Relentless Vettel cruises to seventh win in a row

2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

When Sebastian Vettel arrived in Abu Dhabi three years ago he had never even led the world championship. He went into that race third in the points, yet pulled off a shock by snatching the title from his team mate and Fernando Alonso.

That began his unbroken reign as world champion. This year arrived at the Yas Marina circuit with his fourth title already sewn up.

There’s nothing left for him to achieve this year except piling up win after win, which he did with another relentless display of superiority.

Webber loses pole advantage

Start, Yas Marina, 2013That did not extend to qualifying, where a slip-up at the first corner allowed Mark Webber to take his second pole position this year. But as sure as the sun sets in the west – a party piece of this particular race – Webber can be relied upon to make a shoddy start when the pressure’s on.

Sure enough, his RB9 bogged down and Webber was grateful the run to the first corner was short. “I think we were lucky we’re not at Malaysia or Monza because it would have been even more painful,” he admitted afterwards.

“We know starts is not exactly my strong point, especially on these little babies. On the little Pirellis.”

Not only did Vettel motor past into the lead, but second place fell to Nico Rosberg. The other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton had a look at the inside of turn one but had to withdraw from the move, allowing Romain Grosjean through.

This was one of few causes for cheer Lotus had all weekend, as trackside operations director Alan Permane noted: “What?s especially pleasing is that he?s gone from being labelled a ‘first lap nutcase’ to consistently gaining positions away from the line and through the opening sequence of corners at each race.”

Raikkonen’s rotten weekend ends early

But turn one marked the end of the race for the other Lotus. A fraught weekend for last year’s winner Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus began with revelations about Raikkonen’s unpaid salary on Friday and exclusion from qualifying on Saturday.

For Sunday the decision was taken to start him from the back of the grid, unlike Red Bull’s tactics last year in similar circumstances when Vettel started from the pits. But at turn one Raikkonen made wheel-to-wheel contact with Giedo van der Garde and his right-front suspension snapped.

Surely in Lotus’s strategy room there had been one dissenting voice, who had tried in vain to convince the rest of the wisdom of starting from the pits to avoid first-lap incidents, who was now trying not to say “I told you so”?

Mercedes slip back

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2013Vettel didn’t need two laps to get out of DRS range of his rivals – he barely need half a lap. Not only did he streak away from Rosberg at over a second per lap but he held on to his tyres for longer as well.

Rosberg was fighting a rearguard action against Webber, who dropped back briefly when his KERS got too hot. After their first pit stops Webber responded better to the medium tyres and wound the Mercedes driver in.

As Rosberg arrived on the tail of rPaul di Resta, who was yet to pit, Webber was poised to strike. “I gave it a shot down into turn eight, used all my KERS up and I wasn?t able to do it,” said Rosberg, “and Mark got me on the next one”.

With one Mercedes driver demoted a place, the other was struggling to make any progress at all. Hamilton had emerged from his first pit stop behind Esteban Gutierrez but couldn’t force his way past the Sauber.

“It’s so difficult to overtake here when you are in traffic,” he said, “but we also need to figure out why I’m not getting the maximum performance from the car at the moment”. Gutierrez eventually pitted on lap 18, releasing Hamilton, but this was a race the Mercedes driver spent most of staring at the rear wings of other cars.

Tactics frustrate Massa

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2013The first driver in the field to run longer than Vettel was Felipe Massa, who stayed out four laps after Vettel, coming in on the 18th tour. Vettel was so far ahead by this point Massa never saw the lead of the race, but as he emerged from the pits comfortably ahead of Nico Hulkenberg it looked like he was on course for a good result.

He underlined that impression by passing Hamilton, who was now stuck behind Adrian Sutil, on lap 25. He took the Force India on the next lap as well and was now running fifth with plenty of clear air.

But behind him Fernando Alonso emerged from the same traffic and, despite older tyres, was closing quickly. By lap 34 his team mate was within DRS range but couldn’t effect a pass.

Ferrari brought Massa in on lap 38 and, to his subsequent displeasure, fitted medium compound tyres. He was the last driver on a conventional two-stopper to take the harder rubber. Alonso, who came in six laps later, got softs.

“I?d managed to do 19 laps on them in the first stint and it would not have been a problem to do the same in the final part of the race,” complained Massa afterwards.

While Alonso stayed out Massa lost time behind Jean-Eric Vergne. Alonso arrived on pit lane the instant he had enough of a gap to come out ahead of Massa and – as it turned out – side-by-side with Vergne.

The Toro Rosso was vainly trying to hang on to a set of 27-lap-old medium tyres. As he clung to the racing line Alonso bounced over the run-off to take the position. After the race the stewards excused his off-track pass on the grounds that “neither car could avoid the incident”.

Di Resta one-stops to sixth

Paul di Resta, Force India, Yas Marina, 2013While Vergne abandoned his one-stop strategy Di Resta pressed on and was rewarded with sixth place. Force India were the only team to achieve this, Sutil coming home tenth with a similar strategy. In between them were Hamilton, Massa and Sergio Perez – the McLaren driver relegating Sutil on the final tour.

But it was Jenson Button who rang the longest unbroken stint. Once again his race was spoiled by first-lap contact – this time it was his own doing – and after two pit stops in nine laps the team left him to endure a mammoth 44 laps on medium tyres. His rewards was a meagre 12th behind Pastor Maldonado.

The runners behind them were disturbed in the final laps by the appearance of Vettel on their tails. He hesitated over diving into the closely-knit group, not wishing to jeopardise his victory having led by 40 seconds at one stage.

Esteban Gutierrez was the last driver to be left unlapped, ahead of Hulkenberg, whose race had been ruined by a drive-through penalty after his team released him from the pit box too soon.

Next was Valtteri Bottas, who was aggravated by having to let Vettel through. The Toro Rossos, Caterhams and Marussias followed them home.

Vettel equals record

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2013Any of Vettel’s rivals would be forgiven for despairing at his seventh consecutive victory. He has tied the record for the most wins in consecutive races, jointly held by Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher.

Most of his opponents can console themselves with the thought that perhaps next year, with new cars and new engines, it might all be different. But at least one rival, with just two F1 starts yet to make, is ready to bow out after being crushed by Vettel for the last three years.

“When we go to this type of range of tyre it is probably a little bit more high maintenance for me to feel whether the tyre is in the race,” said Webber, who finished half a minute behind his team mate. “It?s a little bit frustrating but that?s the way it is.”

“The [mediums] weren?t too bad,” he added, “I didn?t think we were going too badly on those in terms of feeling, anyway.”

“But that?s the way it?s been the last… since 2011. I?m not going to learn now. Old dog, new tricks. It?s over.”

2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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47 comments on Relentless Vettel cruises to seventh win in a row

  1. Loup Garou (@loup-garou) said on 3rd November 2013, 22:16

    A lot of well known reports have been saying that this is Vettel’s second win at Yas Marina, when it is really his third. They seem to have forgotten that he won here in 2009 too.

  2. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 3rd November 2013, 22:29

    Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 2nd November 2013, 21:24

    The short run to the first corner at Yas Marina offers little chance for drivers to change positions

    Mark can do it. He started second last year, and managed to drop to fourth in the few centimeters between the start and the first corner… He’ll be eager not to do it agian, tho I suspect it will happen again… inevitably.

    F1 has become really obvious and predictable these days, but it’s not always Vettel winning…

  3. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 3rd November 2013, 22:36

    I like Webber, but got a good chuckle out of this.

    But as sure as the sun sets in the west – a party piece of this particular race – Webber can be relied upon to make a shoddy start when the pressure’s on.

    Thanks @keithcollantine , good article.

  4. Ross Williamson said on 3rd November 2013, 23:28

    Cue the theorists, but I honestly can’t understand the differentiation in lap times. Web was clearly on the pace in qualifying, even if Vet made a small mistake, it would have only just put him on the same time as Web, and yet in the race he was lapping at times over a second a lap quicker. Can anyone let me know where I can get onboard footage from the two cars to do a side by side comparison?

    • dennis (@dennis) said on 4th November 2013, 9:15

      With Webber falling behind Rosberg after the first corner, the onboards won’t do much.
      Mark admitted several times that he apparently has problems getting the right feel for the tyres. I can only imagine that on the one lap in qualifying it’s not that much of a difference with the tyre delivering a lot of grip, but the way it changes during the course of the first 5-10 laps maybe doesn’t make sense to him.

      I think we can see the same problem between Hamilton and Rosberg. Or even Massa and Alonso. In the qualy, it usually looks different than in the race. Also differences in car setup will definitely play a role.

    • JohnH (@johnrkh) said on 4th November 2013, 9:22

      Yes that is a puzzle, I have often thought the same. Could it be that Vettel sand bags through practice and qualifying? Is he that good? There is no evidence to prove conspiracy theory’s, so it will always remain a question I suppose.

    • William Jones said on 4th November 2013, 10:21

      Having looked at the footage myself, it seems Webber is driving his car very conventionally, Vettel is driving with significantlymore crossover and gets back on the throttle incredibly early – I’m not completely current with the technical regulations, but if Red Bull are generating downforce with exhaust gasses, Vettel will be increasing his cornering speed compared to MW at the expense of fuel economy, which would tend to fully explain the results – he burns fuel at the start then saves fuel to match hgis direct competition. Then he burns fuel at the end again to get his fastest lap in :). I wouldn’t call myself a Vettel fan, I’m all about Button but you have to admire his skill with the car – I can’t imagine he would be that much faster than Webber if they were in any other car, it seems that Vettel – Newey is a dream team!

      • JohnH (@johnrkh) said on 4th November 2013, 11:34

        Not a fan of any particular driver my self, but what impresses me about Vettel is his kid glove handling of tyres. He gets great speed and minimal tyre wear, some of it may be down to the car but his driving is the telling factor I think. I’m not trying to be provocative towards Vettel fans but I would love to see him in a Merc or McLaren. I would really like to see what he could do in a car that is a bit off the pace.

  5. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 4th November 2013, 3:46

    Aside from his pitstop, I don’t recall seeing Jenson on camera once the entire race.
    The channel that broadcasts races does have commercial breaks, so I could have missed it during then, but I didn’t see Button all race.

  6. the thing is, everybody was chasing 2nd position rather than pursue Vettel. they pitted early and hope to jump Webber, which forced Webber to pitted too. that’s why 30 seconds-ish gap was inevitable…

  7. Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 4th November 2013, 7:20

    I am getting pretty tired of your hyperbole, Keith.

    When something has been “crushed”, it implies that it is completely broken and no longer workable in any fashion – crushing a car turns it into a cube, it has no resemblance in form or function to its previous state.

    Sure, Webber has been beaten – and soundly so, continuously – by Vettel these last three years, but he is not a “crushed” man, or a “crushed” driver – a crushed driver wouldn’t have put his car on pole position in two of the last three races. A crushed driver wouldn’t have come second to his team mate in two of the last three races.

    “Crushed” drivers don’t get hired by the worlds largest sportscar marque to drive for them in their grand re-entrance to the premier class of endurance racing… but I suppose writing “Webber is ready to bow out after being soudly beaten” just doesn’t tug the same heartstrings, and doesn’t garner responses like this one… does it?

    • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 4th November 2013, 7:25

      @oblong_cheese
      “Crushed” is a verb which is often used in many sports where on player/team is convincingly beaten by another. I don’t see why this should not be used in the context here. Webber was well and truly crushed by Vettel in Abu Dhabi.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th November 2013, 8:14

      @oblong_cheese Obviously I used “crushed” in the sense of “to defeat” (quoting from my dictionary), which I think is a fair description of their relative performances over the past three years, rather than a tiny and self-serving sample of three qualifying sessions which ignores Vettel’s KERS failure in Japan.

      More on their comparative performances to come in the season review.

      • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 4th November 2013, 8:18

        Vettel has delivered crushing performances, but Webber is not a crushed driver.

        The semantics of the English language are delightful, aren’t they?

        • Bruno (@brunes) said on 4th November 2013, 9:12

          @oblong_cheese you said: “When something has been “crushed”, it implies that it is completely broken and no longer workable in any fashion – crushing a car turns it into a cube, it has no resemblance in form or function to its previous state.”

          And now you are saying that actually Vettel delivered crushing performances. So he literally crushed everybody and their cars?
          “Vettel has delivered crushing performances, but Webber is not a crushed driver”

          How are you allowed to choose when and how to use the literal meaning of a word, but other cannot do the same?
          Half of your phrase is literal but the other half isn’t. Get real

          • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 4th November 2013, 9:41

            It’s about context and meaning,not just literal meaning alone.

          • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 4th November 2013, 10:04

            @oblong_cheese

            Lol then you just contradicted yourself.

            You say it means that it’s broken and no longer usable in any fashion, but then you just said that it’s all about context, not just literal meaning.

          • Hairs (@hairs) said on 4th November 2013, 10:05

            Yes, but you clearly haven’t understood context and meaning, except where it serves your interpretation, which exists solely to score an ill conceived point, @oblong_cheese.

          • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 4th November 2013, 23:50

            @brunes @tophercheese21 @hairs

            Let me explain myself.

            To say that Vettel has crushed Webber (and his other rivals) is to me a disingenuous turn of phrase because something which has been crushed is permanently changed to the detriment of its previous form and function. The word carries with it a permanence of state.

            To say that Vettel has delivered a crushing performance is analogous to Vettel overcoming or quashing his fellow competitors – they have been beaten, they have been defeated, Vettel has overcome their attempts to beat him. There is an implicit temporal quality of state.

          • Hairs (@hairs) said on 5th November 2013, 0:33

            Using longer words doesn’t disprove that your initial rant was erroneous, ill thought out, nor that you subsequently contradicted yourself.

            Believe me, you’re not providing a lesson in articulation to anyone here.

          • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 5th November 2013, 4:37

            @hairs

            I guess I didn’t explain myself well enough. Or you didn’t comprehend well enough.

            Either way, it’s all a matter of opinion. You have yours and I have mine, so let’s leave it at that.

          • Bruno (@brunes) said on 5th November 2013, 9:35

            @oblong_cheese

            YOU SAY:
            “To say that Vettel has crushed Webber (and his other rivals) is to me a disingenuous turn of phrase because something which has been crushed is permanently changed to the detriment of its previous form and function. The word carries with it a permanence of state.

            To say that Vettel has delivered a crushing performance is analogous to Vettel overcoming or quashing his fellow competitors – they have been beaten, they have been defeated, Vettel has overcome their attempts to beat him. There is an implicit temporal quality of state.”

            Therefore, according to you, and your own definition of “crushing”, Vettel’s rivals will never be able to even walk again. Due to his crushing performance (all drivers have been crushed to death), they have been defeated and we will have to wait for the next generation of drivers to mature to fight Vettel .

            I am sorry, but you have made a fool of yourself in front of everybody here.
            R.I.P

          • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 5th November 2013, 9:40

            @brunes

            It’s almost like you didn’t even read what I wrote. Never mind, it doesn’t matter now. You’ve made up your mind and I can’t change that.

            By the way, signing off with “R.I.P” has taken the crown of King of Hyperbole right off Keith’s head and planted it neatly on your own.

    • Mouse_Nightshirt (@mouse_nightshirt) said on 4th November 2013, 23:12

      I absolutely adore the word “hyperbole”. So much meaning and sounds so awesome.

      But I have to say I don’t think “hyperbole” is the word I’d use to describe what Keith wrote. I’d use something like “factual” or “expressive”.

  8. Sumedh said on 4th November 2013, 8:51

    Great write-up Keith. Reading these articles is helping me improve my grasp on the English knowledge as well. So thanks for that!!

    Also, is Seb doing the donuts to compensate for the fact that he didn’t get the fastest lap?

  9. Ean (@ean) said on 4th November 2013, 9:10

    It shows put Hamilton in an ordinary car (actually above average) and he shows his not better than the midfield drivers

  10. Hairs (@hairs) said on 4th November 2013, 10:14

    All this record breaking statistics aside, I avoided this race and the last one, and I intend to avoid the next two as well. There’s nothing of interest to watch at any point in the field and the results are already determined. There aren’t even any compelling stories up and down the grid, unless you count “will the bottom half of the grid even survive”, which frankly isn’t a story we should have to follow, if the sport were organised with any grounding in the real world.

    I’ll keep an eye on pre season testing but if it looks like Newey has beaten everyone again, I won’t bother watching Australia either.

    • +1000!
      Mega-quote…and to many paying drivers on the grid didn’t help as well especially if a potential WC contender (Hulkenberg) is left out. F1 nowadays is a complete joke, just not for me if something won’t change asap.

      • Surya (@digitalrurouni) said on 4th November 2013, 19:06

        Agree with all that is said but I won’t avoid watching the races simply because I like the drama that is F1. I like watching Vettel break records. I sure hope the Hulk gets the Lotus seat and it looks a high probability that is going to happen! Fingers crossed!

  11. Owen Conwell (@skitty4lb) said on 4th November 2013, 23:16

    Viewing Vettel’s on-board footage, I feel that pole is on the wrong side. Specially considering the shorter run into the first corner. For the first turn (after the start at least) the racing line is on the left. Yet pole is on the right.

  12. mda (@mda72) said on 5th November 2013, 1:51

    I’ve been a Mark Webber fan for years, but frankly he had his shot at the title in 2010, and missed. The history of intra-team rivalries shows that the experienced driver tends to early on, then the young tyro takes over in subsequent years. (Think Lauda 1984 / Prost 1985.) I think this is because young drivers keep gaining experience while they develop to their peak, without losing reaction times, but older drivers lose reaction times after they pass their peak, without there being very much more for them to learn. If an experienced driver can’t beat their less experienced teammate first time, they probably never will. On this basis, once Webber lost to Vettel in 2010, I thought Webber would never beat him. Really, he needed to do what Prost did in 1993 – compete against his younger ex-teammate (Senna) in a better car. But what better car has there been since 2010?

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