Williams F1 star Nico Rosberg predicts that this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the sport's second event to be held in the Middle East after Bahrain, and the first in history due to begin in daylight and end at dusk – will provide an 'exciting' finale to the 2009 world championship campaign in what looks set to be his last race in the top flight for the Grove-based concern.
Rosberg has raced for Williams ever since making his F1 debut back at the beginning of 2006 as the inaugural GP2 Series Champion – but with the paddock whispers repeatedly linking him to a switch to newly-crowned world champions Brawn GP in 2010 at the behest of German engine-supplier Mercedes-Benz, it appears his praiseworthy loyalty has this time been tempted once too often.
That being the case, the 24-year-old would dearly love to sign off his stint with the multiple world title-winning outfit with a strong result, having finished eleven of the 16 grands prix so far this season inside the points, and having been denied at least fourth place at Interlagos last time out by a gearbox failure on his Toyota-powered FW31. Only three times has Rosberg failed to start from inside the top ten on the grid.
“I am really looking forward to going to Abu Dhabi,” enthused the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg. “With the amount of time and effort that has gone into building it, I think it's going to be a fantastic venue with stunning facilities and a great experience for F1. I've heard it's a sell-out, too, so it should be a really exciting race weekend for the teams and the fans and a great way to end the year.
“Abu Dhabi is going to be a new experience for all of us, so the simulator at Grove has been a real help and I'm pleased I had it at my disposal last week. There are some things like the bumps and kerbs that you can't completely replicate, but braking, oversteer and understeer are all very similar.
“It's definitely a big advantage having a simulator like ours, as I will be able to drive out of the pits on Friday and know the track pretty much straightaway. The one consideration I'll be interested to see play out is the fact that we will start the race in daylight and then move into the night-time.”
The heat and time difference will pose additional challenges for the 20 competitors, but whilst he too could be facing his last start for Williams – with engine-supplier Toyota set to depart the fray at season's end – Rosberg's team-mate Kazuki Nakajima admits that he is eager indeed to get out on-track around the all-new, anti-clockwise Yas Marina street circuit.
“As it was my home race in Japan at the start of the month, I've pretty much spent the whole of October there,” revealed the man from Aichi, who is fighting for his F1 future after failing to score so much as a single point in 2009, compared to the driver in the sister car's impressive tally of 34.5. “I then travelled straight to Brazil from Tokyo so, after the race last weekend, I finally went back home to Oxford after a full month away. It was nice to be home, as it was a really busy trip. I've since had a quiet week or so, catching up with friends and spending some time at the factory with my engineers.
“It's really exciting to be going to a brand new circuit. The organisers certainly look like they've put a lot of thought into developing the track and the facilities. It all looks very impressive, and the perfect place to end the championship. As we haven't driven the circuit yet, it's difficult to give an accurate breakdown of the track, but our simulator has provided us with some really invaluable data.
“It looks like set-up will veer towards a medium-to-high downforce configuration to cope with the long straight – which will require good top speeds – and tight corners which we expect to see on a street circuit. Good grip levels for balance and to cope with the sand will also be crucial. One of the most interesting things for me is that we will drive under a hotel, which I can't wait to experience!”