A special weekend for Ferrari Maranello, 27 October 2009 - This Sunday marks the end of a very unusual season of Formula 1 Grands Prix, characterised by significant technical regulation changes which in turn led to a new order, with the ...
A special weekend for Ferrari
Maranello, 27 October 2009 - This Sunday marks the end of a very unusual season of Formula 1 Grands Prix, characterised by significant technical regulation changes which in turn led to a new order, with the more established teams, including Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, having to make way for new names at the top of the classifications. While both championships were decided a fortnight ago in Brazil, this still promises to be a very interesting weekend, as it takes place at the brand new Yas Marina circuit, a facility which even makes some of the more recent additions to the calendar look slightly dated.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a special weekend for Ferrari, as the Maranello company has several strong links to this event: Mubadala is the investment company of the government of Abu Dhabi, a shareholder in the company and a sponsor of the team. Another team sponsor, Etihad, is also the title sponsor of this race. Additionally, the Yas Marina circuit is located on the same island that is home to the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park. It is due to have its official opening next year and this coming Thursday at 10.30, Ferrari S.p.A. vice-president, Piero Ferrari will attend a press conference, when the roof of the park will be unveiled, featuring a large Prancing Horse logo. Interest in Ferrari and the Scuderia is already very high in the Gulf and on Wednesday afternoon, both Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella will be in neighbouring Dubai, for the official opening of a new Ferrari store, which will be the largest of all the Ferrari stores in the world.
The track itself is interesting and unusual, starting with a couple of fast corners, with very slow turns leading into two very fast straights, followed by a twistier section, which is very reminiscent of the Singapore track. Finding the correct balance for the car will therefore not be a straightforward task. Although this circuit is near the sea, sand on the track surface asphalt -- which incidentally is provided by Ferrari partner Shell -- could also cause problems, in terms of its affect on grip and on the need to protect components from its abrasive properties, especially on Friday, when cars take to the track for first practice and it will also depend on what the wind is doing at the time. KERS should be very useful here, given the track layout features fast straights following on from slow corners, which is the typical scenario where a power boost can give a significant advantage. Although it does not present a specific technical difficulty, the pit lane is certainly interesting and innovative as it include a tunnel that takes cars from one side of the track to the other, as the entrance is on the right hand side and the exit on the left.
After Singapore, this will be the second race to be run under floodlights. The local start time of 5pm means that approximately the first forty minutes should take place in daylight, however any risk of the drivers being dazzled by the setting sun will be counteracted by the artificial lighting. This three hour delay compared to a normal Grand Prix start also means that the intense heat, with temperatures in the mid-thirties and a high level of humidity in the middle of the day, should also be less of a problem, while for the mechanics, working conditions will be helped by the fact that the garages are air-conditioned.
As has been the case throughout this fascinating season, tyres will play a key role and in Abu Dhabi, teams will have a choice of Bridgestone's soft and medium rubber, marking a return to the use of two adjacent compounds. While it is fair to say that the F60 is no longer an obvious candidate to produce a race win, those who like to bet based on happenstance might wish to consider that this tyre combination is the same as that available in Spa and Monza, where Ferrari took a win and a third place respectively. However, this should not be seen as any sort of guarantee of success!
The Bahrain Grand Prix has featured on the calendar for six years now and this additional Middle East race means that interest in Formula 1 and motor sport in general is growing in this part of the world, as proven by the fact that all tickets are already sold out. This will also be a special end of season for both our drivers, as Kimi Raikkonen is leaving the team after three years and Giancarlo Fisichella will take on the role of official test and reserve driver for the Scuderia after this weekend. The Italian experienced the Yas Marina circuit on the simulator last week and his avowed aim will be to end his short stint as a Ferrari race driver in the points, because although the titles are decided, the team is still determined to end the year third in the Constructors' classification, in which it currently stands fourth, one point behind McLaren.