Feature: Abu Dhabi GP's key questions

Feature: Abu Dhabi GP's key questions

2 December 2015 – Prior to last weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, GPUpdate.net posed five key questions surrounding the event. Following the conclusion of Formula 1's 2015 season-finale, we attempt to provide the answers.

Could Rosberg make it three out of three?

Nico Rosberg has out-classed Lewis Hamilton since the latter's title triumph in the United States and he was once more on top as the season concluded beneath the lights and fireworks spectacular at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Rosberg was emphatic over a single lap on Saturday to firmly put Hamilton in the shade, while he built on a strong getaway to register victory, forcing Hamilton to adopt an ultimately unsuccessful alternate strategy. This was undoubtedly a strong end to a difficult campaign for Rosberg and proves that he has the pace. The question is whether he can sustain such a challenge away from 'dead rubber' events and become Hamilton's equal across the course of an entire year.

Would tyre choice help Ferrari?

Softer tyres have tended to be of greater assistance to Ferrari but even without the use of Pirelli's selection the SF15-T has been firmly the second fastest package across the majority of 2015. Only in Hungary and Singapore, when it was faster than Mercedes, and Britain, when it was on merit slower than Williams, has Ferrari deviated from its typical position. Kimi Räikkönen fended off Sergio Pérez across qualifying and the opening laps but was unable to hang onto the Mercedes pair, despite his best efforts, while Sebastian Vettel had sufficient pace to execute his strategy of running the first two stints on Prime tyres, only switching to Options at the end. It netted him fourth place, as he equalled Fernando Alonso's haul of 278 points in a single season – a record for a Ferrari driver.

How did the other battles pan out?

With the titles and top positions long since wrapped up, there was only the scrap for a handful of places to be decided. Räikkönen's podium, combined with Valtteri Bottas' pit mistake, allowed the elder Finn a clear run to fourth in the standings, while Daniel Ricciardo closed the gap to team-mate Daniil Kvyat to three points but lost out on seventh overall. Elsewhere, Nico Hülkenberg comfortably secured a slot in the top 10 to ensure the drivers finished line astern to mirror the Constructors' placings, with the Mercedes duo followed by pairings from Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull and Force India. Toro Rosso failed to score a point for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix, thus allowing Lotus to clinch sixth in the standings.

Did Red Bull finally announce engine plans?

No. The on-track action took a back seat amid posturing and gamesmanship in the paddock, with Red Bull's Christian Horner confirming the team had an engine deal in 2016 – though remaining tight-lipped on the precise details. Red Bull is set to use rebadged Renault power units, with greater access to the data, and therefore the ability to take an alternative developmental path. Horner has already stated that 2016 will be a transitional year – understandably, its current position in the pecking order demonstrates the required progress, not aided by the late decision. A formal announcement is expected towards the first part of December, leaving Toro Rosso free to make a switch to Ferrari.  

How did Grosjean fare in final Lotus race?

The relative driver stability across 2015/16 meant the focus fell on those few who were departing outfits for pastures new – the most high-profile being Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman, who will link up with the nascent Haas F1 Team, joined Lotus under its Renault guise as a development driver prior to the 2006 campaign. His entire Formula 1 career has been associated with Enstone, via spells as a test driver and a brief stint as a race driver, prior to his return in 2012. Grosjean collected 10 podiums in his four-year stay and had hoped to finish on a high. Gearbox problems in qualifying left him ahead of only Will Stevens on the grid but he ran a feisty Prime/Prime/Option strategy to cross the line in ninth spot, ensuring another points finish for the team.

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