Hamilton faces a moment of truth

Hamilton faces a moment of truth

ABU DHABI - Reuters
Hamilton faces a moment of truth

All eyes will be on McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain this weekend as he competes in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Lewis Hamilton faces a moment of truth in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

The 2008 world champion has never finished a season behind a McLaren teammate since he entered Formula One in 2007 but that proud boast is set to end in the glare of the Yas Marina floodlights on Sunday.

Jenson Button is 38 points clear of his fellow-Briton, with only 25 left to win after the penultimate race of the year in the Emirate, and is on course to finish as overall runner-up behind Red Bull’s double world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Beating one’s teammate is every driver’s immediate aim, since only he has exactly the same equipment and is therefore a true measure of performance, but it is not Button’s top priority.

“It would be nice to finish ahead of him in the championship but if I could get another win that would mean so much more to me this year,” the 2009 champion told Reuters after the last Indian Grand Prix.

Button has taken three wins to Hamilton’s two in a championship dominated by Vettel and Red Bull, despite the McLaren being close to their pace.

Vettel, 24, is the overwhelming favorite to chalk up a record-equaling 14th pole of the season on Saturday and then complete a clean sweep of three wins in the three Abu Dhabi Grands Prix held to date. The German won the title here last year, and has already wrapped up his defense of that crown, and has nothing but good memories of the day-to-night race at the lavish anti-clockwise circuit.

Closest guy

Hamilton and Button have both been on the podium in the previous two races in Abu Dhabi and the older Englishman sees no reason why they cannot topple Vettel from the highest step.

“Quite a few times this year, especially over the last few races, I have been the closest guy to Sebastian when he’s won races,” said Button, a winner most recently in Japan after Vettel had won there the previous two years from pole.

“I think we’re closer now than we were last year at this time of the season. We are much stronger at the moment than we were last year,” he added. “We’re not quite as good as the Red Bulls. But they’re not a big chunk ahead of us. It’s very close.

“It’s a circuit that does suit their car,” said the 31-year-old. “It’s very stop/start and they seem to be very good at that type of corner.

“It is going to be tough to beat him (Vettel) and I would say out of the two (races left), (the season-ending race in) Brazil is the one that we have more of a chance of winning. but you never know.”

Hamilton started on pole in Abu Dhabi in 2009 and then set the fastest lap last year on his way to second place.

Jenson Button sets pace in practice

Jenson Button set the pace in first practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday as Sebastian Vettel made a quiet return to the circuit where he became Formula One’s youngest champion last year.

Now a double title holder, Red Bull’s 24-year-old German Vettel lapped fourth fastest and nearly half a second slower than McLaren’s Button.

Vettel’s Australian teammate Mark Webber was second on the Yas Marina timing screens, 0.126 slower than Button’s best of 1:40.263, denying McLaren a one-two with fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton third. The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who both spun off, were fifth and sixth respectively on a bright afternoon with the track temperature hovering around 40 degrees.

Some less familiar names also enjoyed a moment in the limelight, with Robert Wickens the first Canadian to appear on track in a grand prix weekend since 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve departed the scene in 2006.

While Wickens replaced Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio at Virgin Racing for the first session, Frenchmen Jean-Eric Vergne and Romain Grosjean took the wheel at Toro Rosso and Renault respectively.