Alonso can get payback for 2010 in Abu Dhabi

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2012Fernando Alonso has a major opportunity to overhaul Sebastian Vettel’s 13-point championship lead in a single race in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel will start the race from the pit lane after being penalised for having insufficient fuel available for a sample following qualifying.

Two years ago Vettel snatched the championship from Alonso at this very track. Now Alonso has a chance to claim payback and stake his claim on the 2012 crown.

The start

Vettel’s demise means there are now four different cars in the top four places on the grid: McLaren, Red Bull, Williams and Lotus. The highest Ferrari, that of Alonso, is only sixth, and his start will be critical to how his race develops.

The run to the first corner is short at just 300m and the pole sitter has never lost the lead between the grid and the first corner. Even so Lewis Hamilton, who started from pole here in 2009, is anxious about making a clean getaway:

“At the start, it?s down to the team to make sure the clutch performs perfectly because the getaway will be incredibly important. Our race pace is very strong, but so is Red Bull’s ?ǣ and staying ahead will be tough, particularly with the double DRS zones.”

The only good news for Vettel is he won’t have to go through turn two on the first lap, which was where his race went wrong last year. As the field scream through the first two corners he will negotiate Abu Dhabi’s unusual underground pit exit and then go sprinting after them.


Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2012How Vettel’s race unfolds from there will be shaped to a large degree by how well-equipped the Red Bull RB8 is for overtaking. As we’ve seen in recent races the car is conceived around taking pole position and pulling away from the field. Straight-line speed isn’t its strong point (see below).

This was particularly clear in Belgium, where Vettel did a superb job to climb from 12th at the end of lap one to finish second. He struggled to pass cars in the DRS zone, but was able to use the RB8’s superior downforce to close on cars through the high-speed Blanchimont and make passes at the chicane.

Though he should have little difficulty picking off the stragglers in the DRS zone, Vettel may have to get creative once he finds himself in the midfield. Merely getting into the lower reaches of the points may prove a challenge.

As his car has been taken out of parc ferme and will start from the pits the team may be able to make some set-up changes to help him. But they’re unlikely to be able to radically transform the car’s top speed.

One factor that would considerably aid Vettel’s progress is a safety car deployment. That would close the field up and bring him closer to the cars in front. However in the past three races here it’s only come out once.

As the tyre selection for this race is again on the conservative side we are likely to see drivers making single stops for tyres during the race. This may give Vettel a strategic opportunity to gain places using an aggressive two-stop strategy.

There wasn’t much to separate the front-runners on their race fuel stints during second practice. However Raikkonen (speaking before Vettel’s penalty) believes his car is quick enough to take on those in front of him: “The car hasn?t felt fantastic all weekend but we decided we weren?t going to change the car?s set-up from where it was for the last race.

“It was the right choice because in the end the circuit came to us in qualifying where the car was the best it has been so far here. We?ll give tomorrow our best shot; Let?s see if we can make a good start to get right behind the Red Bulls, and then we?ll see what happens after that.”

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’41.497 1’40.901 (-0.596) 1’40.630 (-0.271)
2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’41.933 1’41.277 (-0.656) 1’40.978 (-0.299)
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’42.160 1’41.511 (-0.649) 1’41.073 (-0.438)
4 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’41.981 1’41.907 (-0.074) 1’41.226 (-0.681)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’42.222 1’41.532 (-0.690) 1’41.260 (-0.272)
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1’42.342 1’41.873 (-0.469) 1’41.290 (-0.583)
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’41.939 1’41.514 (-0.425) 1’41.582 (+0.068)
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’41.926 1’41.698 (-0.228) 1’41.603 (-0.095)
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’41.974 1’41.846 (-0.128) 1’41.723 (-0.123)
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’42.046 1’41.620 (-0.426) 1’41.778 (+0.158)
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’42.579 1’42.019 (-0.560)
12 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’42.624 1’42.084 (-0.540)
13 Paul di Resta Force India 1’42.572 1’42.218 (-0.354)
14 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’42.735 1’42.289 (-0.446)
15 Bruno Senna Williams 1’43.298 1’42.330 (-0.968)
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’43.582 1’42.606 (-0.976)
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’43.280 1’42.765 (-0.515)
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’44.058
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’44.956
20 Charles Pic Marussia 1’45.089
21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’45.151
22 Timo Glock Marussia 1’45.426
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’45.766
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’46.382

Vettel’s penalty is a lifeline for Alonso. His championship chances initially suffered a setback in qualifying as he could only manage seventh. Technical director Pat Fry admitted that despite breaking the curfew twice and bringing a stack of new parts the team had not found the gains they needed:

“We had brought various updates here, some only fitted to Fernando?s car, because we do not yet have enough of them for both. Unfortunately, the whole package did not work the way we had expected before coming here, at least relative to the progress that the other teams have made.

“Both Felipe and Fernando did the maximum they could: unfortunately they had already reached the limit in Q2, which explains why it?s not by chance that Fernando did practically the same time three times in a row, while the others raised the bar in Q3.”

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 17.627 (1) 42.620 (1) 40.349 (1)
Mark Webber 17.760 (7) 42.681 (2) 40.501 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 17.756 (6) 42.691 (3) 40.543 (3)
Pastor Maldonado 17.867 (10) 42.701 (4) 40.658 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen 17.751 (5) 42.833 (8) 40.587 (4)
Jenson Button 17.711 (2) 42.715 (5) 40.864 (7)
Fernando Alonso 17.719 (3) 42.844 (9) 40.883 (8)
Nico Rosberg 17.940 (14) 42.724 (6) 40.939 (10)
Felipe Massa 17.821 (8) 42.761 (7) 40.998 (12)
Romain Grosjean 17.730 (4) 42.979 (11) 40.781 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg 17.904 (11) 42.960 (10) 41.155 (13)
Sergio Perez 17.823 (9) 43.137 (16) 40.906 (9)
Paul di Resta 17.937 (13) 43.023 (13) 41.182 (14)
Michael Schumacher 18.055 (16) 42.989 (12) 41.183 (15)
Bruno Senna 17.918 (12) 43.213 (17) 40.976 (11)
Kamui Kobayashi 17.977 (15) 43.093 (15) 41.373 (16)
Daniel Ricciardo 18.141 (17) 43.076 (14) 41.548 (17)
Jean-Eric Vergne 18.177 (18) 43.314 (18) 42.167 (18)
Heikki Kovalainen 18.351 (21) 43.831 (19) 42.694 (20)
Charles Pic 18.283 (19) 44.175 (23) 42.573 (19)
Vitaly Petrov 18.367 (22) 43.897 (20) 42.887 (21)
Timo Glock 18.305 (20) 44.165 (22) 42.930 (22)
Pedro de la Rosa 18.416 (23) 44.081 (21) 43.124 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 18.604 (24) 44.309 (24) 43.230 (24)

Jenson Button was surprised at his gap to Hamilton, most of which came in the last sector, where Hamilton has tended to be strong:

“I shouldn?t really be starting this far back,” Button admitted. “All weekend, I?ve been pretty happy with the car, but, for some reason, we just couldn?t find the pace in qualifying ?ǣ and we don?t know why.

“Obviously, our car is very quick around here ?ǣ Lewis put it on pole by quite a margin ?ǣ so there?s some more time to find.”

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Pastor Maldonado Williams 325.8 (202.4)
2 Bruno Senna Williams 323.0 (200.7) -2.8
3 Sergio Perez Sauber 322.2 (200.2) -3.6
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 320.0 (198.8) -5.8
5 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 319.9 (198.8) -5.9
6 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 319.8 (198.7) -6.0
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 319.7 (198.7) -6.1
8 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 319.4 (198.5) -6.4
9 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 317.3 (197.2) -8.5
10 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 317.3 (197.2) -8.5
11 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 316.9 (196.9) -8.9
12 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 316.6 (196.7) -9.2
13 Charles Pic Marussia 316.3 (196.5) -9.5
14 Timo Glock Marussia 316.3 (196.5) -9.5
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus 314.8 (195.6) -11.0
16 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 314.5 (195.4) -11.3
17 Paul di Resta Force India 313.8 (195.0) -12.0
18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 313.7 (194.9) -12.1
19 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 313.7 (194.9) -12.1
20 Jenson Button McLaren 313.5 (194.8) -12.3
21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 311.8 (193.7) -14.0
22 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 311.7 (193.7) -14.1
23 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 311.4 (193.5) -14.4
24 Mark Webber Red Bull 311.2 (193.4) -14.6

Alonso’s strong straight-line speed was a major factor of his strong race in India.

But if anyone should feel confident about making passes tomorrow it’s Pastor Maldonado, who was comfortably the quickest in a straight line during qualifying.

Abu Dhabi has two DRS zones on consecutive straights, each with their own activation point. This may make it possible for a driver who is overtaken in the first DRS zone to re-pass in the second, as we saw last year.

Over to you

Can Alonso make it onto the podium? Where will Vettel finish after starting from the pit lane? And who will be leading the world championship in 24 hours’ time?

Share your views on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the comments.

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Images ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Red Bull/Getty images

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91 comments on Alonso can get payback for 2010 in Abu Dhabi

  1. Minardi (@gitanes) said on 4th November 2012, 2:58

    Christmas has come early!!! Alonso 3rd and Vettel 7th is my prediction, which would cut the lead to 2 points.
    Then we just need some rain in Texas or Brazil.

  2. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 4th November 2012, 3:28

    As much as I want Fred to win the WDC… I wouldn’t be disappointed to see Lewis get the win here. He’s going to Merc and who know’s when he’ll get another.

  3. Kimi4WDC said on 4th November 2012, 6:52

    Alonso can get a pay cut in 2013.

  4. leotef (@leotef) said on 4th November 2012, 8:07

    Ha, it may be interesting to see how Vettel crawl back on the grid, which is quite possible given RB’s capability. Question would be how many places and will it be enough to get into the points? If he can climb up to maybe 10th, wouldn’t Ferarri instruct Massa to definitely defend him off the scoring position? Well, got to see.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th November 2012, 10:39

    Red Bull have made the following changes to Vettel’s car, presumably to give him better straight-line speed and improve his chances of getting through the field:

    The following part has been replaced during the parc ferme today by the Red Bull Racing team:

    Car 01: Gearbox

    The gearbox has been replaced with the approval of the FIA technical delegate following a written request from the team concerned, this being in accordance with Article 34.1 of the 2012 Formula One Sporting Regulations. But this gearbox change was before the five consecutive Events expired.

    Therefore this is not in compliance with Article 28.6a of the 2012 Formula One Sporting Regulations.

    Further the new gearbox has different ratios fitted than declared Friday after P2. Also changes to the suspension set-up are made on car number 01.

    Due to the different gear ratios been fitted and the suspension set-up changes car number 01 should now be required to start from the pit lane according to Article 34.5 of the 2012 Formula One Sporting Regulations.

    The stewards have received a report from the FIA F1 technical delegate that the gearbox, gear ratios and suspension set-up have been changed on car 1.

    The stewards decide that car 1 is required to start the race from the pit lane in accordance with article 34.5 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.

    As the first part notes Vettel should get a five-place grid penalty for the gearbox change, but it’s a moot point as he’s starting from the pits anyway.

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 4th November 2012, 10:45

      so we will see what pure race spec RB8 can do. but time penalty of pit lane start is significant unless there’s SC.

    • Why wouldn’t they transfer the 5 place grid penalty to the next race?

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th November 2012, 10:49

        Because there’s no provision for that to be done under the rules.

        • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 4th November 2012, 11:11

          To be honest that’s quite a severe oversight in the rules and regulations. Everyone else on the grid has to race what they brought to the race, and the reason that Seb is starting in pit lane is because of what “RBR” brought to the race. The rules should not allow changes in the car because a rule was broken in the first place. There should be a penalty for changes into the next race.

          • The penalty is that he is not just starting dead last, but starting from the pit lane. He will have to pass 14 cars to get a single point. Six are backmarkers, but the rest will put up a fight.

        • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 4th November 2012, 11:42

          Yes KJ … but my point is that RBR have to race what they brought to the race as everyone else does. How is it fair that RBR can change their gearbox, settings and whatever when back-markers have to race according to the rules?

          • I totally agree with you and do not understand how FIA allowed it. How fair is it that RBR can now break any other rule just because they have already been penalized for something unrelated?!

          • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 4th November 2012, 12:48

            It’s not fair but there is no rule against it.

          • I guess, but that’s where stewards usually come in with common sense. Ex: There’s a rule for causing a collision, but I don’t think there’s a specific rule where someone will be penalized when causing collisions in multiple races, but common sense had the stewards ban Grosjean for a race.

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 4th November 2012, 10:57

      That is excellent news :)
      I hop to see him fighting his way through the field today :)

    • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 4th November 2012, 11:06

      So much for “cheats never prosper”.

      But I guess the new set-up is untested, with new gear ratios, suspension settings and everything – and wasn’t the team’s first choice. They may have simulated the life out of it, but they won’t know how it rides over the kerbs for real. So he could struggle for pace anyway.

      I hope the TV director shows lots of Vettel on the attack early on.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th November 2012, 11:16

        @bullfrog What makes you think they cheated?

        • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 4th November 2012, 11:27

          Don’t mean to imply it was all premeditated – but they broke a rule. And it puts them in a position where they have a free shot at changing their car significantly, with some prior knowledge of the set-ups everybody else is running.

          I guess it’s only the same as a driver with a grid penalty from the previous race (or an engine change) choosing to change a few things, and start from the pit lane – but still doesn’t seem quite right to me.

      • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 4th November 2012, 11:19

        I’d say that most of the drivers will do their best to keep Seb behind them.

  6. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th November 2012, 11:36

    Vettel’s misfortune really has set us up a potentially brilliant race…this could overhaul Valencia s the race of the season :P

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