2020 F1 preview: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

After a late start to a season, a drastic change to the race schedule, and battles with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Formula 1 season reaches its conclusion on Sunday for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina Circuit is 3.451 miles long with the race being 55 laps.

Last year at the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP, Lewis Hamilton dominated, beating Max Verstappen by over 16 seconds to win his 11th race of the season, capping off his sixth-world championship. Charles Leclerc finished third as he held off Valtteri Bottas, who worked his way up to fourth after starting in the back of the grid due to exceeding his quota for power unit components.

For every race in 2020, a Mercedes-powered car won pole position, until this weekend as Verstappen took his first pole since the 2019 Hungarian GP.

Verstappen is looking to rebound with his second race win of 2020 after crashing out of last week’s Sakhir GP on the first lap. Bottas will start second for the ninth time this season. Bottas currently sits 16 points ahead of Verstappen in the driver standings, meaning a fifth-place finish or better would guarantee him a share of second place.

Hamilton returns to race in the Abu Dhabi GP after missing last week’s race due to a positive COVID-19 test. He was replaced by George Russell, who finished in ninth place after a tire puncture. Mercedes have dominated the Abu Dhabi GP in recent years as they have won the last six with Hamilton winning four of them. Hamilton will start third, while Russell, back with Williams Racing, will start 18th.

Lando Norris will start fourth, which is the highest he has qualified since this year’s Austrian GP when he started third and finished on the podium. Alexander Albon, who is still fighting to retain his seat at Red Bull Racing for 2021, will start fifth as he sits six points above Norris for eighth in the driver standings.

This will be the last race for Carlos Sainz at McLaren as he will join Leclerc at Ferrari next season. He will start sixth, while Leclerc starts ninth. These two future teammates are only separated by a point for sixth in the driver standings as Leclerc holds the slim lead.

Daniil Kvyat’s future with AlphaTauri is still up in the air as he starts seventh. The team is looking to possibly replace him with F2 star Yuki Tsunoda next season, but Kvyat has made a strong push to retain his seat with his fourth appearance in Q3 in the last five races. He did not qualify in the top 10 a single time before this stretch in 2020. His teammate, Pierre Gasly, will start 10th.

All season long, Renault, McLaren and Racing Point have battled for third in the constructor’s standings.

Racing Point holds a 10-point lead over McLaren after both drivers finished on the podium last week, while Renault trails by 22 points. Lance Stroll will start eighth for Racing Point, while last week’s winner, Sergio Perez, will start at the back of the pack due to engine changes. He won last week’s race after restarting 19th as he crashed on the first lap. This is his final chance to impress Red Bull Racing as they are deciding between him and Albon to be Verstappen’s teammate in 2021.

The two Renaults, Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo, will start 11th and 12 respectively. Ricciardo sits fifth in the driver standings, 13 points below Perez for fourth while 14 ahead of Leclerc for fifth. Ocon looks to ride his momentum from his first career podium last week for the season finale as he sits 11 points behind Gasly for 11th in the standings.

If you are watching in the United States, coverage for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will begin at 8:00 a.m. EST. You can catch the race on ESPN2.

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