Racing for pride on futuristic new circuit

Huge optimism and end-of-term fever will grip the Formula 1 paddock this weekend as the series races into the unknown on the futuristic Yas Marina circuit in Sunday’s inaugural Abu Dhabi GP.

The 2009 World championship was settled in Brazil 10 days ago so the leading teams and drivers all believe they can relax and take a more aggressive approach to winning the season’s finale.

Ferrari and McLaren are confident of performing well on the new harbour-side track, as are champion Brawn and its season-long rivals Red Bull.

That means a fierce scrap between outgoing champion Lewis Hamilton and his successor Jenson Button is in prospectBrawn is still engulfed in media frenzy over Button’s future.

Former champion Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber and his Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel, and Button’s Brawn partner Rubens Barrichello are also likely to be at the forefront of the action.

Brawn team boss Ross Brawn, fresh from a week of celebrations, budget worries and endless speculation over the future of his team after its fairy-tale success in winning both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in its first season, says he is determined to do well in Abu Dhabi.

Yet, he may still be engulfed in the media frenzy around his talks with Button for a new contract. Brawn has made it clear he wishes to keep the 29-year-old Englishman on board but has to find a compromise between his salary demands and the team’s budget.

He said: "Jenson’s obviously a great driver and he has to be a target for those teams without their full complement of drivers.

"We want Jenson to stay in the team and I think we will find a solution. He has a contract with us but of course that contract is not the salary of a World champion and not the salary of a team that is now in a much stronger position than it was 10 months ago. (IoL)

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