Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2011

/ Commentary

Race

17.00 All the cars get away from the grid after a minor delay to clear some debris. Di Resta and Senna are starting on the medium tyres as well as the Williamses at the back of the grid. They will get that phase of the race out of the way early on before taking on the softer, faster tyre through to the end of the race.

16.58 The sun is starting to set and the drivers are in their cars. Tyre blankets are being loosened as the grid clears of all but the essential mechanics to get the cars started.

16.49 Last year, overtaking was pretty much non-existent at the season finale and the only thing that has changed on the circuit is a couple of line marked DRS. But that could make a big difference as the drivers shed drag and boost their top speeds along the back straights. Tyres will also play a big part in any overtaking, but the Pirellis have proved pretty durable so far this weekend and that could limit the excitement on track.

16.45 One of the biggest questions ahead of the race is whether we'll see any overtaking. Last night the FIA decided to extend the DRS zone coming out of turn seven by 75 metres, but Button is not convinced it will work. "Lengthening it by 75 metres or whatever is not going to make a big difference because it is only half the straight we will be using - it is going to be tricky," he said.

16.41 Ferrari has had one of the fastest starting cars this year so it's worth keeping an eye on those two off the line. Alonso reckons a podium is possible but he's going to have to make up time at the start. Meanwhile, Rosberg says he is hoping to beat Massa by the end of the race.

16.40 Button says that he thinks McLaren is closer to Red Bull this weekend than it has been at recent races.

16.37 Hamilton has told Vettel that he won't be backing off into the first corner this weekend after conceding the apex to him last year. of course, he'll need to get a good getaway to be alongside Vettel into turn one, but so far this season the McLaren has been sharper off the line than the Red Bull.

16.34 The cars are now heading for the grid. The drivers aren't allowed to do practise starts in Abu Dhabi because of the tunnel at the pit lane exit. That means they have to base all their calculations on practise starts they have done at the end of the practice sessions earlier in the weekend.

16.26 Sebastian Vettel is on pole (again), but non-Red Bull fans shouldn't despair as we look set for a close race between the McLarens and Red Bulls. Hamilton has been the fastest man all weekend but just got pipped to the post in Q3. Quite how Red Bull ramp up the pace in the last session every weekend is still a mystery but McLaren is confident of a decent race pace.

16.25 Welcome to live commentary on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with ESPNF1. The sun is beating down over the paddock right now but the shadows are starting lengthen as we get closer to the start of this twilight race.

Lap 1

Vettel has spun off in the second corner after the start. It looks like he has a puncture on his rear right. Alonso is up to second passing Webber at the start and Button on the back straight. Rosberg had a mighty fight with Schumacher on that first lap and just about came out in front and in sixth place.

Lap 2

Hamilton is streaking out into the lead with Alonso 2.5 seconds back. Vettel has limped back to the pits but there is damage to the hub of the right rear and the flayling tyre has damaged the floor. Vettel retires for the first time since Korea last year.

Perez also pits for a nerw front wing.

Lap 3

Hamilton now has a lead of 2.7s over Alonso.

Lap 4

Button has dropped to 2.3s off Alonso and now has to worry about Webber and Massa queuing up behind him.

Webber beats Button in the first DRS zone but the McLaren fights back on the next straight to prove that DRS will create some passing opportunities in this race.

Lap 5

Alonso is settling into is groove and is now 2.6s behind Hamilton. Button is still 2.7s further back with Webber within a second of his gearbox. There is something dangling from the bottom of Webber's car near the splitter at the front of the floor. We'll keep an eye on that.

Lap 6

Alonso is just about matching Hamilton for pace with the gap steady at 2.7s.

Lap 7

Webber is still hunting Button and he's within DRS range of the McLaren so is gaining speed on the straights but it's still not quite enough.

Lap 8

Sutil looks strong in the Force India at the moment and is hanging on to the back of Schumacher while pulling a gap on di Resta, who is on the slower tyres at the moment and has Buemi on his tail.

The gap is still 2.7s at the front while Button is told that he's broken Webber's DRS tow, which means the Red Bull is no longer within a second through the detection points and is therefore not allowed to open his wing on the back straights.

Lap 9

Buemi slips past di Resta into turn eight after the first DRS zone but the Force India fights back and repasses in the following DRS zone.

Lap 10

Sutil is still hunting Schumacher and is close enough to activate his DRS on the back straight. However, he is not quite close enough to attempt a pass.

Lap 11

Di Resta is complaining that he's starting to lose traction with his medium tyres, possibly because they are graining, but we were expecting those tyres to be more durable. He still has Buemi on his gearbox.

Lap 12

Alonso is now 2.6s off Hamilton with Button 4.9s off the Ferrari.

Lap 13

Alonso sets a new fastest lap as the fuel loads start to burn off. It's going to be all about protecting the tyres though and trying to make a difference in the pit stops because he is struggling to close the gap to Hamilton at the moment.

Button tells his team that he has some sort of a problem as Webber cuts into his lead and gets the gap right down to 0.9s.

Lap 14

Di Resta and Buemi have had another brief switch of positions in the two DRS zones but once again the Force India comes out on top.

Webber is now attacking Button in the second DRS zone.

Lap 15

Button's KERS has failed and that allows Webber to come up the inside at turn 11, but Button fights back in the following switch back as the Red Bull loses traction on the kerbs - great racing.

Buemi finally beats di Resta for good at the end of the second DRS zone as the Force India makes a little error under braking. The Toro Rosso is now free and on faster tyres.

Lap 16

Massa pits at the end of lap 15. The first man to do so and he's taken on soft tyres. He will be looking to leapfrog Button and Webber who are currently slowing each other down while fighting on old tyres.

Lap 17

Hamilton and Alonso pit too. Soft tyres on the McLaren and on the Ferrari. Very quick stop for McLaren, Alonso was 0.4s slower.

Button also pits. As do Schumacher and Sutil in their battle for sixth.

Despite that slow pit stop it looks as though Alonso has gained marginally on Hamilton...

Lap 18

Although the gap between the lead two is still 2.6s. Webber has a slow pit stop and could lose out to Massa.

Webber does lose out to Massa. He spent nearly 9 seconds stationary as they struggled with one of the rear tyres and then there was traffic in the pit lane. It's all going wrong for Red Bull today.

McLaren tell Button that Webber is out of the picture after that stop, but that might be a tad optimistic.

Lap 19

Sutil has passed Schumacher in those stops and is now just 2.4s behind di Resta, who hasn't stopped yet.

Sutil gets past di Resta with ease as Buemi's Toro Rosso slowsw ith some sort of problem.

Lap 20

Hamilton has extended his lead to 3.6s at the front. Button is another 13s behind. Massa is just 1.4s behind the McLaren which is being hampered by its KERS failure.

Lap 21

Force India confirms that di Resta is one stopping as he loses a position to the two-stopping Schumacher.

Webber is pushing hard and has now pegged the gap to Massa back to 4.5s.

Buemi has now retired. It looked like some kind of suspension failure at the rear of the car.

Lap 22

Hamilton crosses the line 3.6s ahead of Alonso. The Ferrari driver is doing very well to the keep that gap steady, but it's possible Hamilton is just managing his race now and not pushing too hard.

Kobayashi pops up to 10th ahead of Maldonado, making use of his much fresher tyres.

Lap 23

Alonso takes advantage of a slow lap from Hamilton to close the gap by 0.6s, but they are coming across traffic at the moment and that could have hampered the McLaren.

Lap 24

Hamilton pulls back another 0.3s on that last lap so no dramas at the front just yet. The sun has now set over the circuit with light being provided by the huge floodlights dotted around this track.

Webber has closed the gap to 2.7s to Massa as he brings himself back into contention for third place. Button is 2.0s ahead of Massa at the moment.

Lap 25

Hamilton and Alonso have both been held up by backmarkers Alguersuari and Glock on this lap but Hamilton just about comes out on top, ekeing out another 0.2s over the Ferrari.

Lap 26

Button has now dropped to 14.1s off Alonso with Massa closing by another 0.2s on the KERS-less McLaren.

Lap 27

Hamilton has been told to look after his tyres at this stage of the race so is not quite at full pace at the moment. However, he is maintaining a 3.3s lead over Alonso.

Lap 28

Massa is told that he's doing a good job getting the gap to Button down to 1.1s but warned that Webber is just 1.2s behind him.

Di Resta finally makes his first pit stop and come out in 12th. But he shouldn't have to pit again whereas all the cars in front of him will have to pit once more.

Lap 29

Hamilton extends his lead to 4.1s over Alonso as the Ferrari gets caught in more traffic.

Webber now looks closer to Massa than Massa looks to Button. A great battle shaping up for third now.

Lap 30

Maldonado has been given a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags. He was running in 14th.

Massa loses the rear end through turn secen and that allows Webber to use the DRS and pass into turn eight. But the Ferrari fights back in the second DRS zone and retakes fourth position. Meanwhile Button profits in front.

Lap 31

Hamilton is now setting fastest laps and extends his lead to 5.0s. Button is 16.2s off Alonso.

Webber isn't close enough to try a move into turn eight this time but is getting the advantage of the DRS to close the gap to Massa.

Lap 32

Button has found some pace and extended the gap to 3.7s over Massa. And we hear that he has his KERS back.

Meanwhile, Massa gets badly held up by Alguersuari and drops back into Webber's clutches.

Lap 33

Hamilton is starting to break Alonso and now has the gap up to 5.6s. Button may have his KERS back but he's still got a mighty job to catch Alonso with the gap at 15.8s.

Maldonado now holds up the Massa and Webber battle and needs to be careful to avoid another penalty.

Lap 34

Di Resta is fighting his way back through the field as he overtakes Petrov for 11th, making use of his fresher softer tyres over Petrov's older medium compound rubber.

Lap 35

Traffic is now causing a bit of a headache for Hamilton as he drops over a second to Alonso again. The gap is now 4.4s.

Button now has a 6.3s gap to Massa after getting his KERS back.

Lap 36

Webber pits for another set of softs which means he will be three stopping. That's a surprise as we are expecting most the cars to take on the mediums at their next stop, meaning Webber will have to find a huge chunk of time on those tyres.

Lap 37

Button pits for medium tyres so he is two stopping.

Alonso is now starting to push in the belief that Hamilton's tyres are starting to go off. Ferrari is confident their tyres will last longer and are going to try to beat Hamilton by staying out on the softs when he pits for the slower mediums.

Lap 38

Alonso has the gap down to 4.1s and takes 0.3s out of the McLaren in the fast first sector.

Sutil has pitted again and come out 50s ahead of his team-mate di Resta on a one stop. Sutil is looking to beat Schumacher in this race so needs some very quick laps to try and leapfrog ahead when the Mercedes pits for the final time.

Lap 39

Webber is now the fastest man on the circuit on his new soft tyres. He's 2.2s behind Button and needs to get past as soon as possible to make his strategy work.

Lap 40

Alonso closes the gap to Hamilton to 3.1s as he pushes harder and harder on those old soft tyres. He's 0.7s a lap faster than Hamilton right now.

Lap 41

Hamilton pits from the lead for medium tyres. A very slick pit stop and Ferrari get ready in the pits but we think it's for Massa.

Webber is all over the back of Button but can't find a way past. This is costing him massively as he needs to pit once more.

Massa makes his stop for medium tyres and comes out a long way behind the Webber/Button battle for fifth.

Lap 42

Hamilton gets held up by Barrichello and is clearly pretty annoyed about it as he needs to find time to keep Alonso behind.

Webber passes Button but the McLaren didn't make it easy for him and it ended up costing Button as he had to back off in the turn eight and nine chicane.

Lap 43

Alonso now has a 20s lead over Hamilton which is close to a pit stop's worth of time and they are setting identical times in the first sector. But Hamilton is much quicker in sector two and the has forced Alonso to pit.

A slow stop for Alonso at 5.2s with a sticking left front.

Lap 44

And Alonso comes out behind Hamilton after that stop, panic over at McLaren.

Webber is now the fastest man on the track and is closing on Rosberg, who still needs to make one more stop.

Lap 45

Schumacher has come out of the second stops 1.3s ahead of Sutil in seventh and eighth.

Webber and Rosberg are fighting for position now and the Red Bull makes the move stick into turn 11. He needed to make that move as those two still have to pit once more.

Lap 46

Hamilton now has a 5.3s lead over Alonso and appears to have this race in the bag now. It was a valiant attempt by Alonso to beat him at the final stop but that Ferrari simply isn't quick enough at the moment.

Lap 47

Kobayashi passes Sauber team-mate Perez for tenth. Those two are 10s off di Resta but will have a hard time catching the Force India.

Lap 48

Webber is pushing very hard on his soft tyres. He's trying to build up a big enough gap over Massa to pit and come out in front.

Button is closing on Rosberg but will get past when the Mercedes pits. The question is whether he wants to be paitient enough to wait.

Lap 49

Rosberg pits at the end of lap 48 to give Button some free air. Rosberg comes out in sixth, behind Massa but comfortably ahead of team-mate Schumacher.

Massa spins at turn one and that has given Webber that position. Rosberg is now closing on him as a result and the Ferrari has four flat-spotted tyres.

Lap 50

Hamilton is looking comfortable with a 5.8s lead over Alonso now. The Ferrari is now 12.1s ahead of Webber who still has to pit with five laps remaining.

Lap 51

So the order appears to have sorted itsellf out with Webber set to drop to fourth when he makes his last-gasp pit stop. Sutil is currently 1.7s off Schumacher, which is a fantastic effort but it doesn't look like he'll be able to take that position.

Lap 52

Ricciardo is out of the race with what looks like a mechanical failure. The yellow flags are out but he's well off the racing line.

Lap 53

Alonso drops to 7.1s off Hamilton as he settled for a very impressive second place. Rosberg is giving Massa something to think about with the gap down to 2.7s.

Lap 54

Two laps remain as Hamilton leads by 7.8s from Alonso. Webber is due to pit at the end of this lap to hand Button third place and take on his mandatory set of mediums.

Lap 55

Hamilton celebrates with his team and family in parc ferme. A slight breach of the regulations but I'm sure the stewards will turn a blind eye.

Hamilton cruises through the final sector and across the line to take his first victory since the German Grand Prix earlier this year. Fantastic and important win for him. Alonso takes second, Button third and Webber fourth. Massa is a long way down the road in fifth with Rosberg 1.7s off the Ferrari as they cross the line.

Schumacher is a further 23.6s behind in seventh, just 1.1s up on Sutil. The Mercedes has stopped on track, presumably to save enough fuel in the tank for an FIA sample. Di Resta and Kobayashi round off the points positions, ahead of Perez, Barrichello, Petrov, Maldonado, Alguersuari, Senna, Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock and Liuzzi.

Webber makes his pit stop as Hamilton starts his final lap. Webber comes out comfortably in fourth. Massa looks set to hold off Rosberg as long as he doesn't make any more errors.

A broad smile on Hamilton's face as he makes his way to the waiting room for the podium. The drivers seem a little confused about what happened to Vettel. We'll find out what we can after the race so make sure you keep checking the site this afternoon for all the reaction.

As the British national anthem blares out around Yas Marina all that's left to say is thank you for joining us for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. We'll be back with more live commentary from Brazil in two weeks time as well as providing all the latest news and reaction in between.