. Williams's was even worse than McLaren's.

62 points for McLaren is a miracle. They owe 50 to Fernando Alonso. He always struck where the McLaren could reasonably keep up. Abu Dhabi was actually not a good place for the second oldest team in the field. Too many slow corners, too many straights.

Alonso fought for a championship point until the last lap. But he had to resort to unfair means to catch up with Kevin Magnussen. Shortening the route was punished. Alonso got three times 5 seconds penalty time added up. He will be happy not to have to drive this car anymore.


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