Hamilton wins after shock Vettel retirement

2011 Abu Dhabi GP review

Start, Abu DHabi, 2011

Start, Abu DHabi, 2011

Lewis Hamilton won his third race of the year after Sebastian Vettel surprisingly retired from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver pirouetted out of the race within moments of the start following a mystery puncture.

That opened the door for Hamilton, who led home Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for victory.

Vettel spins out

The race took a dramatic turn within seconds of the start. Vettel got away cleanly and led into turn one untroubled by Hamilton behind.

But as he turned into the second corner the Red Bull snapped sideways and spun off, his right-rear tyre punctured. The field hammered by as Vettel dragged his car back onto the track and slowly around to the pits.

Driving a long, slow lap of Yas Marina caused suspension damage and Vettel’s race ended when he returned to his garage.

The lead of the race fell neatly into Hamilton’s hands, and behind him a frantic scrap for position handed him a 2.5-second lead by the end of the first lap.

Fernando Alonso picked off Mark Webber on the outside of turn one then set about attacking Jenson Button to claim second.

Button under attack

Hamilton maintained his advantage over Alonso while Button initially slipped back into the clutches of Mark Webber and Felipe Massa.

The McLaren driver began to draw away and his race engineer told him he was now safe from Webber in the DRS zone. But after a KERS problem developed on the McLaren Button came under pressure again.

Webber mounted an attack in the DRS zone, squeezing down the inside of Button at turn 11. But the McLaren driver responded, coming back on the inside of turn 14 to keep the position.

Shortly afterwards Felipe Massa was into the pits and this visit prompted several others to follow him. Hamilton, Alonso and Button all followed on the next lap.

McLaren coped well with pitting both their cars on the same lap, though Button got away slightly slowly due to a slow change on the right-rear tyre. But that was nothing compared to Webber, who had a very slow stop on his visit on the next lap, and temporarily dropped out of the battle for third.

Hamilton continued to manage a three-second lead over Alonso in the second stint, while Massa and Webber gradually closed in on the McLaren driver. Battle was joined between all three of them at roughly the same time, but as Webber began attacking Massa the pair fell back from Button again.

Webber’s strategy gamble

While most drivers stuck to a two-stop strategy, Red Bull gambled on a three-stop strategy to help get Webber in front of Massa and Button. He took a third set of option tyres and ran them until the penultimate lap of the race trying to build up a gap over the pair.

Massa spun off at turn one late in the race but it likely made no difference to the end result as Webber jumped the Ferrari. But Webber couldn’t build up enough of a gap over Button, whose KERS was now working, and who slotted back into third.

Alonso had two laps in the lead after Hamilton made his final pit stop. But despite spending longer on the soft tyres while Hamilton switched to the mediums, Alonso was unable to move ahead of the McLaren at the pit stops.

Nico Rosberg briefly ran third as he postponed his last pit stop, leaving him sixth ahead of his team mate. The other Mercedes driver pulled up with a puncture after taking the chequered flag.

He had been pursued by Adrian Sutil who finished just over a second behind him. The other Force India of Paul di Resta was ninth after pursuing an unconventional one-stop strategy, running a long first stint on medium tyres.

Buemi retires again

Di Resta spent the opening stint swapping places with Sebastien Buemi. The Toro Rosso driver repeatedly passed him in the first DRS zone, only for the Force India to come by in the second – a phenomenon repeated between other pairs of drivers. The matter was eventually settled when Di Resta ran wide at turn 11, handing the position to Buemi.

But the Toro Rosso driver’s race didn’t last much longer. For the second Grand Prix in a row his STR6 let him down.

Kamui Kobayashi claimed the final point. Like Di Resta, he started the race on the harder tyres but pitted earlier and had to pick his way through the slower cars – taking both HRTs in a single corner at one point.

Kobayashi’s single point – his first since the German Grand Prix – edges Sauber ahead of Toro Rosso in the battle for seventh in the constructors’ championship.

His Sauber team mate Sergio Perez was 11th ahead of Rubens Barrichello, who climbed his way up from the back row. Behind Vitaly Petrov in 13th was Pastor Maldonado, who fell foul of the stewards twice during the race.

On both occasions it was his driving while passing blue flags that was under question. He served one drive-through penalty for it and was under investigation for holding up Webber as the race ended.

Bruno Senna also picked up a penalty for holding up a car that was lapping him. He finished 16th behind Jaime Alguersuari. The Lotuses, Timo GLock and Vitantonio Liuzzi were the remaining finishers.

Daniel Ricciardo was a late retirement from the race having spent much of it ahead of his team mate.

Hamilton’s third win

A joyful Hamilton dedicated his victory to his mother. Despite an often difficult season, he has now won three races, as many as his team mate.

That leaves the way clear for McLaren to end the season in Brazil on a high after a rare moment of weakness by their biggest rivals.

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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158 comments on Hamilton wins after shock Vettel retirement

  1. Gridlock (@gridlock) said on 13th November 2011, 22:44

    If you pause the BBC footage you can actually see Flavio Briatore on a grassy knoll next to the entry to turn 2 with what looks like a stinger from Road Wars. On the HD version you can even see the betting slip in his pocket.

    • STSCM (@stscm) said on 14th November 2011, 0:19

      Darn, (a friendlier term than what I would normally use) I wrote about grassy knolls earlier and deleted it! I bow to your authorships magnificence!. (Did you know that area is named after my boyhoods hero’s father? Just a data point….)

  2. Alonsomatic (@the0506alonsomatic) said on 14th November 2011, 1:04

    Alonso must be thinking that this is the result he should’ve had last year….Another great drive. He is always pushing whatever car he drives to the limit and this time he was on the podium. Like he said, the only trophy missing from any circuit was this one and he got it!

  3. When Hamilton makes mistakes the world points at him. Today he won the race convincingly and there are some comments diminishing his victory. This is ridiculous. When Vettel dominate the race he’s espetacular, brilliant. Lewis did the same thing today and he was not brilliant?? He drove a perfect race to hold off Alonso. Also, Lewis was the most consistent driver of the weekend.

    Button on his top performance won the same number of races that Hamilton on his worst.

    • nefor (@nefor) said on 14th November 2011, 5:31

      The reason people are not calling his victory spectacular is almost certainly due to Seb retiring. It’s understandable, this season he has been the yard stick for all other drivers and winning a race without him there to be beaten on track is likely to diminish the reaction of the viewers. I recall something similar with Rossi in the MotoGP some years back when he crashed out and couldn’t compete to defend his championship. Everyone was saying ‘what if’.

      The other drivers are unlikely to admit it but the fans want to see the best drivers competing. When Lewis took the fight to Fernando in 2007 it was special because FA was the world champion and Lewis was the up and coming rookie with huge promise. He didn’t fall into a McLaren seat by accident he had a great talent to back him up. Lewis was given huge praise for matching one of the best drivers F1 has seen.

      When JB won his world championship he was widely criticised because he had won with such a dominant car in the early season and no one was able to measure him against Fernando in the lacklustre Renault, Lewis in the terrible (at the start) McLaren) or Kimi in the equally awful Ferrari. There is an element of truth to all this, plenty of people said stick Lewis in that Brawn and he’d wipe the floor with Jenson and yet the last two years have proven JB to actually be a very fast and competent driver. No he doesn’t have the raw speed Lewis has, I don’t think many would claim he does but he has excellent race craft and he has been a match for Lewis over a season where the young lad has had a lot of trouble to deal with off the track. Lewis will learn from this season and will be stronger for it in the future.

      Is this win special? Yes, it shows Lewis is heading back in the right direction, he had a great weekend and capped it with a measured and mature win.
      Is it less special because Sebastian was forced to retire? Yes, because people with wonder what could have been.

    • ob1kenobi.23 (@ob1kenobi23) said on 15th November 2011, 3:13

      This is not true. When Seb wins, the race is usually regarded as a borefest & that he only won because he;s in the best car or his team mate was nobbled etc..
      You only have to look at the “rate the race” table to see that the top 6 are mostly the races he did’nt win.
      With the number of races that he has won he has rarely been voted DOTW.

  4. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 14th November 2011, 3:07

    Good race from Hamilton he needed that,he lost his momentum in the middle of the season now he is back & back with a bang.Hope his smile in this race stay with him for 2012.Good battle between the two Mercedes in the opening sequences of corner also between Webber & Button.Also Force India carries it’s momentum,the double DRS zone was a failure in this race,FIA need to look at it in the future & only should have one DRS.

  5. Alain (@paganbasque) said on 14th November 2011, 8:09

    Brilliant victory by Lewis, its nice to see tha he is back. also Alonso did a good race. I hope to see both fighting for the championship next year.

    And about Mercedes, I dont know what you think but it was quite embarrasing to see a Mercedes(Schumacher) “losing pieces”. It has been an awful weekend for Schumi, with top-speed problems, rear wing problems, losing pieces and finally a puncture. Its at least strange, isnt it??? :(

  6. Victory for Hamilton as Vettel spins out

    Hamilton voted THAT puncture as “heard prayer of the weekend”

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