Mat Coch writes:
Just what will happen on Sunday afternoon when 24 of the worlds fastest men go into battle one last time? That's the question that's been on the lips of every journalist in Abu Dhabi today, though with a slight twist.
Rather than being interested in what the 24 drivers are going to do attention has instead focussed on just four, and two in particular. With the championship so precariously balanced the media scrums around the Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren hospitality suites have been packed as tightly as sardines in a tin.
Sebastian Vettel seems to be enjoying the situation, perhaps understanding that he could well hold the power over teammate Mark Webber when it comes to the crunch on Sunday afternoon. It's emerged in recent weeks that the two don't get on that well, Vettel admitting that they're certainly not friends, though the expression on Webber's faced during the Thursday press conference hinted towards a term slightly stronger than 'strained'.
Todays press conference was expected to go one of two ways, the sardine tin analogy appropriate once more as the drivers filed in. It was likely be an explosive and entertaining press conference, or one filled with mindless PR briefed noise.
In reality it proved to be somewhere in the middle. Though there was a certain fizz in the air there certainly weren't any explosions.
Vettel was asked if, in the dying moments of the race, he would move aside for Webber if Alonso was in third position. Instead of providing a straight answer Vettel almost taunted his teammate, who did his best to remain straight-faced and tight lipped. "I said last Sunday when I was asked this question that I was going to tease you," was the response Seb shot back. "If we find ourselves in that situation, you will see what happens on Sunday. Come on, it's only Thursday today, just three more days." That proved to be one of the themes of the day; a lot of noise being made as drivers tried desperately to remain silent on the topic of team orders.
On a lighter note midway through the press conference one of the PR staff accompanying the drivers received a text message. This being F1, it couldn't be a normal message ringtone, so midway through Mark Webber trying to answer a question he was interrupted by a barking dog. The Australian took it in his stride, and the room enjoyed a good laugh.
Sat in the back row of the conference, amidst the four title contenders, was Nico Hulkenberg, the star of a week ago . The poor German was forced to endure 15 minutes of nothingness as the gathered press hounded the title hopefuls. One felt sorry for him in the end as he did his best not to yawn on camera, though he could have been forgiven if he had.
Away from the formality of the press conference Mark Webber was looking relaxed as he lounged against the barriers in the bull-pen, the television interview area the drivers head to most afternoons to give the waiting television media their fill. They are especially hungry this weekend, though that seemed not to faze the Australian as he happily chatted to the waiting cameras, leaving well after everyone else.
Another fascinating piece of news to emerge from Thursday was the announcement of a title sponsor for the Virgin Racing team. Pitpass revealed after Singapore how the Virgin Racing team had structured it's marketing strategy, and suggested a big spending title sponsor was needed for the team to move forward.
Clearly they read the piece, so too did Marussia, the pair joining forces to announce what is essentially a title sponsorship deal. Sure, there's a stake in the team involved, though fundamentally nothing changes. Then again, they did prepare a very nice press pack with some spectacular drawings of the Marussia super cars.
The announcement took place in the Yas Marina Hotel, the stunning building which straddles the circuit. Naturally the room chosen for the announcement was the one which sits on the bridge with the circuit passing neatly underneath.
On-track action starts tomorrow, several drivers taking the opportunity today to walk or cycle the circuit ahead of the final race of the year. In front of the hungry press in tomorrows press conference are Christian Horner, Martin Whitmarsh and Stefano Domenicali, team bosses of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari respectively. Expect to have more team tactics questions dominate as we all try and work out if Red Bull would be willing to buy the title for $100,000.