F1 preview: Abu Dhabi run-through as Verstappen and Hamilton go head-to-head
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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go into the final race of the season level on points at the top of the table, setting up a dramatic finale in Abu Dhabi. Whoever finishes higher will ultimately win the title. But with a few track changes to Yas Marina, every millisecond could make the difference.
Red Bull driver Verstappen is currently ahead of Mercedes’ Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship, seeing as he’s won one more race than the Brit.
But, they’re both level on 369.5 points, making this season one of the closest title races in history.
Abu Dhabi remains the only Grand Prix of the year, and there have been some changes to the layout of the track ahead of the all-or-nothing event.
The slight changes have theoretically made it easier to overtake opponents, as well as allowing for higher speeds.
Three key areas of the circuit have been changed ahead of this weekend’s race.
While the changes appear minuscule, it could allow for huge differences in lap time.
The improvements could shave up to 10 seconds off each lap time, according to Mercedes’ strategy chief James Vowles.
Each of the adjustments could be the key to winning the Abu Dhabi GP – and therefore the title.
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Turn 7 – North hairpin
One of the major changes to the track was just preceding the Turn 7 hairpin – now Turn 5.
A chicane just before the corner previously spread the cars out, making it hard to overtake on the hairpin.
Without the chicane, however, it makes the hairpin a potential overtake spot, while also making it a faster corner.
The track has also been expanded, making a 20-metre wide bend which provides plenty of opportunity to drive side-by-side.
Turn 11 – Marsa Corner
Track developers in Abu Dhabi wanted to change Turn 11 – now Turn 9 – to make it a faster corner.
The turn, which is also known as Marsa Corner, was previously split into four separate turns, which made it more difficult to overtake.
If you managed to sneak around the outside of the car ahead of you, chances are you’d immediately lose that place as soon as you reached the next 90-degree turn, ultimately finish the whole section where you started.
Now, cars can continue to accelerate around the whole corner, making it a challenging high-speed section where races could be won or lost.
Turn 18 – Hotel section
Turn 18 has now become Turn 13, and only involves a slight change to the track.
The kerbs have been pushed back ever so slightly to create a greater flow of traffic – and avoid a repetitive train of drivers following the same line.
Drivers will have more speed and momentum going into the section, which makes the race more of a spectacle for fans.
More importantly, it also increases the risk of a vital mistake, lending opponents’ the upper hand.
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