Race

17:02:The cars return to the grid, we're all set for the start of this race now...

17:00: Schumacher, Senna and Vettel are on medium tyres. De la Rosa's car has stalled on the grid. He is being pushed away now. He will start from the pit lane behind Vettel now.

16:59: Steven says: "A liter of fuel is 1.6 pounds… was it worth it Red Bull? I wonder if their egos are what hurt them? Did they need the pole that bad with Ferrari struggling?"

16:58: Another thing worth mentioning is that Maldonado was very quick through the speed traps yesterday and could really challenge Webber and Hamilton on the back straight on the opening lap.

16:56: Ferrari says: "Four minutes to the start of what will be a crucial race for the 2012 Championship"

16:55: Steve says: "I believe Maldonado is a big question at the start. He is not accustomed to start with the top runners and if he gets off badly, he could be into Webber and/or Raikonen, taking them out and putting Button and Alonzo in tight spots to get by without damage. I hope Maldonado makes a clean start."

To be fair to Maldonado he has made good starts from high grid positions this year. Singapore he started third and got away cleanly and in Spain he went on to win the race from the front row.

16:50: Vettel is sat in his car at the end of the pit lane. He's got his helmet off and a huge bank of photographers around him. Bernie Ecclestone has just turned up and offered a few words of wisdom in his ear.

16:46: The sun is starting to set over the impressive architecture here. This is what the start finish straight looked like a couple of hours ago - it's much busier now!

16:46: Tom asks: "Who is taking responsibility for Vettel running out of fuel?"

Red Bull are not pointing fingers at individuals but Christian Horner said Renault are responsible for the amount of fuel that goes in the car and it was Renault that told Red Bull to stop the car. No doubt internally there will be some serious discussions.

16:43: Mehul asks: "How significant is the change in qualifying and race setup? In qualifying one tries to increase one lap speed and for vettel all the 50 odd laps are qualifying for him!"

But Red Bull tend to set the car up so that is fast over one lap, and that includes closer gear ratios for better acceleration. That's fine and allows his to qualify well and then run into the distance early in the race, but it's no good if you're trying to overtake and you keep hitting the rev limiter in seventh gear.

16:39: We've been talking to Pirelli boss Paul Hembery about tyre strategy and this is what he said when we asked whether a one-stop would be the way to go.

"Yep, it will be really. Pretty easy-going on the tyres, low deg, wear levels are low. First stop will be between around 27-30 laps, little difference in the overall times between starting with the medium and moving to the softs or starting with the soft and moving to the medium, so from that point of view it's limited; probably depends on the individual cars how they're performing on a full fuel load - some of the teams might prefer to be on the medium."

16:38: And let's not forget about Fernando Alonso in sixth who really needs to take advantage of Vettel's misfortune this weekend. A podium is a must as we know the Ferrari is still a long way off Red Bull on one-lap pace.

16:35: The Red Bull mechanics have changed Vettel's aero settings, his gearbox and his gear ratios to help him with top speed as tries to pick off the rest of the field. It should be thrilling to watch and all the while we should have a fantastic battle at the front between Lewis Hamilton on pole, Mark Webber in second and hot-head Pastor Maldonado in third.

16:30: Welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of today's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Overnight this has become one of the must-watch races of the season as Sebastian Vettel was excluded from qualifying yesterday for not having enough fuel for an FIA sample. The team has decided to change his set-up to help him with overtaking and we will now see him in the fight of his life as he tries to keep his championship challenge on track.

Lap 1

Great start by Hamilton. Raikkonen also makes a brilliant start and takes second as Webber drops to fourth behind Maldonado.

Senna and Hulkenberg crash at turn one.

Alonso is up to fifth and attacking Webber hard. He makes the move the stick along the second back straight. He narrowly misses Maldonado but gets the job done. Fantastic racing.

Grosjean has a front puncture and what looks like another first lap incident.

Lap 2

Yellow flags are still out at turn one as Hulkenberg's Force India is craned away.

Rosberg has pitted for some reason. Di Resta also has a puncture.

Hamilton makes a mistake and Raikkonen is looking for a way past. The McLaren just keeps him behind and Hamilton is complaining of low tyre temps.

Lap 3

Vettel has damage on his front wing, will he have to pit. The pit crew are out ... but they return to the garage as Vettel decides to stay out. He's now down in 18th.

Hamilton has now recovered from that mistake and is clear in the DRS zone this time so no rear wing adjust for Raikkonen.

Red Bull confirm to Vettel that he has damage as the Red Bull gets up to 16th. It's the driver's call as to whether he comes in. He's looking quick compared to the Caterhams in front but that's not too difficult.

Lap 4

Hamilton leads by 1.9s now as he settles into a nice rhythm.

Raikkonen has a 0.8s lead over Maldonado who has Alonso 0.7s behind him. It is very difficult to overtake here, so let's see whether either can make a move in the DRS zone.

Lap 5

Hamilton increases his lead to 2.3s now.

Vettel is up to 14th with Kovalainen ahead of him now.

Grosjean's first lap puncture came with contact with the Mercedes of Rosberg. Looks like Grosjean didn't leave enough space for Rosberg in the turn eight chicane.

Lap 6

Hamilton is still looking comfortable now his tyres are up to temperature. 2.5s is the gap back to Raikkonen.

Alonso is 0.8s behind Maldonado and having a little look at the Williams at the end of the straights. He's not close enough for a move but is letting Maldonado know he's there.

Lap 7

Hamilton adds another 0.5s to his lead on this lap. Raikkonen is 1.8s clear of Maldonado who has Alonso close behind.

But the Williams is very fast on the straights and Alonso can't get close enough into turn eight or turn 10.

Button is being encouraged to attack Webber with DRS but he informs his engineer that he isn't close enough to use it!

Lap 8

Hamilton continues on his merry way with a lead of 3.5s now.

Meanwhile, Senna is battling back from his first lap contact and is now 15th, Vettel is past Kovalainen for 13th place.

Vettel is missing the right end plate on his front wing, which is a significant part of the aero package. That will hurt him, but as long as he is making progress Vettel will stay out.

Lap 9

Rosberg has had a huge crash with Karthikeyan.

Vettel is told to stay out on track by his team. So too early for a pit stop.

The collision happened at turn 15 as Rosberg was trying to come back from his early pit stop.

That was a terrible accident. Karthikeyan slowed in the middle of the corner and Rosberg clouted the back of the HRT and flew over it.

Lap 10

Vergne pits under the safety car. Grosjean has made a second stop too. Red Bull considered changing Vettel's front wing and came out in the pit lane, but they then thought better of it.

Looking back at that accident, Karthikeyan must have had a problem as he was so slow compared to Rosberg. There was a puff of smoke from the HRT and he started to slow as Rosberg continued at full pelt.

Lap 11

There's plenty of debris to be cleared so the safety car is still out there.

Vettel is now 12th and has Ricciardo - in a Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso - ahead of him.

Hamilton says there is a lot of debris at the crash site and says it needs to be cleared before they start racing at full speed through there.

The stewards will investigate the crash after the race.

Lap 12

Red Bull tells Vettel they are not worried about the front wing damage, but Vettel responds saying the team should keep an eye on it and maybe change at the pit stop.

Adrian Newey is inspecting a Red Bull front wing in the pit lane to see what could happen.

Lap 13

Vettel has hit a DRS maker board under the safety car and that has finished his wing off surely. Vettel is very angry over the radio that Ricciardo was slowing too much to warm his brakes under the safety car.

Red Bull still don't change the wing, but it definitely has some extra damage. To me that looked like Vettel's fault. Ricciardo was just warming his tyres and brakes.

Vettel will now pit on this lap.

Lap 14

Vettel pits... A new front wing and soft tyres go on. He rejoins at the back of the pack but will now try to run until the end of the race. What a disaster for Vettel, but he has to take the blame for the front wing damage.

Safety car is in this lap.

Hamilton is still concerned about the debris. "It's a high-speed corner so a puncture there would be bad.

Lap 15

Alonso makes a mistake ahead of the restart and has Webber all over him in the opening corners. He messed up a run at Maldonado and came under pressure himself, but just about holds off the Red Bull.

Hamilton still leads as Vettel makes up two places at the back of the pack already. Grosjean is next up for 18th place.

Lap 16

Hamilton leads by 1.6s at the front so is straight back in the groove.

Maldonado is 1.6s off Raikkonen and has Alonso 1.7s behind him. The Ferrari has two mirrors full of Red Bull but has much better straight-line speed.

Vettel takes two place in three corners as he passes Pic and Grosjean in turns eight, nine and ten. He's got a big advantage on the soft tyres, but may have passed Grosjean off the track.

Lap 17

Vettel was off the track as he lined Grosjean up and he has given the place back just to make sure.

He makes the move stick again with two wheels off the track, but that is legal.

Lap 18

Hamilton leads by 2.6s as he builds up another comfortable lead. Alonso is now 1.0s off Maldonado and will attempt to attack again.

Confirmation on the delayed team radio that Vettel was told to give that position back to Grosjean.

Vettel gains another place and is up to 15th now.

Lap 19

Hamilton sets another fastest lap and is 3.0s clear again. Raikkonen has a 2.9s lead over Maldonado, with Alonso still 1.0s off the Williams.

Alonso is definitely gaining on Maldonado but still has Webber in his rear view mirrors. He can't afford to make a mistake when he tries to pass.

Lap 20

Hamilton is blitzing the field at the moment with a lead of 3.4s over Raikkonen.

Vettel passes Vergne for 14th and now has Kovalainen ahead of him.

Hamilton is out of the race! It looks like a mechanical problem. He's stopped at the side of the track on the entry to turn 15. McLaren says: "Ok Lewis, we've lost all power"

Lap 21

Raikkonen leads by 4.6s over Maldonado. Alonso is up to second! He passed Maldonado into turn 11 with DRS. Great move.

Maldonado made a mistake in turn nine and that allowed Alonso to pick his way past.

Lap 22

Vettel is now 11th and has Ricciardo ahead of him.

McLaren apologise to Hamilton, they felt they had that one in the bag.

Webber is now attacking Maldonado who appears to be struggling with his tyres.

Lap 23

Raikkonen leads by 5.7s from Alonso. Lotus tells him that and he responds on the radio "Leave me alone. I know!" Got to love Kimi.

Webber is attacking Maldonado again and tries to pass into turn 11. He takes to the outside but spins off as he clips the Williams. Webber drops three places.

That was Webber's fault as he tried to cut across the Williams. Maldonado had nowhere to go and cannot be blamed for that.

Lap 24

Raikkonen is extending his lead with a 6.2s gap to Alonso.

Vettel is up to tenth and back in the points. Schumacher is next.

Button passes Maldonado cleanly into turn 11. He took to the inside and got past nicely.

Lap 25

The stewards are investigating that Maldonado, Webber clash, but I can't see why a penalty would be issued.

Maldonado showed with Button that he leaves enough space when he's beaten. Webber's move was overambitious.

Raikkonen leads by 6.7s now but we will be expecting pit stops soon.

Webber is now behind Massa and looking for a way past.

Lap 26

Button is told to push, he is 5.0s off Alonso and looking good.

Kobayashi pits.

Vettel is now up to eighth and has Webber and Massa ahead of him next. This will be very interesting.

Webber tries a move on Massa into turn 11. The pair touch at the apex, similar to Maldo. But they both carry on. Then as Webber rejoins he comes alongside Massa and the Ferrari spins. That will also be investigated.

Lap 27

Raikkonen is looking very quick and is 7.2s clear.

Massa is very angry with Webber and understandably so. Webber cut the corner after the contact and then rejoined right next to the Ferrari. Massa seemed to be caught by surprise, clobbered the apex of turn 13 and spun.

Lap 28

No further action in the Maldonado/Webber incident, which seems fair as Webber was the one that spun.

In the meantime, Vettel is seventh and closing on Webber. 2.9s is the gap, will Webber let him through?

Lap 29

Alonso is about to pit... Medium tyres go on at a clean stop and he's away.

No further action between Webber and Massa. Not so sure about that one but at least they are being allowed to race.

Vettel is now ahead of Alonso with the same amount of stops. Can Vettel go the distance?

Perez is up to third and past Maldonado who now has Webber on his tail again.

Lap 30

Button pits... a clean stop and the medium tyres go on. Maldonado also pits ... a slightly slower stop but at least we won't have another moment with Webber as the Red Bull stays on track.

Vettel is very close to Webber and is told not to fight his team-mate if the No.1 Red Bull gets a run. They say Vettel is on much fresher tyres, which is true.

Lap 31

Webber is told to pit, that solves the problem. Perez also pitted ahead of him. The Sauber exits pit lane ahead of Webber.

Vettel is now into second place, 22.3s behind Raikkonen who has yet to pit. Lotus is now ready to pit.

Lap 32

Raikkonen stops on his marks, is a bit sluggish getting away but comes out in front of Vettel. He is on fresh mediums compared to Vettel's 20-lap old softs.

Vettel is trying to go 42 laps on those tyres.

Button is now on the back of Alonso. That is not good news for the Ferrari driver as he still has 23 laps to defend that position.

Lap 33

Lotus thinks Vettel will not stop again as he crosses the line 1.4s off Raikkonen.

Steve says: "How ironic that if Kimi wins, there's no champagne!"

Alonso is 5.9s off Vettel and has Button 0.9s off him.

Grosjean is now up to fifth and 10.8s off Button ahead.

Lap 34

Webber has dropped to ninth at the end of the pit stops and is 0.7s off Perez.

Raikkonen extends his lead over Vettel to 2.0s so looks comfortable.

Lap 35

Raikkonen adds another 0.7s to his lead on the last lap. But although Vettel is losing time to the Lotus he is maintaining the gap at 5.5s to Alonso.

Button is very close to Alonso now, but we can't see it on TV...

Lap 36

0.8s separates Button and Alonso now but the McLaren is a lot quicker in the first two sectors.

Pirelli does not think Vettel's tyres will do 42 laps on the softs. There prediction is 36 laps. Vettel needs to be super smooth on them for the rest of the race.

Lap 37

Button is told to use his "overtake button" to help pass Alonso. That will be higher revs to combine with his DRS and KERS boosts.

Raikkonen leads by 4.1s from Vettel. Vettel is 4.7s ahead of Alonso, who has Button 0.8s behind him.

Vettel is about to pit... will he come out in front of Grosjean?

Lap 38

Vettel pits. It's a slow stop at the right rear ... he's on soft tyres and well clear of Grosjean. Vettel is now fourth, roughly 15s off Button now but has fresh tyres.

Perez, Grosjean and Webber in an accident. Perez and di Resta were trying to pass Grosjean. It all got messy at turn 13 and the safety car is out. Advantage Vettel!

Lap 39

So Vettel is on fresh tyres as Perez comes into the pits for once over. Grosjean and Webber are out.

A replay of that incident: Di Resta and Perez both passed Grosjean. Di Resta had to take to the inside, Perez than ran wide in turn 13, Grosjean then hit him in the next corner and Webber joined the accident.

Lap 40

Now the cars are bunching up behind the safety car as Grosjean's car get craned away. 15 laps remain, Vettel is on fresher and softer tyres than the three men in front of him.

Button says Alonso is very quick in a race line and is warned by his team that Vettel is also quick in a straight line due to his race setup.

Lap 41

Raikkonen is reminded to work all four tyres. He replies "Yes, yes, yes, I know what I'm doing. Leave me alone"

Lap 42

The safety car stays out for another lap as Schumacher pits from eighth place. He goes to the back of the snake. It looks like the Mercedes still has tyre degradation issues.

Pic has retired and is back in the pits.

10-sec stop/go penalty for causing a collision. Interesting decision. Not sure I agree and it certainly seems a bit harsh.

Schumacher had a puncture so I take back what I said about Mercedes tyre deg.

Lap 43

The race restarts and Raikkonen keeps his lead from Alonso, Button and Vettel all with very respectable gaps between them.

Senna is close to the back of Massa.

Button is told he has the pace to win if he can get ahead of Alonso - seems optimistic to me but that McLaren was quick in Hamilton's hands.

Vettel is very close to Button as they enter sector three.

Lap 44

Raikkonen is 1.9s clear on the opening lap after the safety car. Mightily impressive from the Finn. He knows he's got to build a lead in case Button or Vettel get released from behind Alonso.

Vettel pushing very hard behind Button. He wasn't close enough in turn 11 but this looks like a foregone conclusion.

Lap 45

DRS enabled on this lap. Button has increased the gap to Vettel on this lap though and is very quick in the first sector. Vettel closes in a straight line with the DRS but Button is also getting the DRS from Alonso.

Alonso is fast in a straight line, Button is solid all round the lap and Vettel has a traction advantage on his fresh tyres. This should be interesting.

Lap 46

Raikkonen is 3.0s ahead of Alonso. The Ferrari, Button and Vettel have less than second between them.

Perez has now served his stop/go.

Vettel has another look into turn 11 but the McLaren is proving to be pretty quick out of the corners. Button used KERS well down the straights to keep an advantage.

Lap 47

Raikkonen sets another fastest lap. Lotus is looking very strong and he is 3.2s clear of Alonso who has some breathing space now that Button is under pressure from Vettel.

Maldonado is lurking in the shadows 2.2s behind Vettel. Kobayashi is 2.5s behind him.

For those asking, Perez was given a stop/go penalty for pushing di Resta off the track and triggering the collision that led to the second safety car. Seemed a tad harsh.

Lap 48

Eight laps to go and Alonso has just set the fastest lap. Can he come alive and close the 3.0s gap to Raikkonen?

Button is 1.6s off Alonso and 0.8s clear of Vettel.

Vettel has one of his best looks at the McLaren yet into turn 11. But the McLaren is covering the inside line and keeping him behind.

Lap 49

Alonso sets another fastest lap and is now 2.8s behind Raikkonen. He might just have the pace to catch the Lotus but passing him will be another challenge altogether.

Vettel has another look at Button at turn 11. This time he thought about the inside but wasn't quite close enough.

Lap 50

Alonso has the gap to Raikkonen down to 2.2s now. Button is 3.1s off Alonso now and Vettel is 0.8s behind him still.

Vettel is taking a very wide line through turn five to try to get on throttle earlier than Button. It's not quite working at the moment.

Lap 51

Raikkonen hits back with a personal best but Alonso is still quicker and closes the gap to 2.0s

Vettel is 1.0s off Button this time. Is his tyre advantage starting to wane?

Maldonado is 3.8s off Vettel so will probably settle for fifth ahead of Kobayashi.

Alonso is getting visibly closer to Raikkonen now.

Lap 52

The gap at the front is now 1.7s with four laps remaining. That might not be enough for a move unless Raikkonen really starts to struggle.

Button continues to hold off Vettel. Button is told to use the "blue button" and loses position to Vettel at turn 11!

Vettel is up to third. He dropped off for a couple of laps and then nailed turns eight and nine to get a better drive on the second straight and finally got past around the outside. Great move.

Lap 53

Raikkonen steadies the gap to 1.4s now.

Vettel has clear air and a 4.3s gap to Alonso. Button immediately drops 1.1s off the back of the Red Bull. He defended well but clearly has a slower car.

Lap 54

Alonso is 1.0s off Raikkonen now after another fastest lap from the Ferrari. Alonso needs this position so desperately and should have the DRS now. But no, he wasn't close enough in the detection point.

Vettel is pushing hard but won't get a sniff at Alonso on the final lap unless the Ferrari makes a mistake.

Lap 55

Thanks for joining us this weekend. It's been an absolute thriller and the championship is still just about alive with two rounds left. We'll be back with more reaction from the teams and drivers this evening so keep checking the website.

Raikkonen wins in Abu Dhabi! Alonso second, Vettel third, Button fourth.

Vettel holds on to his championship lead by 10 points. It was a great drive by him from the pit lane to the podium, but was helped by other cars taken each other out and the timing of the second safety car.

Raikkonen stands on top of his car and salutes his team. Eric Boullier joins him and Kovalainen gives him a big slap on the back.

Maldonado takes a deserved fifth place ahead of Kobayashi.

Kimi wins on his return to F1 with Lotus, what a great result.

Raikkonen is 1.2s ahead of Alonso on this lap so might be okay.

Vettel is 3.8s behind the Ferrari.

Button is 2.7s off Vettel.

Raikkonen remains clear in the DRS zones so should have Alonso covered here.