19 November 2014
F1: Vergne expecting ‘electric atmosphere’ at finale
With little to play for personally, both Toro Rosso drivers are looking forward to the final F1 round in Abu Dhabi for other reasons.
Toro Rosso veteran Jean-Eric Vergne is anticipating an air of tension at this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as F1 enters uncharted waters for its championship showdown.
As intended when Bernie Ecclestone first threw the idea of double points into the teams' melting pot, the title remains undecided heading to Abu Dhabi. Although there would still have been scope for competition without the gimmick, Vergne accepts that the battle between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will add an extra frisson to proceedings, with other battles likely to benefit from the higher than expected totals on offer at Yas Marina.
“The race itself is bound to be interesting because of the double points on offer,” the Frenchman claimed, “The fact the race starts in daylight and ends under floodlights also adds something to the ambience, but I think the atmosphere in the paddock will be electric this weekend because it's the championship decider.”
While Toro Rosso has little to play for unless Lotus makes a dramatic improvement and threatens its seventh position in the constructors' championship, both its drivers still have something to race for on Sunday. Vergne remains without a drive for 2014 following STR's decision to hire exciting teenager Max Verstappen, but has been handed a lifeline at his current team following movement at sister outfit Red Bull Racing that sees current colleague Daniil Kvyat heading to Milton Keynes.
Kvyat, meanwhile, will be keen to end his rookie season on a high before taking on the challenge of racing for the erstwhile world champions. A year ago, the Russian clinched the GP3 title at the Abu Dhabi event and is looking forward to testing himself against the Yas Marina layout in more potent machinery this time around.
“Last year I was in Abu Dhabi, but not to drive in FP1,” he reminisced, “I was only focusing on my GP3 weekend, which went very well, making it a very memorable weekend for me.
“I was aware of everyone watching me very closely as it had already been announced that I would be racing for Scuderia Toro Rosso the following year, so it was important to show what I was made of!”
Verstappen is due to step into the STR9 at next week's post-season test, so will not run in Friday practice this weekend, allowing Vergne and Kvyat maximum preparation time for a circuit that, while not overly complex, takes a little getting used to.
Apart from a couple of straights, the layout is very much a stop-go street-type venue, and will see the return of the two softest tyres in the Pirelli range, but Kvyat is looking forward to getting back on track one last time for his current employer.
“I like the track a lot, as it has an interesting and technical layout, which encourages you to push hard,” he explained, “It will be very different in an F1car naturally, but I'm looking forward to finding out what it's like.
“The season comes to an end on Sunday night and although everyone needs a break sometimes, you like to do what you do so, in a way, it's a shame it will be over. But I will be pleased to recharge my batteries in preparation for next year when a new challenge lies ahead and I am already looking forward to that.”
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