Race Review - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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Who would have thought it. The Yas Marina circuit produced an exciting race. And no, Iím not joking.
Welcome to my Abu Dhabi GP round-up, and what a brilliant and dramatic race it was. How unexpected, that the two circuits with the most boring track layouts (Yas Marina and Valencia) would produce the two stand out races of the season.
The race had it all. Humour, Drama, Overtakes, Strategy and some extremely good drives through the field. First we had a return to the top step of the podium for Raikkonen, a brilliant sight, but we also saw a brilliant driver through the field (twice!) by Sebastian Vettel.
A good start would be, well, the start. The main talking points from this were that Webber had a terrible start (a common sight), with Maldonado and Raikkonen both getting past. Another was that Di Resta, Perez, Hulkenberg and Senna collided. I was surprised that Senna did not retire because he suffered a big hit from Hulkenberg. Basically four in to one did not go, Di Resta hit his team mate and Perez got a tap too. Those two escaped from the mayhem behind, but Paul suffered a puncture. Hulkenberg continued off the track and hit Senna, breaking his suspension. The crash was investigated, but to be honest it was inevitable with Hulkenberg being slow away.
So that first lap really helped Raikkonen, and the order stayed pretty much the same out front. Behind going in to the tight turn 8 and 9 complex, Rosberg and Grosjean collided. It was another racing incident, Rosberg did not leave enough room on the inside but Grosjean could have backed off. Of course, we all know that never happens. This gave Grosjean a puncture and Rosberg pitted for repairs on lap 1, which set him up with a drive through the field. This was halted after a monumental crash which had me worried for a second. The first impact was probably not too bad, but the landing and collision with the barrier was. Basically coming in to the fast turn 16, Narain Karthikeyan in front slowed suddenly with a hydraulics failure. Nico could not avoid him and became airborne, after contact with the HRTís rear wheel. He went over the helpless Narain, before landing and spinning in to the barrier. Thankfully both were okay, and obviously nothing could have been done to stop it. The crash shows just how safe F1 cars are, thanks to the interference of the late great Sid Watkins.
The resulting safety car period resulted in another bizarre incident. While Ricciardo in front was warming his brakes, Vettel was getting heat in to his rear tyres. Both of these things happening at the same time was never going to have a good end result, and Sebastian had to hit a polystyrene marker post to avoid him. It was something that was always going to happen, but maybe Vettel should have been paying more attention? He already had front wing damage from contact with Senna early on, so this meant Red Bull had to pit him.When I heard they were planning to go to the end on those tyres, I laughed a little bit inside. My prediction of a late pit stop was confirmed, with Red Bull committing to a two stop strategy.
Meanwhile during this time Hamilton had shockingly retired from the lead after a fuel pressure problem. He seemingly had it in the bag, but his McLaren failed him yet again. However, I really do praise Hamilton on his new attitude. Since he was confirmed as a Mercedes driver for 2013, he has been so relaxed and happy. We also saw a number of incidents, the main zone for these being turn 11. First Webber cut off Maldonado after an ambitious move around the outside. The two collided and Maldonado was spun around. Now at this point, I felt Mark should have been given a penalty. It was pure disrespect for Pastor being on the outside, and of course this is Pastor. He will not back out. The Aussie also collided with Massa in the exact same spot, but this time the spin came a little later. Felipe was furious with Webber for hitting him, and in frustration seemed to spin at the next corner. It was slightly comical, battling hard and the Ferrari just spinning around.
The last incident at that corner took out two drivers. Paul Di Resta was battling with Sergio Perez, while Grosjean and Webber kept their distance. Paul got past him, but the two ran side by side in to turn 12 and Di Resta went to the grass to avoid him. Perez ran wide, before rejoining and swiping across Grosjean. The innocent (for once) Grosjean spun the Mexican around, and in avoidance hit Webber as the Red Bull driver dived for the inside line. Romain and Mark were out, while Perez rightfully received a 10 second stop go penalty which shattered what looked like a promising race.
By the flag fall, Kimi Raikkonen took Lotusís first win since the 80′s and the first at Enstone for four years. It was a brilliant moment, with hype and pressure surrounding the team. Many believed they should have won sooner, which did not help lower the amount of pressure. However he won it in style, a comfortable lead over the runner up. That position was occupied by Fernando Alonso, who quite simply drove well and stayed out of trouble.
Third. Who would have though. After the drama of Qualifying (you have all probably heard) and a pit lane start for Sebastian Vettel, third was a complete surprise. His race was similar to that of Jenson Buttonís in Canada 2011, minus the hitting his team mate part. He started from the pit lane, before losing part of his front wing in the early laps. He then had the scare under the safety car and pitted for a new nose, dropping to the back. He then closed through the field, managed some brilliant overtakes and closed in on the leaders. Yes, the safety car periods did help him greatly but that move on Button towards the end was beautiful. They were so close, yet you could tell they were two of the best racers in the world. Stunning, just stunning.
Button had a pretty average race to fourth, while Maldonado impressed me with his fifth place. As did Kobayashi in sixth, with Felipe Massa in seventh. Senna and Di Resta did brilliant jobs to finish eighth and ninth, after both dropping to the back on the first lap. Ricciardo nabbed the last point, or though Toro Rosso had a relatively quiet weekend.
A brilliant race full of drama and incident. I really think DRS worked well too, with drivers able to close in on their rival in the first zone and then overtake in the second. This compared to last year, where drivers got past in the first zone and were then were able to get the place back in the second.
Of course, the Yas Marina track is stunning. The sunset, the backdrop, the surroundings, the lights, the night time. I just want to go there.
Author: Rick McCabe
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