Raikkonen shines brightest in incident packed Abu Dhabi GP thriller
4 November, 2012
Nov.4 (GP247) The seven star Yas Marina Circuit was the venue for one of the most dramatic and thrilling races of the season, as Kimi Raikkonen returned to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2009, while championship contenders Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel followed him across the line in a nail biting final few laps.
It was a big night for the Lotus team (the Enstone version) who have not tasted victory since 2009, and a milestone for Raikkonen who has enjoyed a fairy tale comeback with remarkable consistency and victory making his return to F1 ever so much sweeter. Ironically, despite the victory, he is now mathematically out of the running for this year’s title.
The Iceman lived up to his reputation on the podium, cracking a rare smile but acknowledging, “I was really hoping to win before. I’m happy but there’s nothing to jump around about. We’ll try to do the same again. We’ll have a good party and tomorrow when we’re feeling bad after a long night we’ll remember why we feel like that but I’m just happy for everyone in the team.”
He added when asked about the downbeat celebration on the podium, “Last time you guys were giving me grief because I didn’t smile enough but I’m happy for the team. It’s been a hard season and not easy times lately. Hopefully this will give everyone belief and turn the tables so we can win more races, if not this year then next year.”
He told David Coulthard on the podium, “I’m very happy as I think we were not super competitive this weekend. We had to fight throughout the race but we had a very good strategy and wanted victory. But we think it was a perfect Sunday as we kept fighting right until the end.”
What might have been a handsome difference in the haul of points, for the Spaniard – at the expense of his championship rival Vettel, was not to be as the German delivered one of his greatest drives, from the pit lane to third place and in doing so limited the damage.
Vettel, in making up 21 places after starting 24th, gave F1 fans a display of the biggest improvement since Christian Danner who in 1989 started 26th finished 4th in USA, according to sports statistics service Infostrada. The world champion heads to the final two rounds with a 10 points championship lead, as opposed to the 13 point lead he held when he arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Vettel summed up his evening, “I believed I could get the podium. After a couple of laps that changed a little and I had a messy start to the race but I damaged my front wing and I [made] a big mistake with Daniel [Ricciardo] who was stopping his car on the straight and I was surprised.”
“If it was 50m earlier or later I wouldn’t have damaged my wing. It was full attack or nothing and that’s what we did. It was a fantastic race and in the end it was a nice fight with Jenson who was very fair, and I just squeezed my way past. It was a thrilling race – up and down all the time,” added the championship leader.
The incidents started on the first corner of the first lap, as Nico Hulkenberg triggered mayhem when trying to squeeze his Force India into a gap which did not exist. He caused a chain reaction involving teammate Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna in the Williams, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus. Hulkenberg’s race ended on the spot, the others made their way to the pits for repairs.
At the front pole sitter Lewis Hamilton made a great start, while Mark Webber stumbled off the line. Raikkonen took the opportunity to slot in behind the McLaren, followed by Pastor Maldonado in the Williams and Alonso, with Webber down in fifth.
Vettel meanwhile was in the wars as he stormed from the back of the field through the pack. In his haste he clipped Senna’s Williams which snapped off bits of the Red Bull’s front wing but he was able to continue with no major side effects.
Big drama struck on lap nine as Rosberg crashed into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s ailing HRT in the fast right handers leading to the hotel complex. Rosberg came onto the slowing backmarker too fast, the Mercedes struck the back of the HRT and was launched over it before slamming into the wall. Both drivers hopped out of what remained of their cars and walked away, but debris was strewn across the track which forced out the safety car as the marshals cleared the mess.
Rosberg explained, “[Karthikeyan's] steering broke and so he wasn’t able to steer and went right on the brakes. I didn’t expect him to get on the brakes there so didn’t see it coming and there was no way for me to react in time.”
During this period more drama ensued, as Vettel nearly clipped the weaving Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo as the drivers weaved behind the Safety Car trying to retain heat in their tyres at the low speed forced by the Safety Car. To avoid a collision Vettel had to swerve wildly demolishing a polystyrene brake marker board and missing the wall by a hair’s breadth. With his wing now unquestionably damaged he pitted to sort it out, emerging 21st on track.
When the lights went green, Hamilton charged off at the front – he had been untouchable on the night – but on lap 21 the McLaren coasted to a halt without any power just as it did while he led in Singapore.
He reflected afterwards, “I hadn’t been faultless in this race because I did have a very wide moment at one stage but after that it was going really well and the car was a dream to drive. I was cruising and pulling away so it was a shame the engine just died. It was some kind of fuel problem but it was an incredible race, good to watch.”
Drama and incidents continued. On lap 23 Webber tried to get by Maldonado, the two touched and Red Bull spun and dropped several places. The stewards had a look at the incident but took no action.
Maldonado provided insight from his perspective, “I think Mark Webber was unlucky because he tried to get a place on me on the outside and he touched my front right wheel and he spun. It was disappointing for him but it was a risky manoeuvre. They’re good points. We saved the day. I hope to be competitive in the next two races.”
On lap 39 Perez tried an ambitious move on Di Resta, cut him off, went off track and then swerved back in front of the Force India driver. What followed was a chain reaction which ended the race for both Webber and Grosjean who were innocent victims. Perez was given a ten second drive through penalty for causing the incident.
Di Resta gave his version of the incident, “I don’t know what [Perez] was trying to do. He was trying to make a mad move around the outside and I had to bail out.”
Grosjean was clearly disappointed, “It was a tight battle and I had no room to go anywhere else and there was a big shunt. There was contact with Nico [Rosberg] at the start. I kept my line and [made] a safe start but there was no room for me to go. It was an unlucky day.”
Again the Safety Car was deployed to clean up the debris.
When the lights turned green again, Raikkonen led and was never seriously challenged until the final half dozen laps when Alonso gave it a thorough bash to reel in the Lotus, but to no avail. The Iceman did not melt, and notched up his 19th F1 win.
Alonso managed to get by Button around mid-distance, and hung in there despite a late race challenge from Vettel who had a touch of good fortune on the night to make up for his disappointment 24 hours earlier.
Jenson Button was always there or there abouts during the race, mostly staying out of trouble. He defended third place tremendously from Vettel’s attack, but had to capitulate as the Red Bull on fresher, softer rubber was simply too quick in the late stages of the race. Fourth place was the reward for Button and McLaren after a race they had expected to win.
“It was a fun race, but we struggled. The car was very different to my runs on Friday – I couldn’t get any grip. It was fun and there were some good battles out there. Hopefully I’ll find more pace [for Austin], my race pace is something that’s normally very good, so we’ll go and find out why that it wasn’t here,” said Button.
Maldonado survived the ‘war zone’ to finish fifth ahead of Kamui Kobayashi who kept out of trouble, unlike his Sauber teammate, to take sixth place.
Felipe Massa went wheel to wheel with Webber early in the race, but came off second best when he spun and lost time and several places. Seventh his reward for a tough night of hard graft.
After his first lap mishap, Bruno Senna did well to finish eighth in a strong drive through the field, ahead of fellow first lap victim Di Resta who was ninth. The final point went to Ricciardo.
Despite his poker face and contrived – ‘I would rather be drinking with my mates than winning a grand prix’ – demeanour, it was good to see Raikkonen back on the top step of the podium. Yes, he could have given his crew a hug after he stepped out of the car. Yes, he could have cracked a smile on the podium, but then that wouldn’t be the Iceman.
Instead he left us with a couple of classic in race quotes:
- When informed of the gap between him and Alonso he retorted, “Leave me alone I know what I’m doing!”
- Then when reminded to keep heat in his tyres during the second safety car period he piped up, “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’m doing all of that. You don’t have to remind me every single time.”
Classic stuff. Absolut Kimi!
Subbed by AJN.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Sunday, 4 November 2012
|2||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||55||+0.8 secs||6||18|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||+4.1 secs||24||15|
|4||3||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+7.7 secs||5||12|
|5||18||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||55||+13.0 secs||3||10|
|6||14||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+20.0 secs||15||8|
|7||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||55||+22.8 secs||8||6|
|8||19||Bruno Senna||Williams-Renault||55||+23.5 secs||14||4|
|9||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||55||+24.1 secs||12||2|
|10||16||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||55||+27.4 secs||16||1|
|11||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||55||+28.0 secs||13|
|12||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||55||+34.9 secs||17|
|13||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham-Renault||55||+47.7 secs||18|
|14||24||Timo Glock||Marussia-Cosworth||55||+56.4 secs||21|
|15||15||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+56.7 secs||11|
|16||21||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham-Renault||55||+64.5 secs||20|
|17||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||55||+71.7 secs||22|
|Ret||25||Charles Pic||Marussia-Cosworth||41||+14 Laps||19|
|Ret||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||37||Accident||2|
|Ret||4||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||19||+36 Laps||1|
|Ret||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||0||Accident||10|
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