2015 in F1: Hamilton too good, RB and McLaren suffer

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Reigning victorious: Hamilton.

It was a season with a supposed renewal of hostilities between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. The stage was set for a repeat of the fissures that had emerged during the course of the 2014 campaign, the creaking and cracking of an old friendship which played out with a gracious concession by Rosberg at the season decider in Abu Dhabi.

– Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Circuit guide infographic
– F1: Mercedes caused Red Bull/Renault split – Ecclestone
– F1: Haas chassis will be ‘better’ than Ferrari

But in truth, for all the ebbs and flows of this season, Hamilton’s now successful bid to emulate his hero Ayrton Senna with a third world title never looked anything other than a certainty for much of the year.

In part, that was down to Rosberg’s qualifying dominance last year and Hamilton’s determination not to let that happen again. In the first 12 races of 2014, the German headed Hamilton 7-4 (with Felipe Massa’s solitary pole) in the one-lap shoot-out while a year on it was 11-1 in Hamilton’s favour.

In Rosberg’s defence, he has since redeemed himself with five consecutive pole positions although only two of those were converted to race wins and, in truth, it was too little too late.

So there is to be no title decider in Abu Dhabi as there was last season and again in 2014, Hamilton having already sewn up the world title three race weekends earlier in the United States.

Hamilton has been aided by greater reliability and fortune this year with just one race retirement to date compared to three in the previous title tussle, and boasts double the number of race victories to Rosberg – 10 to 5.

It began with victory in the Australian Grand Prix, the first of 11 Mercedes one-twos, to take a championship lead he has not rescinded all season long.

Sebastian Vettel, having apparently found a new lease of life at Ferrari, gave a flicker of hope to the rest of the grid and the watching public that there could be a non-Mercedes title challenger when he took victory in the second race of the season at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

But it was to be another eight races before he challenged for victory – in Hungary – the second of three grand prix wins this season, and while it was an impressive step forward by the Maranello outfit it was not enough to have Hamilton running scared.

It only took until the third race on the calendar for the war of words to emerge either side of the Merc edes garage when Rosberg accused his teammate of deliberately ruining his race by backing him up in the middle stint. The opprobrium appeared to dissipate as finally Rosberg broke his season duck with a victorious start to the European leg of the season by claiming wins at the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix, although he was gracious enough to admit that Monaco had been a gift win.

Mercedes completely miscalculated a pitstop for Hamilton when the safety car came out denying the Briton what would have been a certain win. Hamilton was fairly mooted in his post-race complaints, in stark contrast to increasing problems at other major teams.

At Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko used the first European race to voice his disgust with a Renault power unit it was felt to be 100 horsepower down on that of Mercedes. Marko said: “If we don’t have a competitive engine in the near future, then either Audi is coming or we are out,” while McLaren’s new engine partnership with Honda proved even more dismal.

Monaco was something of an anomaly as Jenson Button sealed a points finish but 2015 has been an annus horribilis for the team with 13 retirements between him and Fernando Alonso, something the Spaniard has increasingly struggled to come to terms with. It reached arguably its lowest ebb at the Japanese Grand Prix with outbursts over the team radio such as “GP2 engine, GP2” at what was Honda’s home race.

It was not a season, though, without its share of tragedy. Just days after Hamilton drove superbly after a dire start and a wet finish, the sport was rocked by the news that Jules Bianchi had lost his battle for life following his horrific crash at last season’s Japanese Grand Prix.

At the subsequent race in Hungary, Vettel proved victorious to Ferrari and celebrated with the words: “Merci Jules, you will always be in our hearts and we know that sooner or later you would have been part of this team.”

Come Belgium, it was as though Hamilton had put the hammer down as he won five of the next six races. At Spa, he said his greatest concern was not the chasing pack but the state of this Pirelli tyres, the Italian company earning negative publicity from Sebastian Vettel for his tyre failure and that of Rosberg.

Tyres again hogged the headlines the following race weekend at Monza when Hamilton’s victory hung in the balance for two hours when his rubber was found to be below the statutory level of pressure. Critics suggested it was an intentional move by Mercedes to gain an unfair advantage, which the team argued was not the case and the race stewards agreed.

For the first time all season, though, the wheels appeared to fall off Merc’s challenge at the subsequent Singapore Grand Prix in which Hamilton retired and Rosberg could only muster fourth. But that was to be the last Mercedes scare as Hamilton claimed a hat-trick of victories in Japan, Russia and the United States, the last of the three giving him the world title.

With the title sealed, it seemed to release Rosberg, who won the next two races in Mexico, returning triumphantly to the calendar for the first time in 1992 with crowds in their thousands, and Brazil. Quite what lies in store at Yas Marina is another matter. Few though, would look past a Mercedes one-two.

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Going Out: F1 Fan Zone at Abu Dhabi Corniche - where the action never stops

Denzil Pinto 25/11/2015
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The fan zone is the place to be if you don't have a ticket to the weekend's racing.

If you don’t have a ticket for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, then the F1 Fan Zone is the place to be.

A wide variety of free activities for all ages are on the agenda that will keep you entertained, while you can also watch the action 
unfold live from Yas Marina Circuit on two large plasma screens.

– ABU DHABI: Plenty of fun for everyone in UAE capital
– Yas Marina Circuit: A track record of F1 drama and innovation
– Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Circuit guide infographic
– F1: Mercedes caused Red Bull/Renault split – Ecclestone
– F1: Haas chassis will be ‘better’ than Ferrari

Open daily until Sunday from 16:00, today and tomorrow, and from 17:00 Saturday and Sunday, the Fan Zone, part of the Yasalam Festival, has been hugely popular with hundreds flocking to the West Plaza Abu Dhabi Corniche since opening earlier this month.

And with the F1 season-finale a few miles away at Yas Marina Circuit, entry numbers will certainly increase for what promises to be a great day out for families.

Featuring a multitude of hands-on activities, you will not be short of options.

The fan zone features 10 Formula One simulators.

In the Batak stand, go head-to-head with your friends in the interactive performance game that tests your reaction time, fitness and flexibility all at once.

If you wanted to feel what it is like to be behind the wheel, then here’s your chance. 

With 10 simulators, you can virtually drive around the iconic track and tackle the 21 turns on the 5.554km circuit.

To truly appreciate the extraordinary pressure that the drivers are under, have a go in the Motion Simulator. Learn about the 
immense forces at play as you make split-second decisions each time you corner, accelerate and brake your vehicle.

For the children, they can ride around a mini track and if that isn’t enough, there will be a special dedicated kids zone, as well as a section for live music.

Although this season’s championship has been decided with Lewis Hamilton clinching his third world title, the race will provide plenty of thrills and never fails to provide a spectacle.

It’s a circuit Hamilton will have happy memories of. After all, it was at this race last year that he clinched victory to seal his second world crown. The Briton will be looking to end the season on a high but faces tough competition from the world’s best drivers also on show including Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Starting at 17:00 on Sunday, fans can keep up with the pulse on two large HD screens in what will be a vibrant atmosphere.
All in all, Reeva Bains, VP of marketing and communications of Flash Entertainment, insists there are plenty of reasons why you should head for the F1 Fan Zone.

“We’ve had seven remarkable years of Yasalam and one of the constants is that it truly provides something for everyone,” she said.

“The adrenaline never stops across the capital during the Formula One race week and for Yasalam the celebration continues off the track with the F1 FanZone providing all the thrills – and real time action – of the race.

“Besides the free racing and fitness challenges for adults and kids, there is plenty of games and family run as well as the return of our popular interactive art area – Urban Art Zone.

“Those who want to work up a sweat with a beautiful view of the Corniche can check out the new GDF Fitness Zone, along with the new Muscle Beach – part of the Get Driver Fit programme by Daman’s Activelife initiative, all through the race weekend.”

She added: “Fans also experience the musical rush of the Festival with local acts and live talent every day. There’s truly something for everyone at the FanZone and the whole capital will be part of the excitement.”

WHAT: The F1 Fan Zone
WHEN: Starting 16:00 today until Sunday
WHERE: West Plaza, Abu Dhabi Corniche
Sport360 VERDICT: If you are in town and have a good reason why you cannot be at Yas Marina Circuit and witness the 2015 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Open in person, attending the F1 Fan Zone is the next best thing to do. You can watch the action from the race track or participate in interactive game, or tuck into a selection of F&B. There is so much to do, and all of it is free.
CONTACT: For more details, visit www.yasalam.ae

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#360stats: Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in numbers

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Preparing for the showpiece: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Ahead of the exciting Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit has lifted the lid on some of the preparations involved in making sure the venue is ready for the sell-out, capacity crowd of 60,000 local and international visitors arriving this week.

– Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Circuit guide infographic

– F1: Red Bull 'right on limit' for first pre-season

– F1: Haas chassis will be 'better' than Ferrari

Working with the precision and coordination worthy of a Hollywood production, Yas Marina Circuit staff and specialist contractors have been busy behind the scenes to ensure yet another spectacular weekend of entertainment and sporting action awaits at the 2015 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the climax to the F1 season.

1,900 – The number of staff 

30,000 – meals to the public

6 – Charter flight carryin F1 gears

140 – Containers filled with extra kit

400 – logistics contractors, using 60 forklift trucks at Yas Marina Circuit alone

56 – Outlets a mix of mobile kitchens, concessions and bars, as well as the new after-party venue, MAD

75 – acres of landscaped grass, and plant a total of 715 palm trees and 150,000 flowers in preparation for the event

5.5 – 5.5km track

8,550 – litres of paint to ensure the track looks its best

26 – The painting contractors will have to cover a distance of 26 kilometres

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