Sebastian Vettel has thrashed the rest of the field to claim his seventh successive race win in Sunday evening’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Red Bull Racing driver outdragged polesitter Mark Webber off the line and led every lap, beating his teammate by over 30 seconds. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg rounded out the podium.
Despite starting from the dirtier side of the grid, Vettel made the better getaway from the all Red Bull front row to lead into Turn 1, while a momentarily bogged down Webber was passed by Rosberg into the left-hander and dropped to third.
With confirmation that he will see out his season with Lotus after negotiating a financial settlement to be paid at least some of the wages he is owed, Kimi Räikkönen was caught out in the first-corner funnel and broke his right-front suspension after clipping Giedo van der Garde at Turn 1.
The Finn was starting from last place after being demoted to the back of the grid when his car failed post-qualifying scrutineering. Quite why the team had elected to start him from the back of the grid instead of the pit lane would certainly be debated long into the night, and the unnecessarily risky decision ultimately backfired.
The former World Champion magnanimously refused to blame that strategic decision as a contributor, and after quickly addressing the media, he changed into his civvies and left the circuit – one imagines carrying a first pay cheque that hopefully won’t bounce…
Back on track, Vettel immediately surged into an early lead before the DRS zones were activated, quickly pulling away from Rosberg to the tune of over half a second per lap. By the time the first pit stops arrived, Vettel’s lead was so great that he was able to emerge with his lead still intact.
Webber found himself sandwiched between Rosberg and Romain Grosjean in the opening stint, and elected to pit early in the hope of leapfrogging the German back into second place. Rosberg had pitted a lap earlier and the move didn’t quite work, but Webber took advantage of the fresh rubber to nip past the German shortly afterwards.
He never quite wriggled free of Rosberg and Grosjean, and the trio was covered by less than four seconds when they crossed the finish line at the end of the 55-lap race.
While the lap time difference between the Soft and Medium Pirelli tyres was as much as 1.5 seconds per lap, the relatively low tyre wear allowed for a range of strategies to be called upon.
Some of those starting on the soft tyres ran longer than expected opening stints, with the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso both doing so to try and make up some track position; Massa was up to second by the time he finally pitted, while Alonso was able to close the deficit to his teammate and run in the Brazilian’s wheel tracks after their first tour through pit lane.
The two staged an entertaining battle mid-race, with the Brazilian refusing to yield despite repeated hints that he cede position to his team leader. Ultimately, Massa was called into the pit lane for his second stop, leaving Alonso to try and eke out more laps before he made a lade stop and switched to Softs.
As Alonso emerged from pit lane, he came across the battling Jean-Éric Vergne – trying to land a points finish on a one-stop race – and Massa. With nowhere to go, Alonso was forced onto the run-off on the approach to Turn 4 and bounced across the kerbs ahead of the Toro Rosso.
Quite how he and Vergne managed to avoid a huge accident spoke volumes to the skill of both pilots – with the stewards sensibly ruling post-race that his off-track antics were force majeure – and it ensured he could emerge in seventh place and begin to chase down those ahead of him to grab some more points.
Alonso’s first late-race victim was Lewis Hamilton, who was one driver who suffered at the hands of his strategy and lack of outright race pace. The Mercedes driver emerged from his first pit stop behind the Sauber of Esteban Gutiérrez, and the Mexican made himself something of a mobile chicane in his efforts to keep the Englishman behind. The long delay behind the youngster cost Hamilton any chance of a podium, and he ultimately finished seventh, overtaken late in the race by Alonso.
|Contrasting fortunes: Hamilton failed to make his strategy work, while di Resta had a brilliant race|
The Spaniard’s final victim was Paul di Resta, who conversely had made his tyre strategy work brilliantly with a monster opening stint. The Scot backed up his Indian Grand Prix efforts with another great display of tyre management, only losing out on fifth place to Alonso in the dying laps. Nonetheless, sixth place was a terrific effort and – backed up by tenth place for teammate Adrian Sutil – earned Force India a healthy brace of points to keep his out of Sauber’s clutches in the battle for sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Sauber had an unlucky race, as once again Nico Hülkenberg was denied a top-ten finish, this time at the hands of the stewards after he was given a drive-through penalty for an unsafe pit release.
Jenson Button was another driver who could well have claimed a points finish, with his planned strategy ruined after he had to make a pit stop at the end of the first lap to replace a damaged front wing.
Massa finished a disappointed eighth, while Sergio Pérez and the aforementioned Sutil closed out the points-paying positions.
The Williams team once again missed out on improving on its paltry championship point tally. Pastor Maldonado finished eleventh after a typically robust drive, with teammate Valtteri Bottas falling out of a potential points finish with a late pit stop.
The Finn finished in fifteenth ahead of the two Toro Rossos. The Faenza team had been unable to make Jean-Éric Vergne’s tyre strategy work, and the Frenchman tumbled down the field in the final laps as his tyres fell to pieces. He finished one spot behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo, whose qualifying pace couldn’t be sustained over a full race distance.
2013 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (55 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||55||1:38:06.106|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||55||+ 30.829|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||55||+ 33.650|
|4.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||55||+ 34.802|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||55||+ 1:07.181|
|6.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||55||+ 1:18.174|
|7.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||55||+ 1:19.267|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||55||+ 1:22.886|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||55||+ 1:31.198|
|10.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||55||+ 1:33.257|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||55||+ 1:35.989|
|12.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||55||+ 1:43.767|
|13.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||55||+ 1:44.295|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||54||1 lap behind|
|15.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||54||1 lap behind|
|16.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||54||1 lap behind|
|17.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||54||1 lap behind|
|18.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||54||1 lap behind|
|19.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||54||1 lap behind|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||53||2 laps behind|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||53||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||0||Collision|