2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Thursday Analysis

News, news and more news came out of Abu Dhabi today, as teams and drivers prepare for the season finale this weekend. Fernando Alonso confirmed that he will be leaving Ferrari at the end of the season, while Sebastian Vettel made the announcement that he is Maranello-bound on a three-year contract. Both featured in one of the most entertaining Press Conference’s in recent times, as did the title protagonists. Elsewhere, it was established that British FR3.5 driver, Will Stevens, will take the second Caterham seat alongside Kamui Kobayashi this weekend. Lots to talk about already, and it is only Thursday!

Alonso Out, Vettel In

Perhaps the most predictable news story of this season so far, but it is official confirmation at least. After joining the prancing horse in 2010, Fernando Alonso had aspirations of taking his third World Championship title behind the wheel of a Ferrari, yet as the famous outfit has slipped back in the pecking order, the relationship which promised so much, has broken down. Alonso is moving on.
His replacement – the man who has held the sport in a vice-like grip for the past four seasons, forcing Fernando to settle for second on three occasions. Sebastian Vettel will be able to fulfill his dream over the next three years, as he will make the switch from Red Bull to Ferrari.
If we park the question mark surrounding Ferrari’s need to improve, Vettel’s move makes complete sense. The German, who was inspired by Michael Schumacher, has always wanted to drive for Ferrari, and he highlighted these thoughts in today’s press conference. The fact is, that some critics believe that he needs to win at least one more title outside of his Red Bull comfort-zone, before he can be considered a legend of the sport. Personally, I doubt Vettel has not already etched his name into the sports elite, simply from the sheer scale of his statistics, but I imagine the move to Ferrari will improve the German’s popularity rating. Meanwhile, his good relationship with Kimi Raikkonen should make his integration into the team significantly more comfortable than if Fernando was his opposite number. It is a move which should suit both parties very well indeed.
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari exit now leaves just his destination to confirm. The assumption, is that the Spaniard is McLaren bound and an awkward question in today’s presser, saw a coy Fernando fail to answer whether he would prefer Kevin Magnussen or Jenson Button as his teammate next season. It is widely assumed that the contractual stumbling block has been the length of the deal, with Alonso’s suspected strategy being to head to McLaren on a one-year deal with the intention of using his stay at Woking as a stop-gap, prior to a switch to Brackley. Rumour suggests that Ron Dennis would want Fernando tied to McLaren for two years. It is certainly a complex situation, but ultimately, if he fails to obtain a seat at McLaren, the man widely regarded to be the pick of the bunch will be unemployed in 2015. This scenario, is unlikely and I expect news that Alonso and Dennis have rekindled an old partnership to filter into the public domain very soon indeed.

The Calm Before The Storm

As Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg arrived to greet the press today, the pair shook hands in a poignant display of respect prior to what will be a career defining weekend. For Hamilton, Sunday will be his fourth title deciding race, while for Nico, this is his first chance at snatching a World Championship title. The tension in today’s press conference was evident.
Lewis looked apprehensive, but as the man with the crown in his hands, this is to be expected. His focus however, was evident. Meanwhile, Nico cast the stereotypical image of the contender – a relaxed demeanour. The German took the opportunity to warn his teammate that he needs to “keep it clean” this weekend. Sparring has begun and the duo will take to the track tomorrow to play out the first acts of what promises to be a gripping showdown.

Stevens Snatches His Opportunity

Will Stevens has had a busy few months and after switching teams and closing out a Formula Renault 3.5 championship campaign, the Brit has snatched an opportunity in Formula 1. He will drive alongside Kamui Kobayashi behind the wheel of the crowdfunded Caterham.
While I had not thought of Stevens as an option due to his switch from the Caterham programme to the ninth placed Marussia team prior to the Japanese Grand Prix. However, after establishing a good relationship with the team, it seems that Stevens’ departure was certainly not completed in acrimonious fashion, and the Brit has jumped straight back into the Leafield squad.
Ultimately, the aim for Stevens is to have a smooth weekend, free of any drama. This is his opportunity in the shop window of Formula 1 teams and with an optimistic Caterham team setting their sights on Melbourne 2015, he is now in pole position to gain a permanent seat. Beating Kamui would be an ambitious target to set – finishing the race will be an excellent inclusion to his CV.

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