James Allen on the title showdown
And so we head to the final race of the season with many question marks over what will happen. There are many possible scenarios and outcomes.
On paper this should play out as follows: Sebastian Vettel takes pole and wins the race, while Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso fight for second on the grid and in the race.
If Alonso gets ahead he will be champion and there is nothing Red Bull can do about it.
If he does not, then Webber will sit looking at Vettel’s wing wondering if he will do the decent thing and let him through to win the race and become champion.
In that scenario I think Vettel will make sure that a Red Bull driver wins the title, rather than hand it to Alonso.
Another scenario has Alonso hitting some kind of problem, so it’s a Red Bull one-two with Alonso running fifth or lower, which would hand the title to Vettel.
Any of the top three could hit problems, as we saw in Korea, but it would be a shame for this to be decided by a technical failure.
Ferrari are on engine watch. Even Webber has a slight concern, after his engine overheated on Sunday and he will have to use a different one in Abu Dhabi. Vettel had a spectacular failure in Korea, so he will feel he’s due a lucky break as far as reliability is concerned.
Qualifying will be crucial. Alonso’s objective will be pole, but he knows that on the balance of probabilities he is racing Webber for the championship and so his main target will be to qualify ahead of the Australian.
If he fails, he still has the start of the race to get ahead of him and control the situation from there.
The only thing he cannot deal with is a Red Bull one-two, because then it is out of his hands.
“We’ve given Alonso enough presents,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner – and that has to mean that if one of the Red Bull drivers can win it, they will, whatever the instructions that need to be given to achieve it.
The only other variables are the McLarens and Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian has looked a dejected and demotivated figure lately and it must have been painful for him and Ferrari when he was lapped at Interlagos on Sunday. So much for him playing a role to help his team-mate.
Can he raise his game in Abu Dhabi? It has to be seen as unlikely unless his position is perceived to be under threat.
As for McLaren, they seem to have fallen short on pace at the crucial time.
Lewis Hamilton has been struggling to keep up lately, despite the fact that this car has the most downforce of any F1 car he’s driven.
Yas Marina suited the McLaren last year, partly thanks to KERS, and Hamilton was dominating the race before he went out.
A strong Hamilton performance is more likely to hurt Red Bull than Alonso, because Webber and Vettel need the points more.
Forecasts say it will be dry and hot. I’m not going to predict who wins, but I do think of all the above scenarios, it’s the fight for second place on the grid and at the chequered flag which will decide it.