Formula 1\'s return to Abu Dhabi marks the first anniversary of the now-legendary Kimi Raikkonen sound bite: \"Leave me alone, I know what I\'m doing.\" And what a difference a year makes. In 2012, Kimi and Lotus appeared to have one of the most flattering and harmonious team-driver relationships, snappish radio messages notwithstanding. Just this Thursday, the Finn was nowhere to be found in Yas Island, and while he\'d been coaxed back into the car on Friday, he put on a tough-businessman act in his post-practice interviews.
\"It\'s easy to say that\'s the reason why I didn\'t almost come, [but] it\'s not that simple,\" Kimi said, speaking of his volatile radio exchange with Lotus trackside operations chief Alan Permane in the previous race. \"Sometimes it\'s not very nice when you hear that you don\'t have the interests of the team and then you\'ve been paid zero euros the whole year. So it doesn\'t put you in the best place, but that\'s how it goes and hopefully, we found an understanding on both sides on how we should deal with the situation right now and fix the issues and try to finish as well as we can.\"
Kimi Raikkonen getting all talkative about his financial affairs? We never would\'ve guessed it. That said, we\'ve often had poor aim in nailing our predictions anyway. Here\'s the set for Abu Dhabi.
1. The Safety Car will return to the racetrack. Just because it\'s been a while.
2. Saturday proceedings: Lewis Hamilton won\'t be in the front row, and Fernando Alonso will out-qualify Felipe Massa. Lewis has never started lower than P2 in Abu Dhabi, but the two Red Bulls look pretty solid for the front row. The Lotuses--Romain Grosjean in particular--might spring a surprise in qualifying, too. No high expectations for Ferrari--both drivers were off the pace on Friday, although practice results are by no means conclusive.
3. Valtteri Bottas will be the higher-finishing Williams driver, and Nico Hulkenberg will snatch 10th place in the drivers\' standings. We know the sport\'s other Finn doesn\'t have that good a record against his teammate. It\'s just that Pastor Maldonado\'s being the central piece to the 2014 grid puzzle has gotten us annoyed. He\'s fast, he has won a race, and he has a single point to his name this season only because the car is rubbish. It\'s his sponsorship money, however, that is really dictating the driver market--at the expense of people like Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.
Those two penniless players have 39 and 40 points, respectively, with di Resta currently hanging on to 10th place in the drivers\' championship. By the end of the race, we think Hulkenberg will have taken that spot from him.
4. Mercedes will increase its points lead over Ferrari, and Sauber will decrease its points deficit to Force India. Quick recap: Mercedes is four points ahead of third-placed Ferrari, and Sauber is 23 points behind sixth-placed Force India. The F1 pot is divvied up based on team standings, so even if the top spots in the drivers\' and constructors\' championships have been accounted for, expect no letup in the scrap for precious points.
5. At least one Lotus will make it to the podium. Will it come via team orders? If it does and Kimi is made to move over for the team\'s new favorite, will the Iceman be a no-show in the final two races of the season? Let\'s see how it turns out on Sunday (November 3) at 9pm, Philippine time. But before that, tune in to qualifying tonight (November 2), also at 9pm, Philippine time.
Photos from Lotus F1 Team
|ABU||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)|
|1||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:44.241 (M)||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:41.335 (S)|
|2||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:44.433, +0.192 (M)||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:41.490, +0.155 (S)|
|3||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:44.499, +0.258 (M)||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:41.690, +0.355 (S)|
|4||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:44.712, +0.471 (M)||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:41.726, +0.391 (S)|
|5||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:44.741, +0.500 (M)||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:41.758, +0.423 (S)|
|6||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:44.929, +0.688 (M)||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:42.006, +0.671 (S)|
|7||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:45.040, +0.799 (M)||J. Button (McLaren)||1:42.010, +0.675 (S)|
|8||J. Button (McLaren)||1:45.099, +0.858 (M)||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:42.171, +0.836 (S)|
|9||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:45.150, +0.909 (M)||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:42.324, +0.989 (S)|
|10||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:45.331, +1.090 (M)||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:42.440, +1.105 (S)|
|11||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:45.378, +1.137 (M)||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:42.509, +1.174 (S)|
|12||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:45.440, +1.199 (M)||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:42.607, +1.272 (M)|
|13||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:45.823, +1.582 (M)||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:42.806, +1.471 (S)|
|14||J. Calado (Force India)||1:45.924, +1.683 (M)||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:42.952, +1.617 (M)|
|15||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:46.068, +1.827 (M)||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:42.998, +1.663 (S)|
|16||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:46.114, +1.873 (M)||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:43.152, +1.817 (S)|
|17||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:46.124, +1.883 (M)||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:43.271, +1.936 (S)|
|18||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:46.126, +1.885 (M)||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:43.565, +2.230 (S)|
|19||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:47.600, +3.359 (M)||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:44.138, +2.803 (S)|
|20||H. Kovalainen (Caterham)||1:47.670, +3.429 (M)||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:44.459, +3.124 (S)|
|21||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:47.723, +3.482 (M)||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:44.525, +3.190 (S)|
|22||R. Gonzalez (Marussia)||1:49.565, +5.324 (M)||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:45.565, +4.230 (S)|
Legend: M—medium compound; S—soft compound. For first free practice, J. Calado (Force India), H. Kovalainen (Caterham) and R. Gonzalez (Marussia) drove in place of A. Sutil, G. van der Garde and M. Chilton, respectively