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My Abu Dhabi Grand Prix predictions

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Jonathan Legard | 08:28 UK time, Saturday, 31 October 2009

With the two championships decided at the last race in Brazil a lot of people are saying the fizz has gone out of the 2009 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

They're right in one way as there won't be any champagne on the podium here in the Emirati city, just like there wasn't in Bahrain, but there is still plenty to look forward to.

It's the inaugural grand prix in Abu Dhabi and it is a quite staggering, eye-popping, mind-boggling venue.

Formula 1 has never seen anything like this and probably won't see anything like this again - the £800m spent on this venue, the facilities' attention to detail and the development plans for Yas Island have even exceeded Bernie Ecclestone's dreams. And that's saying something because he sets the bar so high.

I just hope that we have a race that is fit for this circuit and a season that has given us some great racing, a great championship story and some sensational comebacks from Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton, Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen, who has performed despite his Ferrari rather than because of it.

There has also been drama off the track to match the thrills on it with 'lie-gate', 'crash-gate' and the threat of a breakaway series by the teams. And, even this late in the day, we're still in the middle of the storm over the future of the British Grand Prix.

Yes, Jenson Button is world champion but who is going to be runner-up in the championship?

Former McLaren team boss Ron Dennis would say that's first of the losers but for Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Brawn driver Barrichello, who have come so close, there is still plenty to fight for.

Barrichello has delivered one of the best seasons of his career at the age of 37. He seems set to be moving to Williams at the end of the season and so the Brazilian will want to finish his Brawn career on a high.

Vettel will also want to finish as strongly as he can in readiness for next year. There are just two points between the Red Bull driver and Barrichello in the fight for second place in the championship.

hamap595.jpgAbu Dhabi has spared no expense in creating a lavish new location for Formula 1

Further down the table, there's an interesting battle for fifth place between the potential 2010 McLaren team-mates, Hamilton and Raikkonen, and an in-house fight at the soon-to-be-departed BMW Sauber between Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica.

In the constructors' championship, giants Ferrari and McLaren are vying for third place behind Brawn and Red Bull.

They are well accustomed to slugging it out for titles and now they are slugging it out for best of the rest. McLaren have only beaten Ferrari to the constructors' crown once since 1998, so if they edge third place it will be a fillip for them going into 2010.

BMW are taking part in their 70th and final race and they could yet close the gap on their former engine partners Williams for sixth place as they are two-and-a-half points down.

Amazingly, we've only got six drivers - Hamilton, Mark Webber, Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Kubica - confirmed in seats for 2010.

There is lots of speculation in Abu Dhabi about the rest of the drivers on the grid - and they're future on it.

Could Heikki Kovalainen leave McLaren and join Toyota or Lotus? Could Heidfeld head to McLaren if the Raikkonen deal doesn't come off? What about Romain Grosjean's Renault future or Kazuki Nakajima's at Williams? There's also talk that Giancarlo Fisichella could go to Sauber if they secure a final spot on the grid and are powered by Ferrari engines.

This is all the various speculation spinning around because drivers are out there looking for contracts.

It may not be headline-grabbing now the championship is sorted, but there are still plenty of issues to be sorted out on the track in the final race of the season.

It is worth remembering that grand prix drivers do this job because they are racers - they want to win and do as well as they can. It's not always about the money or championship points, it's about competing and doing the best you can with the machine at your disposal.

But a driver in a racing car and he'll get on with it - you can bet the drivers won't be switching off in this final race.

So my final top-eight predictions of the season are:

1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
3. Jenson Button (Brawn)
4. Mark Webber (Red Bull)
5. Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren)
6. Rubens Barrichello (Brawn)
7. Jarno Trulli (Toyota)
8. Nico Rosberg (Williams)

I've gone for Hamilton to take the win because I sense that he is already cranking himself up for 2010. He's seen Button take his title and he wants it back as soon as possible.

The team tell me they expect the Kers energy boost to reap most reward here because there are two long straights. McLaren have already shown during practice that they are very strong through sector two thanks to the power of the Mercedes engine.

McLaren look to have the performance edge over Red Bull but I'm picking Vettel to cross the line in second to secure the same spot in the championship. Barrichello needs to score three more points than the German to take second but I'm predicting a lower place finish for the Brazilian.

Brawn should feature quite strongly at the Yas Marina and I'm really looking forward to seeing Button off the leash and racing without any pressure on his shoulders.

He drove like a world champion to become one in Brazil - now he has nothing to lose. I'm predicting him to win his first podium since September's Italian GP.

The nature of the Abu Dhabi track with its adverse camber and variations of corners could also make for a lively race.

My one big hope is that Formula 1's first twilight race casts Abu Dhabi and the sport in its best light.


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  • 1. At 08:53am on 31 Oct 2009, Matt Bennett wrote:

    Another Superb blog Johnathan!

    I'd like to see Raikkonen go to McLaren but hoping that it won't turn out the same way as the Hamilton-Alonso partnership, which i'm sure you will agree, was a very rocky partnership having to big names in the team, both natural born winners!

    Personally I would love to see Nico Rosberg take the soon to be vacated seat at McLaren, I think Nico is a superb driver who needs a good team mate and a good car to help him out!

    I disagree with your top 8 though i'm afraid:

    1. Lewis Hamilton
    2. Jenson Button
    3. Heikki Kovaleinen
    4. Sebastian Vettel
    5. Rubens Barrichello
    6. Mark Webber
    7. Nice Rosberg
    8. Sebastian Buemi

    Also, would be nice to Fisichella in a car where he can perform, I understand his reasons for leaving Force India, being Italian and it being a dream to drive for Ferrari, but he's had a torrid time at Ferrari atm and he's doing no better than Luca Badoer was doing a few races back!

    o also, first comment?

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  • 2. At 09:06am on 31 Oct 2009, megajc2222 wrote:

    good blog jonathan
    1 hamilton
    2 button
    3 vettel
    4 kovalinen
    5 webber
    6 barrichello
    7 buemi
    8 raikkonen

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  • 3. At 09:08am on 31 Oct 2009, BBsDad wrote:

    5. Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren)
    6. Rubens Barrichello (Brawn)
    7. Jarno Trulli (Toyota)
    8. Nico Rosberg (McLaren)

    It might be a done deal but I think you are a bit premature calling Nico Rosberg a McLaren driver!

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  • 4. At 09:13am on 31 Oct 2009, megajc2222 wrote:

    it's kimi whose going to mclaren

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  • 5. At 09:19am on 31 Oct 2009, Rustigjongens wrote:

    Here is my predictions:

    1. Hamilton
    2. Button
    3. Kovalainen
    4. Barrichello
    5. Trulli
    6. Kubica
    7. Webber
    8. Vettel

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  • 6. At 09:29am on 31 Oct 2009, lostin50 wrote:

    After pre-qualifying I think Lewis has this race wrapped up, Heiki is quick too though he seems to go backwards in the race, Jenson and Seb V should be up there also but they may end up taking each other out, last race for Kimi and with a good kers start should be in the top 8.

    1. Lewis
    2. Mark Webber
    3. Rubens
    4. Kimi
    5. Jarno
    6. Nico
    7. Fernando
    8. Kobayashi???

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  • 7. At 09:35am on 31 Oct 2009, higginio wrote:

    well if everyone else is making their predictions :

    1. Button
    2. Hamilton
    3. Webber
    4. Raikkonen
    5. Rosberg
    6. Barrichello
    7. Trulli
    8. Kubica

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  • 8. At 09:37am on 31 Oct 2009, Sean Sutton wrote:

    Great blog, Jonathan! And here's my top eight...

    1) Lewis Hamilton
    2) Sebastian Vettel
    3) Kimi Raikkonen
    4) Jenson Button
    5) Fernando Alonso
    6) Rubens Barrichello
    7) Nico Rosberg
    8) Jarno Trulli

    Really looking forward to it!

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  • 9. At 09:38am on 31 Oct 2009, FastBBBB wrote:

    Button (or other way (Brawn?))
    Barrichello (maybe)
    Trulli/Koboyashi (he's not slow
    Buemi/Rosberg (Toro Rosso fast here)

    I think this is how it will pan out as Button is definitely faster than Vettel.

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  • 10. At 09:50am on 31 Oct 2009, Reckoner76 wrote:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Predicting race results has been a tough job in 2009 so well done for tackling a near impossible task!

    My predictions are:

    1.Lewis Hamilton
    2.Sebastian Vettel
    3.Rubens Barrichello
    4.Mark Webber
    5.Jenson Button
    6.Nico Rosberg
    7.Adrian Sutil
    8.Sebastian Buemi

    Hamilton clearly has the car behind him on this Yas Marina circuit and the hunger to deliver an electric finish to a good season. It's his to lose already judging by the pace of that Mclaren.
    Vettel should be able to win it but I fear the car will let him down. Maybe he will try and suck everything out of this engine, chase Hamilton down and push for the win? Let's hope so because I would like to see a proper good finale to 2009.
    I think it will be a close run thing between Vettel, Barrichello and Webber who are all driving their hearts out at the moment. Vettel and Rubens are vieing for 2nd in the DWC and Webber is on the back of a brilliant victory at Brazil. Expect a close battle there.
    Button will not set the world on fire, as we've become accustomed to in the second half of this season, but will drive a solid race from a modest grid position.
    The rest of the field is a wild guess but I think some suprise results from the rookies are in order with Rosberg getting a peek in by once again out performing his Williams. What are they going to do when he's gone?
    I hope our predictions are wrong Jonathan because a topsy-turvy result would be a great ending to a very refreshing season.

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  • 11. At 10:36am on 31 Oct 2009, Fabbyulous wrote:

    Another race where predicting the eight is nigh on impossible almost, everyone seems capable of gaining a point or five. I'm gonna guess this order:

    1st - Sebastian Vettel
    2nd - Jenson Button
    3rd - Mark Webber
    4th - Heikki 'where have I been all Year' Kovalainen
    5th - Nick Heidfeld
    6th - Lewis Hamilton
    7th - Robert Kubica
    8th - Who knows? I'll go for Kimi Crashkonnen

    I'm goin for a Red Bull double podium but with Button the talking point on the second step, both Red Bull Drivers will be looking to finish the Season on a high. Kovalainen may put in a 'where did that come from' performance and I'd hedge my bets on Mr Consistent getting 5th.

    Lewis always seems to have a problematic last race of the Season, whether it be rain or a problem on the first lap I think he'll only manage 6th. Kubica will be looking to impress future employers Renault and Raikkonen will probably and unfortunately miss out on getting Ferrari ahead of McLaren in the constructors, but a good drive could see him through in 8th

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  • 12. At 10:54am on 31 Oct 2009, grcampbell wrote:

    Hopefully whoever wins the race gets some credit unlike the Brazil GP. I guess if Webber wins you can always shift the attention onto the battle for 2nd place in the Drivers Championship.

    Remember Jonathon that your commentary goes around the world - not just England.

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  • 13. At 11:07am on 31 Oct 2009, yorkshiregweilo888 wrote:

    I ave just come on line so I do not know what is or has happened in 3rd Practice............

    1st&2nd. Jenson and Lewis.....(any order don't care)
    3rd Rubinho
    4th Mark
    After that as long as Vettel parks in the wall I don't care.

    And please cut the lovey dovey compliments to JL. He is a paid commentator and should get it right. Not cos you all LOVE HIM.

    I do not get the Live feed and listen in Chinese so I do not know but I hear a lot of negative comments on his Race Commentary from 606 contributors.

    Just an observation............he is obviously pro Brit (which I am)but calm it down a bit Please.

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  • 14. At 11:20am on 31 Oct 2009, Andrew Benson wrote:

    Ref post #3 - thanks for pointing out that slip on Rosberg. It wasn't down to Jonathan, it slipped through in the editing process and has now been changed.

    The word is Rosberg will be at Brawn next year, by the way, not McLaren!

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  • 15. At 11:21am on 31 Oct 2009, RayInTorontoCanada wrote:

    Jonanthan, there is no battle for 3rd in the Constructor's. McLaren are looking at a possible 1-2 at this meeting and Ferrari will be lucky if Raikkonen can muster a 5th place finish in the race.

    The fact, Jonathan, is that Ferrari don't care about 3rd. It's a Fairy Tale and pure PR hogwash. If Ferrari really cared about 3rd in the WCC, then they wouldn't have frozen all development at mid season, would they?

    Kindly try to understand what's really happening as opposed to drumming-up or hyping-up or over-stating something which is a complete Fairy Tale.


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  • 16. At 11:23am on 31 Oct 2009, LordProsperity wrote:

    I'm surprised that you did not include Kimi in top-8. If he gets into Q3 he can get potentially into top-8 using his KERS at the start. His and Ferrari's race pace is usually good.

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  • 17. At 1:17pm on 31 Oct 2009, c11163 wrote:

    Im making a prediction of a different kind from Jonathons blog

    Jonathon states £800 million for a 2 day event is expensive and will never be repeated. I disagree. The effective cost per day for the 2012 Olympics is likely to be much higher, approaching £700 million per day !!

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  • 18. At 2:35pm on 31 Oct 2009, GFasulo wrote:

    Hello Jonathan,

    A fascinating Blog, as always. Here were my predictions before Qualifying:

    1. Sebastian Vettel
    2. Rubens Barrichello
    3. Mark Webber
    4. Lewis Hamilton
    5. Jenson Button
    6. Kimi Raikkonen
    7. Nick Heidfeld
    8. Nico Rosberg.

    I think you've done a great job commentating this season. The BBC coverage as a whole has been brilliant, and I think you've done a great job as well.
    I'm sure you'll be continuing for next year, and I'm also sure next year will be as hard to predict as this year!

    Best regards.

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  • 19. At 2:39pm on 31 Oct 2009, Only1TeamInCambridge wrote:

    Lewis Hamilton seemingly has this race won already, barring any errors, though I would have included at least one of the BMW's in the top 8. I certainly don't expect Trulli to be up there come the end of the race.

    Nonetheless, another top blog Jonathan, they really have been a real shot in the arm for F1 fans

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  • 20. At 3:53pm on 31 Oct 2009, Millerfred wrote:

    1) L.Hamilton
    2) J.Button
    3) S.Vettel
    4) R.Kubica
    5) R.Barichello
    6) M.Webber
    7) N.Heifield
    8) K.Raikonen

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  • 21. At 4:17pm on 31 Oct 2009, Matt Bennett wrote:

    Nico Rosberg shud go to McLaren, he's young and i believe that next years McLaren will be better than BrawnGP's

    Nico should go to McLaren, if he does go then he'll be in a young team, onviously with Hamilton as his team-mate, if that team developed with these 2 as team mates then they would be unstoppable!!

    however i may be getting ahead of myself? Still, wud be nice to see Raikkonen back at McLaren, if Rosberg doesn't join first

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  • 22. At 6:23pm on 31 Oct 2009, municker wrote:

    Great qualifying from Hamilton, bodes well for tomorrow.

    Off the subject, did anybody else notice two girls dressed in local garb, smiling and waving from a building in the background during the build-up chat shortly before qualifying started? Just as 3 men ran up to them waving what looked like guns, the picture changed. Haven't read anything here or on the news channels. Strange.

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  • 23. At 09:53am on 01 Nov 2009, ButtonFTW wrote:

    1. Hamilton
    2. Vettel
    3. Trulli
    4. Button
    5. Webber
    6. Barrichello
    7. Kubica
    8. Raikkonen

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  • 24. At 11:51am on 01 Nov 2009, gruchul wrote:

    "Off the subject, did anybody else notice two girls dressed in local garb, smiling and waving from a building in the background during the build-up chat shortly before qualifying started? Just as 3 men ran up to them waving what looked like guns, the picture changed. Haven't read anything here or on the news channels. Strange."

    If you're thinking about the same scene as me, I'm fairly sure the three men were actually young boys, probably their brothers, and there were no guns involved. I think (or more accurately, hope) you must have only been paying half attention

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  • 25. At 5:58pm on 01 Nov 2009, domtv09 wrote:

    Great commentry all year round Jonathan!

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  • 26. At 5:59pm on 01 Nov 2009, domtv09 wrote:


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  • 27. At 1:15pm on 03 Nov 2009, three4three wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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