Second place still up for grabs at Abu Dhabi GPABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team will be seeking to erase memories of a nightmare weekend in 2010 when they challenge for glory in the penultimate race of the Formula One season, Sunday’s ‘twilight’ Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The two-time champion endured a race to forget last year when he arrived in Abu Dhabi as one of four contenders for the drivers’ title, but departed hugely disappointed after failing to find any passing power on his way to seventh.
Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull lifted the title, aged just 23, to become the sport’s youngest champion and then went on to defend that crown with a series of nearly flawless performances this year.
His supremacy and Red Bull’s consistency has enabled them to wrap up both 2011 titles long before arriving at the state-of-the-art Yas Marina circuit for the only F1 race in the Middle East this year.
As a result, the spotlight will be on Alonso’s bid to snatch second place in the title race from Jenson Button of McLaren and Mark Webber of Red Bull.
Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali reflected the team’s mood when he said: “In the remaining two races, we want to try and get on the podium and try all we can to get Fernando to second place in the drivers’ classification.”
Alonso may be helped this year by the encouragement of race director Charlie Whiting, who has suggested that after the problems in overtaking last year, the drivers will enjoy themselves this time thanks to the introduction of two Drag Reduction System (DRS) zones on the circuit.
“The race came in for a bit of criticism last year because the cars found it very difficult to overtake,” said Whiting. “But there are two DRS zones this year, with two activation points, and they should make a significant difference in that respect.”
Alonso, in particular, will be hoping to avoid finding himself stuck behind a Renault, or more precisely the Renault of Russian Vitaly Petrov who held him up last year for most of the race after a questionable strategy had apparently spoiled his race.
Domenicali said he believed Alonso would also gain extra motivation from his return to Abu Dhabi.
“I am sure that, in the next few days, going back to Abu Dhabi will have an effect on Fernando, given what happened there last year, but this negative emotion will be a further incentive for him to turn things around in 2012.”