Lewis Hamilton was back on form as he scored his third win of 2011.
|Lewis Hamilton||Jenson Button|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’38.622 (-0.009)||1’38.631|
McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
|Pit stop 1||Soft 19.439s|
|Pit stop 2||Medium 19.35s|
Hamilton looked set to take pole position after topping the second and third practice sessions and being comfortably quickest in Q2. But as the track cooled in Q3 Hamilton, like several other drivers, found himself unable to replicate his best time.
His Q2 time was quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s pole position lap. Nonetheless he lined up on the front row of the grid for the third year in a row at Abu Dhabi.
He was therefore perfectly placed to inherit the lead when Vettel spun off in front of him at the second corner with a puncture. Hamilton admitted he had initially been worried about avoiding the Red Bull: “I didn?óÔé¼Ôäót know which way it was going to go, so I was just trying to avoid that.
“I saw immediately that something had happened to his tyre, and that?óÔé¼Ôäós why he was going sideways. I was just making sure that I didn?óÔé¼Ôäót collect him as he potentially [could come] across the track.”
From then on the only threat to Hamilton’s third of the season came from behind as Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari stayed within range.
It could have been close at the start of the final stint as Alonso ran longer than Hamilton, but the McLaren driver stayed ahead and pulled away once both drivers were on the harder tyres.
It may have been less spectacular than his wins in China and Germany this year. But after an often troubled season, with numerous collisions and penalties, it seemed a weight had been lifted from Hamilton’s shoulders after this win.
“I definitely think that this weekend I’ve been clearer in my mind and I?óÔé¼Ôäóve had less weighing on me, less thoughts and issues or whatever problems that I’ve got,” he said.
“I was just able to drive clearly. I think my qualifying has always been generally good and my practice has always been pretty good but obviously in the last race I had that mistake which was… I was just not thinking straight and this weekend I was able to think straight.
“I don?óÔé¼Ôäót know if that?óÔé¼Ôäós because I had some great support here or what, but it?óÔé¼Ôäós been a positive feeling all weekend. I felt like I was on it all weekend so I just feel very fortunate to have come out and finish and had the car last and not get into any trouble.”
|Pit stop 1||Soft 20.908s|
|Pit stop 2||Medium 20.301s|
Button enjoyed the cooler track conditions late in Q3 which provoked a transition towards understeer in his car which suited his driving style. Though he was beaten by Hamilton for the 13th time this year in qualifying, the gap was a wafer-thin nine-thousandths of a second.
Alonso passed him on the first lap and he shortly came under pressure from Mark Webber as well. The Red Bull driver passed him in the first DRS zone at one point, but Button re-passed him in the next.
Button then managed to pull away – his race engineer congratulated him on getting out of range of Webber’s DRS attacks.
But on lap 12 his KERS stopped working and the Red Bull began to catch him again. Webber launched another attack on lap 15, this time in the second DRS zone, and got through – but again Button was ready to re-pass and took him at turn 14.
Button spent much of the rest of the race grappling with his KERS. Button said the team were eventually able to get it working again: “My engineer came over the radio and told me they?óÔé¼Ôäód found a way to make it work again ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ but it meant pushing lots of buttons on the steering wheel every couple of laps because it only returned intermittently.
“So I’d arrive at a corner and not know whether I had any engine braking because I had no warning. So selecting the right spot at which to brake was tough.”
Despite that he pressed on, pulled away from Massa and was not troubled by Webber’s attempt to jump ahead of the McLaren by running a three-stop strategy.
He finished third and in doing so guaranteed he will finish ahead of Hamilton in the world championship.
Afterwards Martin Whitmarsh heaped praise on both drivers, calling Hamilton’s efforts “utterly faultless” and hailing Button’s “absolutely storming” drive in challenging circumstances.
2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Hamilton voted Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend
- Rate the race result: 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Pirelli say tyre failure did not cause Vettel retirement
- Vote for your Abu Dhabi GP driver of the weekend
- McLaren: Relief for Hamilton after return to winning ways
- Ferrari: Slow pit stop costs Alonso shot at victory
- Red Bull: Mystery puncture halts the Vettel steamroller
- Mercedes: Rosberg comes out ahead after first-lap scrap
- Force India: Team tightens grasp on sixth in championship
- Sauber: Kobayashi ends seven-race drought
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