Abu Dhabi GP 2012

Super Seven Moments of the Abu Dhabi GP

1. Celebrations from Catastrophe

The race in Abu Dhabi is not one too many drivers look forward to, not vocally anyway. Considered more style over substance by many it partners Valencia as a race not to hold your breath over, however this being 2012 anything could happen, and it usually does. After Valencia fans and media alike were shocked by the unprecedented levels of excitement, and here too the same reactions have been seen again, so maybe there is space for the odd car park on the calendar?

Maybe we should give it another year just to make sure! The race itself was a heartstopper, but a large portion of the position changes were down to on track incidents having an impact. The biggest one being Hamilton’s dramatic exit just after halfway, along with Webber’s two left feet dance around the circuit and Perez apparent unraveling since he signed for McLaren. But the Abu Dhabi race will definitely prove to be a highlight of the season nonetheless, great overtakes between Webber and Alonso, Vettel and Grosjean and Vettel and Button sparkled brighter than the manufactured glamour and twinkling lights of the Yas Marina hotel.

2. The Flying Finn

Yes he may have inherited the win from a fuel pressure issue stricken Hamilton but he was no slouch during the race. Raikkonen was simply magnificent once the lights went out, behind a yet again slow off the line Webber he swung left and decided to have an early pop at Hamilton, however the Brit was having none of it and soon got his tyres up to temperature and pulled away. Unassailable and untouchable Hamilton provided McLaren with a glimmer of hope that they could finish they great partnership on a high, but in  rather prophetic way it wasn’t to be.

With a clear track and clean air Raikkonen fulfilled the prophecy of his comeback, finally winning a race the Finn illustrated precisely why he needs to be in Formula One. It has never been a question about whether Lotus had a car fast enough or drivers talented enough to get it onto the podium, they proved that earlier in the season, it was getting everything lined up on race day that was the problem. However it was rather ironic that a driver known for his penchant for the odd alcoholic beverage won his first race of his comeback, not only at the circuit of his last race of his first stint, but at one where the podium can only be splashed with rosewater.

3. From Pitlane to Podium

On Saturday evening Vettel’s race day looked ruined before it started, sent to the back of the grid for having only 850ml of fuel on board instead of the mandated 1 litre, the team decided to fix a fuel pump problem and made their man begin the race from the pit lane on Sunday. It looked like he would be lucky to score a point, it looked like beginning the race from the back on a track notorious for being hard to overtake on sounded the death knell. But there is an advantage in having one of the fastest cars on the grid.

Early contact with Senna damaged his front wing that eventually had to be replaced, but not before ensuring it was really broken by taking out a DRS zone marker after a slow Ricciardo behind the safety car caught him out. Swerving to avoid the Toro Rosso he soon had to pit for fresh set rubber and a new front wing which sent him to the back for a second time. However he carved his way through the pack, briefly coming up behind an eager Grosjean (suffered an early puncture) who was not about to let him pass without earning it.

Team orders were issued (they are legal remember) by Red Bull to Webber to let Vettel pass if he got a good run, however the Australian didn’t seem to be in a charitable mood after a disastrous day and didn’t make it easy. So the team made the decision for him and asked him to box box box. Vettel them went to prove all the critics wrong again and positioned himself behind Button after a little help from the second safety car. Then on lap 52 Vettel went around the outside of Button into turn 11 and then going up the inside into turn 12 he claimed the bottom step of the podium. He gained 21 positions in little over an hour and 45 minutes.

4. So Close

For a driver to wholly dominate the race weekend it seems fitting that they go on to dominate the race, especially when the domination was so apparent. For Hamilton that was the case, especially in qualifying when no one could get close to him. Now more relaxed that he’s been all year he later said he was cruising in the car yet still pulling away, but had to settle to watch the race unfold from the garage when his car stopped in lap 19 with a fuel pressure problem. Cruel, yes; surprising, no. It has been the story of McLaren this season, mistake after reliability problem has taken points away from their drivers and gifted them in abundance to others up and down the grid, notably Red Bull and Ferrari. They could have had it all, but instead they’re lamenting the loss of Hamilton instead.

Alonso was also close to having the perfect race, another one quick off the line he took Button almost immediately and then lined up a slow starting Webber for his next victim. In a land strewn with assisted overtakes it comes down to utter trust between Alonso and Webber again, Webber squeezed hard but it was Alonso who prevailed. Then in the closing stages, after finding Vettel ahead of him at one point, he closed down Raikkonen and get inside the DRS zone but couldn’t quite make it.

Elsewhere Maldonado coped with a KERS problem to bring his car home in a respectable 5th and Senna, with his contact woes made it a double point score for the team in 8th. Massa and di Resta both recovered from their on track escapades in 7th and 9th respectably. Although he couldn’t find pace Button hung onto 4th and Ricciardo stayed strong to claim the last point. But the sneakiest driver of the day was Kobayashi who snuck home in 6th, even with pressure about where he’s going to be next season mounting. Further back Glock impressed by keeping in touch with Kovalainen who at times was looking to emulate his compatriot’s good fortune but missed out on getting a much needed 12th to overhaul Marussia in the standings.

5. But Yet So Far

It is not unfair to call Webber’s race a disaster, strong all weekend at a track he dislikes it looked like he was building on a bit of momentum, and with Vettel jammed at the back he was determined to race flat out to win. He may have been on the front row, but like England at penalties and Team GB at baton changes, starts are definitely Webber’s weakness, and something other drivers aren’t afraid to call him out on. Whether it’s the start system or reactions, the length of time Webber has been at Red Bull, it is an issue that should have been solved by now because like the two previous comparisons it becomes an extra psychological test above and beyond those around him.

Whether it was frustration with himself for adding one more bad start to the list or feeling the pressure from Vettel creeping up the grid, it doesn’t matter, the pass around the outside of Maldonado through turn 11 was clumsy to say the least, especially when the Williams driver was struggling on his tyres, he spun and lost several positions. The same goes for his attempt at the same place on Massa, using the run off he joined the grid ready to let the Brazilian pass (having overtaken his outside track confines) Massa spun unexpectantly and Webber escapes two stewards investigations. His luck ran out, however, when his pit stop dumped him into traffic that eventually collide, Perez into di Resta which collected Grosjean and Webber, the latter two retiring there and then.

6. Keeping the Stewards Busy

After a 4+ hour wait for the result of Vettel’s penalty on Saturday night, the raft of incidents lining up to be investigated could have extended the race weekend right up to Austin. But the stewards were clearly in the mood for making decisions as they came thick and fast, Webber escaped both investigations, for reasons Massa could not understand stating that he had to brake hard to avoid hitting him.

Perez was the one who fell foul of the sole penalty handed out when he was deemed to have ‘forced car 11 (di Resta) from the track and caused a collision with car 10 (Grosjean) and was given a 10 second stop and go that dumped him out of the points. First lap incidents rarely get investigated, and it was the same for Hulkenberg who got a bit too greedy and was squeezed by di Resta and Senna (who went onto score points) into turn 1, with nowhere to go his day was over before the second corner.

7. Thank You Sid

Triggering the first safety car was not the way Rosberg wanted to leave his mark on the race after a strong performance in qualifying, but after classifying the incident ‘unavoidable’ he really had no choice. Finding himself at the back following a early trip to the pits as a result of contact with Grosjean (who suffered a puncture), he was lining up to make a pass on Karthikeyan when the HRT experienced a hydraulic failure. At turn 16 Karthikeyan had to slow dramatically to make the turn Rosberg’s closing speed launched him over the top of the car in front and into the Tech-Pro barriers. Some may think Formula One has become too safe, but years ago it would have been unlikely that Rosberg and Karthikeyan would have been able to walk away unhurt as they were today.

So a huge thanks to Professor Sid Watkins and to all those who made improving safety in Formula One a priority.

Race Stats

Qualifying

Hamilton

Webber

Vettel

Pole

L Hamilton  1:40.630 (McLaren)

Laps

55

Weather

Dry

Safety Car

Two

Results

1. Räikkönen

Lotus

1:45:58.667

2. Alonso

Ferrari

1:45:59.519

3. Vettel

Red Bull

1:46:02.830

Fastest Lap

Vettel

Red Bull

1:43.964

Retirements

Hulkenberg

Force India

[0] Accident

Rosberg

Mercedes

[7] Accident

Karthikeyan

HRT

[7] Accident

Hamilton

McLaren

[19] Fuel Pressure

Webber

Red Bull

[37] Accident

Grosjean

Lotus

[37] Accident

Pic

Marussia

[41] Engine

Penalties

Webber

Contact with Maldonado

No further action

Webber

Contact with Massa

No further action

Rosberg

Collision with Karthikeyan

No further action

Perez

Forced di Resta from track

10 second stop and go

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