Raikkonen wins as Vettel races from pits to podium

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

Start, Yas Marina, 2012Kimi Raikkonen returned to the top of an F1 podium for this first time in over three years after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Raikkonen inherited the lead of the race when Lewis Hamilton retired and withstood severe pressure from Fernando Alonso in the final laps of the race.

At the end of a dramatic race saw Sebastian Vettel claimed the final a place on the podium despite having started in the pits.

Fast-starting Alonso claims fourth

With Vettel’s race not starting until the rest of the field had passed through turn one, Alonso had an opportunity to put one over his rival – which he wasn’t about to waste.

He took Jenson Button at the exit of turn one at the start and demoted Mark Webber on lap one as well.

The Red Bull driver had started slowly, allowing Raikkonen to dodge around him and take up second behind Hamilton. Pastor Maldonado held third, keeping Alonso at bay.

The Force India pair tangled at the first corner and further contact with Bruno Senna ended Hulkenberg’s race. Paul di Resta headed for the pits with a puncture, as did Romain Grosjean, who had contact with Nico Rosberg further around the lap.

This handed a few places to Vettel and he gained several more as he picked off Charles Pic, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov, Timo Glock and Heikki Kovalainen. That moved him up to 13th place.

Huge crash for Rosberg and Karthikeyan

Rosberg had also pitted for repairs at the end of lap one and was making his recovery when he caught the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan. Heading into turn 16, Karthikeyan’s steering locked solid and he suddenly came off the power.

Rosberg had no time to react. The result was a shocking crash, the Mercedes vaulting over the HRT, narrowly missing Karthikeyan’s head. With debris all over the racing line the safety car was summoned.

This gave Vettel, who had damaged his front wing racing with Senna, the chance to dicuss the situation with engineer Guillaume Rocquelin. “We’re not worried about the front wing damage,” said Rocquelin. “Keep an eye on it,” replied Vettel, “maybe we can change it on the pit stop.”

That decision changed moments later when Vettel was caught out by Daniel Ricciardo braking in front of him on the straight. “What is he doing, he’s stopping all the time” exclaimed a furious Vettel.

He swerved off the track avoiding the Toro Rosso, damaging his front wing even further. “Right there was the stupid DRS board which I managed to hit straight on,” he said after the race. “Finally had to change the front wing.”

So when the safety car came back in after lap 14 Vettel was back at the rear of the field and potentially facing over 40 laps to go on his new set of soft tyres.

Hamilton retires from the lead

Hamilton was disappointed to see his lead eradicated by the safety car but he swiftly restored his advantage over the Lotus when the race resumed.

Behind then Alonso made a mistake and came under pressure from Webber but the Red Bull’s straight-line speed wasn’t good enough to make a move stick on the fourth-placed Ferrari.

But Alonso’s fortunes suddenly changed when, on lap 19, Hamilton’s car came to a stop with a loss of fuel pressure. For the second time this year it had failed him while he was leading.

Alonso was up to third and that became second when Maldonado lost KERS, allowing the Ferrari to get by. But Webber’s attempt to do the same on lap 23 went wrong – the pair made contact, tipping Webber into a spin which left him seventh. Maldonado continued to slip back with first Button, then Perez passing the Williams.

Vettel climbs into the points

While all this was going on Vettel was climbing his way back into the points. He picked off a string of cars in the first laps after the restart. Crucially, he did so quickly enough to be able to take advantage of those in front of him who were beginning to pit.

This was despite a hasty move on Grosjean in which Vettel put all four wheels off the track. Anxious to avoid a repeat of his penalty from Germany, Red Bull wisely advised Vettel to surrender the position. He did, and re-passed Grosjean shortly afterwards.

After passing Ricciardo and Michael Schumacher Vettel was up to eighth and had his team mate in sight. Webber was pressuring the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who had been told twice by race engineer Rob Smedley that the team wanted him to stay out.

Webber attacked Massa at turn 11 and again there was contact. The Red Bull took to the escape road and Massa pirouetted as he rounded the off-camber turn 13. Smedley was quickly on to the stewards but they ruled it had been a racing incident.

Vettel claimed another place from Massa and was now closing on Webber. Ciraon Pilbeam advised Webber not to put up a fight against his team mate: “He’s on fresher tyres and a different strategy.”

The leaders were now well into their pit stops and as they came in Vettel suddenly found himself in second place with Raikkonen not far ahead. But his soft tyres were beginning to wilt and Alonso was closing in behind, despite also having the McLaren of Button on his tail.

Red Bull resigned themselves to the inevitable and brought Vettel in. This proved fortuitous timing when the safety car was deployed minutes later.

This came after a four-way battle for fifth place ended in tears. Grosjean attempted to repel an attack from Di Resta, allowing Perez to make a move around the outside of the pair of them at turn 11. But the Sauber had to take to the run-off on the outside of turn 13 as Di Resta cut the inside of the corner.

Returning to the track, Perez found Grosjean on his inside and the pair collided. Grosjean’s car was mortally wounded, and Webber behind was unable to avoid the Lotus. Scratch two more cars – and Perez’s race was spoiled by a ten-second stop-go penalty from the stewards.

“You don’t need to remind me all the time”

Lotus were anxious to avoid any late dramas for Raikkonen during the second safety car period and were reminding him of the need to keep his tyres up to temperature when he told them in no uncertain terms that such messages were superfluous: “Yes, yes, yes, you don’t need to remind me all the time.”

He scorched away from the field when the race resumed, leaving Alonso to fend off Button and – remarkably – Vettel, who had the benefit of a fresh set of soft tyres for the closing laps of the race.

He was also aided by much-improved straight-line speed, as starting from the pit lane allowed him team to make changes to his car to make it more competitive in a straight-line. However these alterations were completely untried before the race began.

At first Button remained in DRS range of Alonso, which gave him the edge he needed to keep clear of Vettel. But as Alonso pulled away from them the advantage swung towards Vettel.

Eventually he got closer to Button by braking daringly late for turn eight, got alongside on the following straight, and passed the McLaren driver on the outside at turn 11. Crucially, he and Button left each other more room than Maldonado and Webber had.

Alonso pushes Raikkonen to the end

That reduced the gains Alonso had made even further, but as the race drew to a close it looked as though Alonso might go one better than second place. He edged closer and closer to Raikkonen, and was just one second behind on the penultimate lap.

But as they began the final tour Raikkonen found a vital two-tenths to prevent Alonso from attacking him with DRS. That finally clinched the first win for a Lotus in over 25 years.

Vettel had jokingly told Alonso before the race that he’d see him on the podium, and Alonso can’t have been pleased to see the prediction come true. Vettel might have had the run of the green at times, but his final pass on Button was a hard-fought move and third place was a just reward for his indefatigable commitment.

Button was a disappointed fourth, while Maldonado held onto fifth despite a lack of KERS. He was aided by Kamui Kobayashi suffering a similar problem – a downshift problem meant his KERS wasn’t charging fully.

Massa held off Senna and Di Resta for seventh place and Ricciardo claimed the final point after resisting Schumacher in the final laps.

Jean-Eric Vergne was 12th ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. The Caterham driver held the 12th place the team badly need at an earlier stage but also suffered a KERS problem and ended up 13th. Glock, Perez, Petrov and De la Rosa were the remaining finishers.

Like Vettel, de la Rosa also started from the pits. After the race Vettel insisted he believed a podium finish was possible from there, though his team principal had not been so optimistic.

If Vettel retains his title this year, the damage limitation job he did in Abu Dhabi will have played a vital role in it.

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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200 comments on Raikkonen wins as Vettel races from pits to podium

  1. I Love the Pope said on 4th November 2012, 20:56

    You know, it is possible to like Vettel and Alonso. I do. I appreciate them both. I love the fact that they are both vying for a third title and going head-to-head. Whoever would think a drinks company relatively new to the sport would have the edge over a team as historically-significant as Ferrari? I think its awesome! Seb and Fernando are both great drivers. Lets just appreciate it. If Seb wins another title, he’s ahead of Alonso. But being at Ferrari, who would count him out next year?

    • Michael Brown (@) said on 5th November 2012, 1:07

      I’m a fan of both. Of course I rank Alonso higher and therefore would like to see him win the title over Vettel (which could still happen), I’d be happy if either wins.

  2. Green Streamer said on 4th November 2012, 20:57

    I’d just like to add to the debate about why drivers are seen as “lucky” or skilled.

    Vettel’s biggest problem is that he has the best car, so this will undoubtedly have the effect of undermining his driving ability in the minds of most people. People also don’t want to see luck go his way because that gives him a double advantage. When a driver who does not have the best car has a bit of good luck, it can be viewed as “levelling out the playing field” and so does not detract from the driver’s performance.

    Vettel will not be able to silence his critics until he manages to deliver in a car that is not the best. I think that’s the difference between him and Alonso / Hamilton. Both Alonso / Hamilton have been in a situation where they have overachieved in relation to the performance and expectations of their cars.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th November 2012, 21:37

      Although you explain what some people think rather well, it’s that Hamilton’s only really had an midfield car in the first half of 2009, while Vettel had a midfield car for half of 2007 as well as the 2008 season. Alonso has obviously been in this situation for longer than both of the other two. They all overachieved, in relation to the expectation of their cars in those periods.

  3. sumedh said on 4th November 2012, 21:00

    I don’t think any of the Vettel fans are denying that Vettel was lucky tonight. But what we are denying is that the drive was not ‘all’ down to luck. Yes, he benefited from incidents and retirements and safety cars. But even without them, Vettel was bound to finish 6th or 7th and that would have been a great drive anyways.

    Without the 2nd safety car, Vettel was going to finish 4th. If the 1st safety car wasn’t there, he would have never have had the incident with Daniel and hence wouldn’t have had to re-pit during that time. Regarding positions gained due to incidents, I am not counting Grosjean or Perez as when those two clashed Vettel was already ahead of them (and not ahead because of not pitting, the incident happened AFTER Vettel’s pit stop). Due to others’ incidents, he gained positions on Massa and Hamilton.

    So, in a hypothetical race where there were no safety cars and no incidents and on a track difficult to overtake, Vettel has climbed from last to 6th! (Hamilton, Button and Massa being the “lucky” overtakes). Name how many drivers have done as well previously.

    • Michael Brown (@) said on 4th November 2012, 21:28

      Very plausible. Hamilton this year had a good race from the back in Barcelona in what was probably the best car there. Vettel’s in Abu Dhabi was similar, but I don’t think the Red Bulls were the best, but they were very close to being there.

      What people seem to forget is that when the past drivers have had great drives from the back (like Barrichello in 2000) it was in a very competitive car.

    • astonished (@astonished) said on 5th November 2012, 9:39

      Alonso in Monaco the year he crashed in FP3, 2009. He started on the pit lane after missing Qualifying and I think finished 4th, but I am not sure. Of course he also got his “just on time” SC, but Monaco also gives some value to overtaking most of the field.

      Vettel’s this weekend, is what we have got to call “champions’ luck” and I think that nicely summarizes the whole thing. If you are unlucky it is hard to win, but you have to be ready to capitalize on good luck or even to “attract” it. As Napoleon put it once “I only want lucky generals in my army”

  4. @lhfan said on 4th November 2012, 22:05

    IMO vettel has moved more towards the status of being great. Stunning drive with the help of some luck obviously .

  5. @lhfan said on 4th November 2012, 22:21

    This race proves certain things
    1. Hamilton is so right in moving out of macca .They have let him down yet again .
    2. Vettel is not as bad as many think he is .
    3. Ferrari isnot as slow as alonso claims it to be . Remember jensen radio comment that they are soquick.
    4. Ferrari president was right about sergio.
    5. Webber and button are not a match for their teammates.

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 4th November 2012, 22:51

      That’s a very fair assessment of the race today.
      To add:
      Maldonado is capable of being in an incident where he isn’t to blame
      This race proves experience is incredibly important as well; so many young drivers getting into trouble. , (Di Resta, Perez, Grosjean)

    • Dave (@dworsley) said on 5th November 2012, 7:50

      Jenson said Alonso is fast in a straight line. That’s it. Jenson would say a drag racer is fast in a straight line, too. It is around the corners and braking where the Ferrari lacks compared to Red Bull, most likely due to a lack of downforce comparatively.

  6. Tom L. (@tom-l) said on 4th November 2012, 22:25

    I remember a similarly incident-packed race last year involving a front-running driver coming back from the very back of the field. He fought through in the latter stages of the race thanks to some good strategy calls and clinical overtaking manoeuvres, but also thanks to some safety car interventions, some of his rivals crashing out of contention and, of course, the odd slice of luck. He had to pull off this comeback drive as he had spent the first part of the race colliding with his team-mate and damaging his car, getting a drive-through for speeding in the pitlane, making a wrong tyre call necessitating an additional stop, then colliding with another rival and further damaging his car. Over the course of the race he visited the pits six times.
    Yet Button’s comeback drive in Canada 2011 will probably go down as one of his greatest performances, if not the best.
    I see no reason why Vettel’s performance today – one that came about after similar driver errors in the early part of the race, one undoubtedly aided by others’ incidents and some luck, but also one when he needed to keep a cool head, overtake a number of cars and make an unorthodox strategy work – cannot be appreciated in the same light: a world champion coping admirably with the circumstances in which he found himself and putting in a performance of which his detractors would not have believed him capable.

    • Himmat said on 5th November 2012, 7:55

      Those are two totally different situations. Thing is, Button actually overtook every single driver in Canada. Vettel. like it or not, didn’t. Some just dropped out from ahead of him (ROS, DIR, MAS, WEB) while he overtook a vast majority of the field as they went into the pits. Button did all the dirty work on the track, when conditions were rather more treacherous.

  7. Trenthamfolk (@trenthamfolk) said on 4th November 2012, 22:28

    Anyway, my opinion is that Vettel’s performance was excellent, but he is still a sodding crybaby, and a bad loser. Button came from the back in Canada and beat Vettel (I forget when, see previous post), pushing the ‘Crash Kid’ into an error, and won. Vettel came ‘third’ today. All credit to him, but I’ve seen better.

    Vettel inferred team problems at the qualifying press conference, refusing to concede that it might have been his fault. Vettel is lucky he has the car he has… he was unshaven, tired and looked like a skinny tramp. And qualified third. Anyone see a correlation? I know, I know, correlation does not equal causation, but… Even with his unfair low fuel advantage.

    I don’t hate Vettel, I just think he protests too loud, and blamed his team too easily. Newey is brilliant, and a million times the person Vettel will ever be, but has to take it on the chin when the cry-baby gets onto the mic. If I were Newey I’d have him sacked (or similar, involving lots of punching). Drive of the day from Kimi. Alonso a close second. Lucky git award to Helut’s BFF after the safety cars…

    • sumedh said on 4th November 2012, 22:33

      And Button had 6 Safety Cars to help him. He also similarly crashed into two drivers back then – Alonso and Hamilton.
      “He was unshaven” – Yes, his facial hear also have aerodynamic qualities and help increase downforce. How lucky!

    • electrolite (@electrolite) said on 4th November 2012, 22:36

      Newey is brilliant, and a million times the person Vettel will ever be

      If I were Newey I’d have him sacked (or similar, involving lots of punching).

      I don’t hate Vettel


    • @trenthamfolk
      I don’t remember Vettel blaming the team. I think he respects the team a lot. He always uses “we”, never “I”. The fuel issue was probably a mistake, but he didn’t blame the team, he was ok with that.
      In the press conference he said that he was not happy with his last lap, so he took the blame for his 3rd place.

    • Michael Brown (@) said on 5th November 2012, 1:04

      Did you see the overtake he put on Vettel at the end? It was better than Vettel’s move on Button at Abu Dhabi!

      I kid, of course.

  8. Kimi4WDC said on 4th November 2012, 22:46

    Two epic team-radio moments from Kimi in one race!!! Thank you!!

    That lap after second restart was monstrous. Was glued to sector times, Kimi at it best. This is what happens if you start on the first two rows, you are more open to such opportunities.

  9. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 4th November 2012, 22:47

    (about the podium event)

  10. I think Jenson deserves real credit for his clean driving when Seb overtook him. That was real class to race hard but still avoid a collision. It would not have ended so well with certain other drivers. Perhaps sometimes JB’s lack of aggression costs him in races, but he gets my respect.

  11. HUHHII (@huhhii) said on 4th November 2012, 23:27

    It’s been too long… Had to wait Kimi’s victory since Belgian GP in 2009… Over 3 years! Today it’s the day of celebration, a day of joy. I had already forgotten how great it feels to see your favorite driver winning a race, that’s how long time it has been since his last victory.

    In all honesty Hamilton would’ve deserved to win today, but how many technical problems Kimi had especially in his McLaren days? There were many, I can guarantee that, so I’ll enjoy this 100% now when I can!

    • Kimi4WDC said on 5th November 2012, 0:41

      When Hamilton retired, I had flashbacks of Hakkinen and Raikkonen loosing Championships while driving for McLaren for very same reason.

  12. Abnash (@abnash) said on 5th November 2012, 0:29

    Just thought i’d add this:
    Since their partnership began in Bahrain 2010, Jenson Button has
    outscored Lewis by 5 points
    Hamilton-2010 Spain, 2010 Italy, 2010 Singapore, 2011 Canada,
    2011 Belgium, 2011 Brazil, 2012 Germany, 2012 Belgium, 2012 Singapore,
    2012 Abu Dhabi = 10 retirements
    Button-2010 Monaco, 2010 Belgium, 2011 Britain, 2011 Germany,
    2012 Bahrain, 2012 Italy, 2012 Korea = 7 retirements

  13. dam00r (@dam00r) said on 5th November 2012, 0:30

    Ok, is it just me that is tired of Jenson Buttons excuses all the time? He always comes with something like “I don’t know why I did not have the pace as Lewis had” or “In Free practice 3 the car felt really good but in the race it was unstable and under steered” and a couple of more excuses..

    Why can’t people just understand that he is always 0.3s off Hamiltons pace and not a Class A driver like Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel

    • @lhfan said on 5th November 2012, 4:09

      Cudnt agree more

    • +1….and yet some people consider him to be a “true champion” whereas Alonso and Vettel are supposedly “whiners”!!!!!

    • panache (@panache) said on 6th November 2012, 2:41

      Button is not always 3 tenths off the pace of Hamilton in Qualifying, but on average across 3 seasons yes he is, regrettably. I don’t think his qualifying pace defecit to Hamilton alone rules him out of being considered a “Class A driver like Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel”. If Button had the qualifying pace of Hamilton I think he would be considered as a superior driver than Hamilton for his strengths in other areas.

      Hamilton is widely considered to be the fastest driver in F1 over a single lap, or perhaps by modest estimations, matched with Vettel for that honour so being on average 3 tenths slower over a single lap in qualifying doesn’t lead me to consider Button as slow by any stretch of the imagination.

      I think Hamilton is just truly incredible in qualifying, especially this season as he has had matched his speed with amazing consistency where previously he would fail to deliver the maximum in qualifying a few times per season due to mistakes whilst pushing the limits. Keep in mind that the margins we are talking about are miniscule despite how important they are in F1. 3 tenths of a second is less time than it takes to blink.

      There is no avoiding the fact that a 3 tenths defecit to any teammate is significant and especially this season it has a big impact on qualifying position considering how closely matched the field is for pace but the way I see it, if Mclaren can give Button a car that compliments his driving style and enables him to consistently qualify on the front two rows of the grid, he will be nigh on unbeatable. Perhaps Mclaren should invest the difference between the salaries of Hamilton and Perez into car development to make this a reality:)

    • panache (@panache) said on 6th November 2012, 3:13

      Forgot to add that I don’t find it annoying in the slightest when Button is mentioning car issues to his engineers over team radio during practice sessions and working towards improving them. It does annoy me when people whine that Button is whineing for providing feedback.

      I have to admit though, it does irk me when Button continually uses the same excuse “I didn’t have the balance” after qualifying behind Hamilton. I can understand this being said occasionally, especially considering the sensitivity of this years Pirelli tyres but now it has become a common theme and I just feel like shouting profanities at him.

      From an outsiders perspective, it often seems like Button is too keen to work his way around problems extracting pace and balance from the car using setup changes in isolation where by contrast, his teammate appears to care much more about actually driving the car and extracting pace from himself instead of the machine.

      I feel like he needs to just knuckle down and make the tyres and car work for him the same way other top drivers do. I think this years Pirelli’s have been particularly tough to handle for Button and Senna as Webber and Massa notably appeared to struggle with the tyres/EBD last season but ultimately, these drivers should be capable of adapting their driving style, setup and tyre warm up procedures to make the car work for them.

  14. Matthew Lim (@dxmatthew) said on 5th November 2012, 5:29

    Despite the win by Raikonnen, he had it at the wrong time. Now he could not compete for the Driver’s Championship,because he is already more than 50 points away from Vettel, so I hope the Iceman can be more competitive next year, maybe fighting with Vettel next year.

  15. A word for Schumacher…unfortunate with the puncture, fortunate with the race attrition rate. Actually, in the end, probably put the Merc where it deserves to be. (Actually Rosberg put the W03 where it needs to be….smashed up somewhere never to be seen again)

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