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GP Week : Issue 70
Team-By-Team: Abu Dhabi Gra A new sponsor in the form of watch brand TW Steel was a huge boost for Renault in Abu Dhabi. The deal is a long term one, and indicated the start of the reinvention of the team in its post-Briatore days. Abu Dhabi was also tinged with sadness for Renault, however, as its favoured son Fernando Alonso departs for Ferrari next season. The team was never really on the pace in Abu Dhabi, and so they were not surprised to see both Alonso and Grosjean booted out of qualifying in the first session. With penalties applied, Alonso would start 15th and Grosjean 19th. Alonso only made up one position in the race, while Grosjean finished 16th. The Spaniard will be relishing his move to Ferrari, while Grosjean will be lucky to stay in F1. He's done nothing to prove he should have been there in the first place. A second race weekend for new boy Kobayashi, and once again he proved that the excuses of some of his fellow late- starters that a lack of testing was holding them back, were all talk and no substance. As such he was understandably disappointed not to have made it into the top 10 in qualifying. Starting 12th meant his race would be tough, but with Trulli starting sixth, there was the hope of points. In the end it was the Japanese driver who shone. He raced out of his skin once again and this time was rewarded with sixth position and his first F1 points. What's more, on a heavier fuel load, he beat his team-mate Trulli into seventh. While Jarno ponders a move to Lotus, Kobayashi looks set to sign to race again for Toyota in 2010. He's picked up a big fan club in his two F1 races. From the earliest running in Abu Dhabi, McLaren was the clear class of the eld. KERS was clearly a huge bonus for the team, as the long 1.2km back straight allowed both Kovalainen and Hamilton to stretch their legs. It came as little surprise to see Hamilton storm to pole position, but the 0.6s gap between him and Vettel surprised even him. What was a surprise was that Kovalainen was way down in 13th, and would start 18th after a gearbox change. In the race itself Hamilton led the early running but didn't have the pace to pull away. He picked up wear issue with his brakes though and was pulled out of the race on safety grounds. Kovalainen reported KERS issues and finished 11th in a disappointing end to his career at McLaren. It was BMW Sauber's last race weekend in Formula 1 and on Saturday night the team had a farewell drinks party. It was attended by almost everybody in the paddock. That's just how popular the team is, or was, I guess it should be now. The weekend hadn't started well when Kubica suffered an engine failure and lost valuable track time, but the team remained confident of finishing the year on a high. They were thus rightfully thrilled to get both drivers into the top 10 in qualifying, and points looked on the cards. Kubica lost his shot at those points when he spun in a battle with Buemi, but Heidfeld rose majestically to fifth position to secure sixth in the championship for the team. BMW will be missed, and one hopes the new owners are able to secure a spot on the grid next year. Abu Dhabi had Ferrari stamped all over it. From the themepark to the team's partners, this was like a second home race for the squad. But it was an unhappy race for the team. The pace simply wasn't there. Raikkonen complained of a total lack of speed in practice and Fisichella was still struggling to come to terms with the F60. There was little shock in the Italian lining up last, but Raikkonen did manage to punch above the weight of the car to 11th. But the team was still locked in a battle with McLaren over third in the championship, and when Hamilton retired there was a chance Ferrari could steal it. In the end, neither driver finished in the points and so Ferrari finished the year in fourth. They will be glad to wave goodbye to 2009 and to look forward to 2010 with Alonso on board and Massa back in the car. 30