- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - The Final Stint
Raikkonen's wretched weekend
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
There's something rather wrong with a sport when one of its biggest stars threatens to walk out because he's not being paid, especially when his employer is one of the top teams around. Yet that is what's happened at Lotus this weekend, with Kimi Raikkonen sending a serious warning shot at the team's management over missing payments. It's worrying that Lotus, a race-winning team fighting for second place in the constructors' championship, should find itself struggling to pay a driver on time. If a team like Lotus cannot afford to pay some of its bills, then it's no wonder outfits further down the grid are taking on pay drivers over talented young guns to cover costs. It's another clear sign that something needs to change in the sport if Formula One is to remain a sustainable business going forward. It's most likely that Raikkonen will attend the final two races so as not to breach his side of the contract, but he is likely to do everything within his rights to make sure Lotus sticks to its side of a new agreement.
It was a wretched weekend on-track for Raikkonen too. Absent on Thursday, he only arrived at the track on Friday morning and 58 hours later he left again having retired on the opening lap after being excluded from qualifying and starting from the back of the grid.
Sebastian Vettel looked like he could have a real battle on his hands when he was beaten to pole position on Saturday, and even for a few hundred meters he was under threat as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton closed in on either side of him at the start of the race Once Vettel led in to Turn 1, there were audible groans in front of television screens everywhere, but from that stage onwards he delivered a mesmerising display of dominance. He admitted as much too: "The pace we had was scary", "I was flying at some stages" and even Mark Webber said "Seb was on another planet today". Christian Horner confirmed Webber had no problems in the race, so half a minute was just the difference between his two drivers today. Special.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock: Sebastian Vettel - Nobody saw that level of dominance coming, nor the repeat of the doughnuts after the race
- Shocker: Kimi Raikkonen - Having been excluded from qualifying, only got as far as Turn 2 before retiring
- Best overtake: Romain Grosjean - Seemed behind Massa as he left the pits but a quick getaway and excellent driving around the outside of Turn 3 on exit retained the position under braking for Turn 4
- Best lap: Sebastian Vettel - Take your pick. Any of them, he was faultless today and - in Webber's words - "on another planet"
- Worst lap: Lewis Hamilton - On lap 25 passed Sutil only to lose out in the second DRS zone to both the Force India and Massa
- Drive of the day: Sebastian Vettel - Surprised his team boss, team-mate and even himself at just how much quicker than everyone he was today. "Scary", he said.
Things were looking pretty rosy for Felipe Massa early in the race; having outqualified Fernando Alonso he was also outracing him until the closing stages of the second stint when Alonso started to catch his team-mate but was unable to get close enough to pass. Then Massa pitted, and said Ferrari made the wrong call: "We made a mistake. I didn't expect to use the medium in the last stint, I expected to use the softs." It was ultimately a move that restricted him to eighth place and will leave the conspiracy theorists having a field day that he was moved out of Alonso's way, but as Massa himself points out: "The team needs points and the team would never do that to me. It is not really even close to my mind that the team would do something like that." It did prove to be a mistake though, and a fairly glaring one. Just one extra position gained would have put him ahead of Lewis Hamilton and left the constructors' championship gap at seven points rather than double figures.
2014 doubts surface
Bernie Ecclestone admitted over the weekend that next year's 22-race calendar was likely to become a 20-race one as he voiced "personal doubts" that New Jersey and Mexico would happen. Which begs the question why they were put on the calendar in the first place? Bernie likes to put pressure on venues to ensure he has more demand than places, but it seems strange to have the FIA World Motor Sport Council [WMSC] confirm a provisional calendar in the knowledge that some of the races are never going to make it, especially when that could then lead to a major reshuffle of the dates. Losing New Jersey would not require any changes in the middle of the season, but Mexico's delay could see the provisional dates for Austin and Brazil moved. Add in uncertainty over Korea and potentially Russia and there's a chance 22 races could become 18. But the teams, media and fans can't start planning for any of that until we see what the next WMSC comes up with.
Eyes on GP3
The Formula One championships might have been sewn up in India, but the GP2 and GP3 titles were still to be decided in Abu Dhabi and it was the latter category which had the best stories. Future Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was impressive as he wrapped up the championship with a comfortable victory in the opening race of the weekend, but it was a driver returning to single-seaters who really stood out. Dean Stoneman tested for Williams at the 2010 Young Driver Test as his reward for winning the Formula Two championship, and had only done F2 as it was half the price of GP3; where he'd really wanted to be. However, when he was set to partner Daniel Ricciardo in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2011 his career was put on hold as he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of testicular cancer. After experimental treatment he fought back to race powerboats - and win the title in his debut season - and then be successful in Porsches this year. Koiranen offered him the chance to return to single-seaters in Abu Dhabi in place of Aaro Vainio and - even though the team said it wasn't expecting results - it got them as Stoneman finished a hugely impressive sixth In race one and took second place in race two, a mere 0.3s from victory.