- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - The Final Stint
Raikkonen returns to the top
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The IcemanOver three years since his last victory in Formula One, Kimi Raikkonen took a popular victory in Abu Dhabi which brought applause from the hacks in the media centre. What's more, he'd predicted it was possible on Thursday while team-mate Romain Grosjean said Lotus's best chance of victory this season had gone. The car is fast in terms of lap time - as Raikkonen continually pointed out - but it wasn't fast enough in a straight line to overtake. So he said the start would be crucial to his hopes fighting for the podium, and so it proved as he immediately jumped into second place and had the free air to display his pace. Yes, Lewis Hamilton's retirement helped (Raikkonen also said Lotus would need to get "a bit lucky") but as he pointed out over team radio, he knew what to do as soon as he was in the lead. It was a victory that seemed a long time in coming this season, yet is fully deserved and - judging by the sight of Kimi leaving the Lotus garage with an empty beer in hand within 90 minutes of the race ending - both the win and the celebrations will be remembered for a while.
A rare Red Bull mistakeStood on the podium after the race Sebastian Vettel's voice was tinged with relief as he said - to his interviewer David Coulthard's discomfort - that starting from the pit lane was "a chance to f*** it up". In truth, Red Bull had already performed a fairly major "f*** up" the previous evening. The FIA accepted the No. 1 Red Bull stopped on track in Q3 because of a fuel flow issue, avoiding a penalty, but it couldn't extract enough fuel for a sample and therefore Vettel was excluded anyway. The exact course of events isn't clear, but there were rumours that Vettel may have got away with it had he returned to parc ferme as his car wasn't scheduled for a fuel sample under the normal course events. It was no wonder, therefore, that it took the stewards four and half hours to come to a decision (in which time the media centre descended into a place of double entendre headline searches and HRT-press-release paper aeroplane competitions). But Vettel proved just what a class act he is - and what a deserving triple-world champion he could be - by fighting back to the podium from the pit lane. Yes, he made some silly errors along the way to the detriment of his front wing, but he was on the absolute limit - and what a pleasure it was to watch.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock Kimi Raikkonen - Even with Sebastian Vettel being sent to the back of the grid, no one really thought the Iceman could pull it off from fourth. But a great start and some stunning race pace later, he added another fantastic story to the 2012 season
- Shocker Mark Webber - Twice he botched a move at turn 11 and twice he got away with it. However, both moves were clumsy and ultimately he became involved in someone else's accident and retired
- Best overtakeSebastian Vettel - His move on Jenson Button for third may not have been the most spectacular, but the stakes were high and the opposition was one of the best defensive drivers on the grid
- Best lap Lap one - It was full of incidents and passing moves and set the race up for several fantastic battles up and down the field
- Worst lap Sebastian Vettel - Lap 13 is unlucky for some but Vettel made his own bad luck when he collided with a DRS marker board behind the safety car. He blamed Daniel Ricciardo for warming his brakes, but should have been more aware of what was going on
- Drive of the day Sebastian Vettel - Despite the mistakes, Vettel showed his class with a stunning drive from the pit lane to the podium. The fact he got through a front wing in the process shows just how hard he was trying and the pressure he was under
Ferrari falls shortAbu Dhabi was Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's big opportunity, but they couldn't quite grab it. That's not to say Alonso did anything wrong in Sunday's race, but he needed a win and he needed it bad. For weeks he has been talking about samurais and circles of fortunes, but when Vettel's bad luck finally hit - and it hit hard - Ferrari only profited by three points. Ultimately, the updates brought to the car this weekend did not offer the performance boost Alonso needed. "We are talking about a few hundredths for each [update] and for sure we still have a gap to close that is a matter of tenths," he said after the race. "But when you bring hundredths and your competitors also bring new parts, you are in the same position." Alonso can't rely on more mistakes cropping up in the Red Bull camp over the next two races, so Maranello must react fast.
Hamilton's heartbreakIt was heartbreaking for a neutral watching Lewis Hamilton's car grind to a halt while leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so it must have been utterly devastating for those sat on the McLaren pit wall. Despite turning his back on the team at the end of the year, both Hamilton and McLaren desperately want a win to feature in the final chapter of their 14-year story. It could still happen with McLaren set to bring updates to the next race, but at Yas Marina this weekend Hamilton was by far and away the fastest driver and deserved the victory. If the win doesn't come the memories of Hamilton's last victory with McLaren will have to rest in Monza, but those are tainted by the behind-the-scenes negotiations with Mercedes and the uncomfortable barrage of questions from the media. What a shame that would be.
Abu Dhabi absolutely deliversThe Yas Marina circuit has held a reputation since joining the Formula One calendar in 2009. The facilities are second to none, the track is a good test of a car but neither add up to exciting racing. That all changed this year, with drama from the first lap to the last and the eighth different winner this season the result of a memorable grand prix. But why the change? Well, having put it to various drivers and team principals, the fact that the race had to be won and lost on track rather than in the pit lane is suggested as one reason for the numerous collisions, allied to small differences in car performance but a DRS that opened up overtaking opportunities. It can't be overlooked that many drivers are driving for their futures, too, but essentially the closest field in many years equalled wheel-to-wheel racing in a spectacular setting.