Vettel finished 19 races in the top four before a puncture put him out in Abu Dhabi.
|Sebastian Vettel||Mark Webber|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’38.481 (-0.377)||1’38.858|
Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
Vettel lost time in the second practice session when he spun and hit the wall at the first corner. He was able to rejoin the session later on, though he admitted afterwards he was unhappy with the car’s performance.
After changing the car’s set-up overnight he was much happier and duly claimed his 14th pole position of the season, staying on top of the changing track conditions in Q3 better than his nearest rivals.
So far, so predictable for 2011. But the race went anything but according to plan as Vettel led for all of a few hundred metres before spinning off with a right-rear puncture.
“On the exit of the first corner everything seemed fine,” he said. “And then turning into the second corner I could feel that something was odd on the rear right.
“I had to catch the car surprisingly and then the second time, I couldn’t do it any more, as I’d lost too much air in the rear right tyre. I had a puncture and spun off.”
He limped back to the pits but driving the best part of a 5.5km lap with shredded rubber flailing from the tyre carcass damaged his suspension, putting him out. It also compromised efforts to investigate what had caused the failure.
The manner in which the tyre came away from the wheel rim raised suspicions about a failure in that area, possibly caused by a cut. After the race Vettel inspected the kerb at the exit of turn one to see if anything there might have damaged the tyre.
This was his first failure to finish since last year’s Korean Grand Prix, when he had an engine failure. In the intervening 19 races he has had 13 wins, four seconds, one third and one fourth place finish.
|Pit stop 1||Soft 25.182s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 20s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 19.525s|
Webber described his last run in qualifying as “scrappy” and was one of several drivers who couldn’t improve on his Q2 effort.
Fernando Alonso passed him on the outside of turn one. The Ferrari driver then passed Jenson Button leaving Webber to battle the McLaren driver.
Webber got past Button briefly in the first DRS zone but Button reversed the move in the second. He then pulled away from the Red Bull, only for Webber to catch up again.
On lap 15 Webber made another successful move on Button, this time in the second DRS zone, but Button came back at him at turn 14 and claimed the place back.
Webber pitted after Button on lap 17 but a delay getting the right-rear wheel on cost him around six seconds and dropped him behind Felipe Massa. It was the second-slowest pit stop of the race.
Over the second stint Webber reeled in Massa and Button but the Red Bull’s typically poor straight-line speed inhibited his attempts to overtake.
The team therefore gambled on switching him to a three-stop strategy, giving him another set of soft tyres on lap 35. This bought him some clear air and a string of fastest laps put him on the cusp of having enough margin over Massa to pit and come out ahead. Then Massa spun at turn one, handing Webber fourth place.
He never looked like being able to overhaul Button, but the team deferred his mandatory switch to medium tyres until the last lap anyway. That accomplished – with the third-fastest pit stop of the race – he returned to the track to finish fourth.
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
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images