|Kimi Raikkonen (second from left) wins Abu Dhabi GP!/Getty|
Kimi Raikkonen took first-place on the podium while Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel finished second and third respectively. It was simply a magnificent, aggressive drive for Vettel (who started from pit lane and dueled late with Jenson Button) but you can't take away the impressive performance displayed by both Raikkonen and Alonso. When asked how amazing it was to win a Grand Prix, Raikkonen answered (as only he can): "Last time you guys was giving me **** because I didn’t really smile enough, so maybe this time again but I mean I’m very happy for the team – and myself – but mainly for the team. It’s really a hard season for the team and not an easy time. Hopefully, this gives them more belief, not just for the guys making all the work but also for the guys who run the team. I hope this can turn around the tables and give us many more good races and wins. If not this year then next year."
When asked how much the development that is taking place on the Lotus had been bringing pace to the car, Raikkonen replied, "It brings some pace, helps our straight line speed. So in average we gain some advantage but it’s exactly the same car we have in Korea. So we see how much even this year in all the races some circuits suits better for one team and the next one is not so good for you. We had good speed last race as I’ve already said. We made some mistakes in qualifying and paid the price in the race. So now we put all together like we should have done quite a few times this year but for one reason or another we haven’t. But at least we’ve got one win, so we’ll keep try to push still and see what we can do in the next race."
Alonso seemed happy with his results, "I think we were not super competitive this weekend. We started seventh, [then] sixth at the end with Sebastian’s penalty so we have to fight all through the race. The first laps to do some good overtakings and then a very good strategy that gave us the ability to fight at the end for the victory. In the last couple of laps Kimi was a little bit slower, so we attacked. But second, I think, was the maximum today, starting sixth, so a perfect Sunday again for us and we kept fighting until the end." Fernando, like Raikkonen also believes even with some modifications to the car, his is in roughly the same position he has been in the past few races. "I think it helped for sure because when we tested it on Friday, they gave us some performance but we are talking very few hundredths of advantage that for sure when you have a gap to close that is a couple of tenths, when you bring hundredths and your opponents bring also some new parts, I think more or less you are in the same position. So, we need to keep working and in Maranello they work day and night very hard to bring new parts. Here in the track, mechanics work 24 hours and we are doing our maximum and we sure that hopefully it will be enough."
Vettel seemed a little cocky today after weaving his way from last to podium not once but twice. It was noted that he was now a double Champion and was asked if he now felt that he had gotten his hands on one side of the Championship cup. Uncharacteristically, Vettel replied, "I think it’s still two races to go so obviously we see how quickly things can change. Yesterday was a surprise for us, I think would we have started from third [then] it would have been a different race. But yeah, it was obviously a chance to **** it up and we didn’t do that. So I think we can be very proud today, we got the maximum. We lost only a very little bit, I think we have the momentum still, the car is bloody quick, so looking forward to the next two races. We are definitely believing in it and that’s the target." David Coulthard, BBC Formula 1 reporter, apologized for the language and returned to questioning Raikkonen only to be greeted by a pouring of Rosewater on the head by Vettel. One gets the feeling Vettel is not comfortable in starting from last or being third at this point in the season as this is not his usual podium language or graciousness.
When asked if he thought he would be standing on any podium today, Sebastian Vettel admitted mistakes from others helped him get there, "I had a fantastic race. I enjoyed it a lot. Obviously the safety cars here and there was helping, the second one, and after that, at the end it was a nice fight with Jenson. He was difficult to pass. I expected to have a little bit easier time because obviously I was passing the slower cars before and with him I was a bit struggling. Then I just squeezed my way past into Turn 11, which was nice, it was very fair but for sure, it was a thrilling grand prix, up and down all the time. Yeah. Obviously it’s very nice to stand here now, pick up a trophy and drink some champagne."
LAP BY LAP
This story started yesterday during qualifying with Vettel qualifying third but being told by his team to stop on track. Almost five hours later and discussions with stewards as well as Red Bull, it was ordained by the stewards that Vettel would be excluded from qualification due to being unable to produce the required liter of gas for inspection. It would seem he would start from the back of the pack but instead opted to start from pit lane. This would enable Lotus to make changes to his car which indeed they did. Red Bull changed the gear ratios, suspension set-up and replaced the gear box as well, hoping this would make Vettel faster in the straight-a ways and make overtaking a bit easier. It worked as he made his way from last place to a third-place podium finish.
Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen sat pretty behind Hamilton at the start while Webber lost a spot on the grid with his usual lumbering start. As a result, this allowed Alonso to move into fourth. Lots of contact was made during the early laps of the race - Nico Hulkenberg and Bruno Senna made contact around the first turn. Hulkenberg is forced to retire. Vettel hit Senna during one of the opening laps which resulted in a broken front wing for Vettel. Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean also made contact resulting in a broken front wing and a tire puncture, respectively. As Grojean, Rosberg and Paul de Resta head into the pits with damage, Vettel communicates to his team a problem with his front wing. Already at a disadvantage, his crew leaves it up to him as whether or not to come in. Up front, Raikkonen gains on Hamilton and tries to overtake but finds no way around and he falls back into a comfortable second.
Both Saubers are having a good day with Sergi Perez and Kamui Kobayashi in eighth and ninth places respectively, going into Lap 6. The next couple of laps see Michael Schumacher racing into tenth and Vettel overtaking Heikki Kovaleinen for 13th. Vettel is clearly a man on the move with points in his sights.
On Lap 9, there is a massive crash as Nico Rosberg hits the back of Nairain Karthikeyan. Thankfully both walk away but this can only spell good news for Raikkonen as the safety car comes out. The hunt is on to get and pass Hamilton. The front running order under yellow condition at this point is: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Webber and Button. Not the usual line-up we generally see at the past few GPs.
As if his luck were not bad enough this weekend, Lap 13 finds Vettel swerving to avoid a Toro Rosso who is slowing in front of him. Vettel hits a styrofoam board and further damages his front wing. There is no choice but for him to pit now. He is called in, wing changed and comes out in 21st place - last again due others' retirements. While in the pits, Vettel changes to soft tires and will try to finish the next 40+ laps on that set. Can he do it? We have seen that he is fast today, as always and if anyone can nurse tires for 41 laps, Vettel can do it but he knows he will have to race like a mad man in order to secure any points.
On Lap 15, as the safety car leaves the track, racing begins again with Hamilton trying to put space between he and Raikkonen. Further back, Vettel makes a move that takes all four tires off the track in an attempt to pass Romain Grosjean. Abu Dhabi circuit has two white stripes with blue in the middle on each side of the track. It was unclear which of the lines denote the sides of the track and Vettel was ordered by his team to give the position back to Grosjean rather than risk a penalty.
The absolute unthinkable happens at Lap 21 - Lewis Hamilton's McLaren loses power and he is forced to retire for the second time in six races- both times while running from the lead. Hamilton, while in disbelief, is gracious and once at the pits, shakes the hands and pats the backs of his crew men. It is Raikkonen' s have and fight for now.
For those who lament that there is not enough wheel to wheel racing in Formula One, they needed to watch today's race. There was lots of it. Mark Webber and his Red Bull were side by side with Pastor Maldonado on Lap 23 and the two made contact resulting in a loss of positions for both drivers.
Vettel presses ahead and Webber finds himself three places ahead of his Red Bull team mate who is now in 10th place.
Halfway through the race, the running order is now: Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Maldonado, Perez, Massa, Webber, Vettel, Schumacher and Ricciardo.
Just past the halfway point there is more wheel to wheel racing as Mark Webber makes a move on Massa only to make contact sending Massa spinning off track. Not only does this hurt both but makes way for Vettel to move forward as bad luck is countered by good. Fernando Alonso is called into the pits for a 2.7 second pit stop and the obligatory change of tires to finish the race. He enters the track in sixth place just behind Sebastian Vettel who is all but on the back of Mark Webber who is told to give up the fight to Vettel who is, of course, first in the drivers standings. As Vettel sets fast lap and Mark Webber goes purple, Webber is called in to the pits as well as Perez - decision made and Vettel moves ahead into second place.
It is absolutely amazing to see the drive that Vettel has made today but Raikkonen is still ahead with one stop to go which he takes at Lap 32 and retains P1. The driver that everyone either discounted or forgot is still leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Iceman Cometh! Lap 38 has Vettel doing much the same as he is called into the pits for a new set of soft tires and emerges in the same place, fourth behind Raikkonen, Alonso and Button.
A collision on Lap 39 between Di Resta, Perez, Grosjean and Webber results in the retirement of both Webber and Grosjean. It starts as Perez tries to round Paul Di Resta who yields him space but ends up off track. As he re-enters Grosjean is right there and is moved into Webber and both are taken out. The instigator of this calamity, Perez, manages to make it through and move forward. Lots of debris with this collision and here comes the safety car yet again.
Lap 41 sees seven cars retired, the safety care still out and and drivers keeping their tires warm. Raikkonen receives a radio message from his team: "Okay Kimi, we need to keep all four tires working please. Keep working all four tires working." Kimi responds: "Yes! Yes! Yes! I am doing all that. You don't have to remind me every second!" This is a typical Raikkonen response but nice to hear from a former World Champion who it seems had been all but written off this season.
The safety car, which has had a busy day today, goes in on Lap 43 and racing begins again. The next few laps see Perez handed a 10-second penalty for forcing another driver off the track. He takes it. Michael Schumacher is forced to the pits with a puncture and comes out 16th well out of any points. It's a bit sad as it would be nice to see Schumacher have a good finish before his Formula One driving career comes to an end. Kamui Kobayashi who is currently in sixth and right on the heels of Maldonado is literally driving for a seat next year but is doing a good job today. Jenson Button is doing a brilliant job of fending off Sebastian Vettel who is right on his tail. Great job by Button but can he hold it? Raikkonen continues to lead Alonso by 3.2 seconds. Not the usual top ten in order is it?
Lap 52 and Button can no longer hold back Vettel. Vettel's drive today has been nothing short of spectacular; however, he had help from other drivers bad luck, misfortunes, or karma...whatever you want to call it, he had a bit of help.
The final three laps of the race finds Alonso coming within one second of Raikkonen which would enable him to use his DRS. But it was all in vain. Raikkonen wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Alonso coming in second and Vettel coming in third- ironically his original qualifying place.
Wow. Just wow! This was the most exciting race of the season in my opinion. It had everything from the qualifying to the very end of the race. An excellent Grand Prix.
Here are your top five finishers in order: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Jenson Button (McLaren) and Pastor Maldonado (Williams).
Here are your top five Formula One Drivers Standings:
1. Sebastial Vettel - 255
2. Fernando Alonso - 245
3. Kimi Raikkonen - 198
4. Mark Webber - 167
5. Lewis Hamilton - 165
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