Google+ Jack Leslie F1: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Report

2 November 2012

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Report

Abu Dhabi may not produce the most exciting Grand Prix's, but it sure is a wonderful place.
(c) Octane Photographic
With its modern, plush, luxurious facilities and stunning day to night racing the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of a kind. We see the F1 cars in all lights, from the day, the sunset and under the shining light bulbs of Yas Marina.

Here's my full weekend report of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.


Lewis Hamilton dominated the first practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He was consistently fast as he lapped the Yas Marina circuit during the 90 minutes of running. 

Under the scorching sun of Abu Dhabi, it was a McLaren 1-2. Hamilton set the fastest time of 1m43.285 which was three tenths faster than his team mate Jenson Button, who finished the session in second. Sebastian Vettel was some way back in third, with Alonso and Webber over a second back rounding out the top five.

The session had a quiet start, with only a few drivers going out to lap the track. Many just did installation laps before returning to their garages. However as the time ticked down, cars emerged to test parts, try some longer runs and do data and system checks.

There were a number of drivers who were sole racing in FP1. Max Chilton was one of the big names, ending the session in 22nd. Ma Qing Hua was 23rd, 7 tenths off the pace. Meanwhile Giedo Van Der Garde managed just 1 installation lap thanks to a problem with the Caterham.

In the midfield, Valtteri Bottas impressed in 9th while Jules Bianchi took Paul Di Resta's car to 15th. Some drivers had to use the ample run off to dive out of the way of oncoming cars. 

Despite the tight midfield, the spread of the field up front was a considerable margin.

As the sun set over the Yas Marina circuit, the F1 cars came out to play. In contrast to the mundane start to the first practice session, FP2 was considerably livelier.

The temperature dropped, the wind picked up and the shining light's came on and Vettel moved to the top of the time sheets, with a time of 1m41.751. Lewis Hamilton looked strong in second, just two tenths off the German's top time. 

Jenson Button was slightly further back, ahead of Webber. The Aussie's session was ended prematurely after a reported leak on his Red Bull RB8. The Lotus drivers performed well, with Grosjean and Raikkonen setting faster low run times that the Ferrari drivers.

After a busy start to the session, teams chose to run on the soft tyre and with low fuel early on before returning to the long run pace, with many sticking with the soft tyres.

The sun set stunningly over one of Formula 1's most impressive facilities, and as the lights came on the temperature dropped, changing the track conditions drastically. 

Karthikeyen had a spin in the final sector, while numerous drivers took to the run off. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso had moments, while there was also plenty of tyre smoke from locking wheels.

A closely fought fight at the top, with the mid field also being close.   

Lewis Hamilton continued his fine form at the Yas Marina circuit, topping the time sheets after the final 60 minutes of practice.

Another scorching, sunny day in Abu Dhabi saw Lewis Hamilton set a fastest time of 1m42.130, three tenths ahead of team mate Jenson Button. The McLaren drivers looked strong on the harder tyre compound, less so on the soft's.

Sebastian Vettel had a terrible session. With just 10 minutes to go, Vettel had only lapped the circuit twice in the session. A brake problem meant he spent the majority of the session in the garage, before Red Bull managed to get him out for a few laps at the end of the session. He set the third fastest time, four tenths off Hamilton. However it was far from idea for the German.

it was a very busy start to the session, with cars queuing to enter the unique "tunnel". The top five in third practice was rounded out by Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg, the Sauber bound driver looking strong after a quiet Friday. 

Numerous drivers ran wide and used the acres of run off provided, particularly the two Lotus drivers. Despite these errors, they set the sixth and ninth fastest times respectively. Williams suffered contrasting fortunes, with Maldonado looking strong in seventh. Senna could not keep up, ending the session in 17th.   


With overtaking being limited on the Yas Marina circuit, qualifying is key to a good race. Who will get pole? Keep reading to find out.

It was another busy session start, with a number of drivers feeling the need to go out early. The sun had started to set, with the time and conditions being almost identical to those expected of the race.

Kamui Kobayashi was the first driver to set a time, with a 1m43.939. His first attempt was soon beaten by Maldonado and Raikkonen setting the pace early on. The majority started qualifying on the hard compound tyre, before those under pressure ventured out on new soft Pirelli rubber. 

The championship leaders soon came out, with Alonso and Button moving up the order. Pastor Maldonado topped the time sheets with half the session still to run, impressing on the hard tyres. The impression was that the harder compound Pirelli's needed a few laps to get them up to temperature.

Order was soon restored, with first Alonso and then Hamilton relegating Maldonado further down the order. With six minutes remaining, the midfield moved across to the soft tyre and the order was really shook up. 

By flag fall, Nico Rosberg had joined Hamilton, Webber, Alonso and Massa in the top five. Meanwhile further down the order, Jean-Eric Vergne dropped out of Q1 for the eighth time. Kovalainen ended the session nine tenths off the Toro Rosso, while Charles Pic did well to qualify 20th. Petrov set the 21st fastest time, with Glock abandoning his final lap. De La Rosa and Karthikeyan were the slowest of the 24 runners.


It was a rather less lively start to the second qualifying session, despite the time being cut from 20 to 15 minutes. The whole field tries their luck on the soft tyres, with the yellow band Pirelli compound levelling out the field.

Sergio Perez got the times rolling with a 1m42.313, which was soon beaten by first Maldonado, and then Grosjean. The Frenchman showed that Lotus should not be discounted. The lap times started to tumble as the McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull cars showed their hand. 

With half the session remaining, Hamilton moved to the top on a 1m41.366. Sebastian Vettel ruined his first run after an error, but he jumped up to second after a clean run. Mark Webber moved to the front, but it was short lived as Hamilton retook his top spot with a 1m40.901. 

The second runs started, with Di Resta momentarily moving up to 11th. With the time ticking down to the closing stages, 13 cars descended to the circuit to battle for a place in the top 10 shoot-out.

By the flying of the flag, the order stayed pretty much the same. The second runs proved saw drivers fail to improve on their times, saving Grosjean, Rosberg, Massa, Button and Maldonado from dropping out. Ahead of them, Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen filled the top five.

Out in the second qualifying session was Hulkenberg, Perez and Di Resta. Despite strong form in FP3, both Force India's failed to make the final qualifying session. Schumacher got slightly confused during the session, qualifying 14th. Senna, Kobayashi and Ricciardo rounded out the top 17, and were out in Q2.

The final 10 minute session to determine the grid for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the usual affair, with drivers using different session schedules to get the best from the car and situation.

Kimi Raikkonen kicked off the session with a first lap of 1m41.756, setting a benchmark. Fernando Alonso went two tenths quicker, while the Finn's team mate settled just a few tenths behind. Hamilton was on a charge, moving to the top with an eight tenth advantage over Webber. Vettel responded, but could only half the gap to the McLaren.

Rosberg and Button filed in behind Hamilton, Vettel, Webber and Alonso in front. The drivers returned to the garages to prepare for the crescendo, while Massa had the track all to himself. The Brazilian went sixth, with just two minutes of the session remaining.

Maldonado went third fastest on his first run, a stunning lap from the Venezuelan. The flag was raised, the clock went to 0:00 and we waited for the cars to end their laps. Kimi Raikkonen provisionally went fifth, with Webber's final effort placing him second. Alonso was next up, but failed to improve. Sebastian Vettel crossed the line to go third, as Button went sixth. The Red Bull driver stopped on track at the hotel complex, Christian Horner explaining that Renault asked the team to stop the car.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his second Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pole, without even needing to complete his final run.

Pos  Driver                Team                 Time          Gap   
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m40.630s
 2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m40.978s  + 0.348
 3. *Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m41.073s  + 0.443
 4.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m41.226s  + 0.596
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m41.260s  + 0.630
 6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m41.290s  + 0.660
 7.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m41.582s  + 0.952
 8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m41.603s  + 0.973
 9.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m41.723s  + 1.093
10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m41.778s  + 1.148  
Q2 cut-off time: 1m41.907s                                   Gap **
11.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m42.019s  + 1.118
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m42.084s  + 1.183
13.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m42.218s  + 1.317
14.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m42.289s  + 1.388
15.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m42.330s  + 1.429
16.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m42.606s  + 1.705
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m42.765s  + 1.864
Q1 cut-off time: 1m43.582s                                    Gap *
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m44.058s  + 2.561
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m44.956s  + 3.459
20.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m45.089s  + 3.592
21.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m45.151s  + 3.654
22.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m45.426s  + 3.929
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m45.766s  + 4.269
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m46.382s  + 4.885

107% time: 1m48.601s


*The stewards and the FIA found that Vettel's car only had 850ml of fuel in the tank when it stopped on track during Q3. The required amount for an FIA sample is 1L, and the RB8 simply did not have enough fuel. As in Barcelona with Hamilton, and after a lengthily 4 hour wait, the stewards excluded Vettel from qualifying, which promotes everyone from 4th to 24th up a position on the grid. After reports that he would start from 24th, Christian Horner confirmed he would start from the pit lane.

Some quotes from the FIA statement: "The Stewards received a report from the Race Director that car 1 failed to return to the pits under its own power as required under Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations."

"However a report was received from the Technical Delegate that showed during post-qualifying scrutineering an insufficient quantity of fuel for sampling purposes. The Stewards determine that this is a breach of Article 6.6.2 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations and the Competitor is accordingly excluded from the results of the Qualifying Session. The Competitor is however allowed to start the race from the back of the grid. " (c) FIA

The Race
After the dramatic conclusion to qualifying, we were all set for a brilliant Grand Prix. Despite its reputation for the low levels of drama and overtaking, with Vettel at the back and a mixed up grid the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had the ingredients to create a stunner.

The sun was setting over the Yas Marina circuit, as the Yas Viceroy hotel turned on its lights. With the championship building to a climax, plenty had things to prove.

The revs rose, the lights went out and we were racing under the darkening skies of Abu Dhabi. Off the grid, Hamilton had a good start while Webber was slow, Maldonado got overtaken by Raikkonen and Senna was collected by Hulkenberg. Vettel was released from the pit lane after turn one

As the cars entered the final sector of the first lap, Alonso and Webber were side by side and passed the Aussie. Nico Rosberg had some damage to his front wing, while Grosjean had a front right puncture. Hamilton made a mistake on lap two and Raikkonen was challenging the Brit. He radioed in explaining that his tyres were very cold.

Vettel reported to his Red Bull team that he had front wing damage after contact. DRS was enabled on lap three and the German used this to his advantage, moving up to 16th. On the replay of the start, Raikkonen had a brilliant start while it was four in to one for both Force India's, Perez and Bruno Senna. Hulkenberg locked up and collided with Senna, breaking his suspension.

By lap five, Hamilton had switched on his tyres and pulled clear. Raikkonen was doing well to keep up, while Maldonado was impressing too. Alonso had closed in on the Williams, while Webber and Button were close behind. Vettel was advancing through the field and by lap six, with the sun stunningly setting over the Yas Marina track, he was closing in on Kovalainen in 13th. 

The field had started to spread out as the laps closed in on double figures, but the safety car was deployed after a high speed crash between Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan. It was a heavy impact for the Mercedes driver, after launching over the HRT. The Indian slowed after a sudden hydraulics failure and Nico could not avoid him. Both drivers looked okay, and the resulting safety car enabled several drivers to pit. 

Vettel's front wing suffered yet more damage after having to avoid a weaving Ricciardo behind the safety car. The incident occurred on the back straight, which caught the German out. Red Bull pitted the car on lap 13, dropping to the back of the pack. 

After five laps behind the safety car, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was restarted. Hamilton dropped the gun at turn 17. Alonso lost some time after an understeer moment and was challenged by Webber. After the failed attempt, the racing resumed with the Aussie putting severe pressure on the championship challenger. 

Vettel swept past Grosjean and in to 17th position, but the Frenchman retook his with the cut back. Sebastian was on a charge and took to the run off to re-pass the Lotus driver. He seemingly gave the place back, but he was past Grosjean again thanks to a bit of help from DRS.

Out front on lap 18, Hamilton had a clear three second lead on Raikkonen. Maldonado was clear of Alonso in third, with Webber piling the pressure on the 2005 and 2006 world champion. The DRS helped a number of drivers pass, particularly the midfield runners who were out of place. 

Lewis Hamilton suddenly slowed on lap 20, pulling off to the side of the road. The team radioed the Brit explaining they "lost all power", before it was revealed he had suffered a fuel pressure problem. Kimi Raikkonen took the lead, while Alonso moved up to second after passing Maldonado with DRS. The race was turned on its head with the retirement of Hamilton, with McLaren's focus being moved to Button's race.

Mark Webber collided with Maldonado after a failed passing move on the Venezuelan. It was a brave effort around the outside. The Red Bull driver returned to the track, but he had dropped 3 positions. Button managed to pass the Williams driver on the inside to turn 11, as Perez also dived past Massa.

With 30 laps remaining, the one stop pit window had opened up. Vettel had moved up to eighth place thanks to the numerous retirements and collisions. The German's next target was Webber, who collided with Massa. The Brazilian clumsily spun after the contact at turn 11, moving the 2010 and 2011 world champion up to seventh. Ferrari decided to start the pit stop ball rolling, Massa moving on to the medium compound tyres

Fernando Alonso pitted on lap 29, a clean stop that saw the Ferrari driver emerge in seventh place. Button pitted on the following lap, with the McLaren driver returning to the track just behind Alonso. Meanwhile up ahead, Webber and Vettel were doing battle. Red Bull radioed the Aussie, telling him not to fight his team mate. Webber pitted on lap 31, giving Vettel some clean air in second place. 

The battle between Alonso and Button started to heat up, as Raikkonen pitted from the lead and re-joined in the lead.  The Finn was pulling clear from Vettel, who in turn was maintaining the gap to Alonso.

Red Bull could not commit to the gamble of running Vettel to the end, so they pitted him for a new set of soft tyres on lap 38. It was a slow stop but he was fed out in clear air. With 15 laps left, the leaders were well clear but it was chaos behind. Grosjean was first passed by Di Resta, and Perez went around the outside. Perez ran off track, while Di Resta cut the corner. The Sauber driver re jointed the track and collided with Grosjean. The spinning Perez slowed Grosjean down and Webber ran in to the Lotus. The safety car was understandably deployed.

The safety car enabled Vettel, on fresh rubber, to close in on the leaders. During the quiet period, Pic was pushed in to the garage to retire. Perez was gifted a stop go penalty for his part in the accident. With 13 laps remaining, the race restarted. 

Kimi Raikkonen pulled out a stunning gap on the restart, with Alonso dropping 2.2 seconds behind the Finn. Button and Vettel closed in on the Spanish driver, would it all end in tears? 

As the laps counted down, Raikkonen extended the gap out front and the midfield battle was shaping up (well what was left of them). Vettel and Button were scrapping for the final podium, and despite switching to the inside the German could not pass the Brit. Alonso had switched on his tyres and with 5 laps remaining, he started to draw Raikkonen in.

It was inevitable, but Vettel powered past Jenson Button around the outside at turn 11. What a drive by Sebastian Vettel. The race was by no means over, with just 2 laps left Alonso was closing in on Raikkonen. 

 Kimi Raikkonen claims a stunning victory in Abu Dhabi

Kimi Raikkonen claimed a stunning first victory of the 2012 season. It was a long time coming, with many thinking the team deserved to score one sooner. After a brilliant start, where he jumped ahead of Webber and Maldonado, the Finn took over the lead from Hamilton and controlled the race from there. Alonso put huge amounts of pressure on him in the closing stages, but the Spaniard could only manage second. He closed in on leader Vettel in the championship, but the stunning pace was just not enough. 

What a drive by the 2010 and 2011 world champion. After starting in the pitlane, the Red Bull driver flicked off the lowly backmarkers. A mid race safety car closed the field, but after a collision with Senna and a glance with a polystyrene market led to an early pit stop while the race was controlled by the safety car.  He plucked off the midfield runners and made some stunning overtakes. Not wanting to risk it, Red Bull pitted him for the second time. A brilliant pass on Jenson Button in the closing stages moved him in to a podium. Jenson Button could not salvage a podium for McLaren, after losing out on a certain victory. Fourth was the best he could do.

Maldonado showed his strong qualifying pace was not a one off by finish fifth, even though his Williams was without KERS for the majority of the race. Kobayashi avoided the first corner accident, made some strong overtakes and set some consistent times to finish the race in sixth, at an important time for his career. Felipe Massa just edged out Bruno Senna, who was almost last on the first lap, and Di Resta. The Force India had been facing the wrong way at turn 1, so it was a fantastic come back. 

Ricciardo rounded out the top 10, with Schumacher and Vergne just missing out on points. Kovalainen finished strongly in 13th, with Glock and Perez being next up. Petrov and De La Rosa rounded out the finishers.

Pic was the last driver to retire from the race with a mechanical issue. Grosjean and Webber retired after their collision, while Hamilton's race dramatically ended with an electrical problem. 

Karthikeyan and Rosberg were both okay after their accident, but it was not the way either wanted to finish. Nico Hulkenberg was the first to retire after contact at the first corner at the first corner. 
A stunning race at the Yas Marina circuit to make up for the years of dull, processional racing. Raikkonen was the star, but Vettel really shined too. Brilliant drives, some silly moves, contact, humour and excitement.


Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              1h45:58.667
 2.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +     0.852
 3.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +     4.163
 4.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +     7.787
 5.  Maldonado     Williams-Renault           +    13.007
 6.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +    20.076
 7.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    22.896
 8.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +    23.542
 9.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +    24.160
10.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +    27.400
11.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +    28.000
12.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +    34.900
13.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +    47.700
14.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +    56.400
15.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +    56.700
16.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +  1:04.500
17.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +    1:11.5

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:43.964

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                         On lap
Pic           Marussia-Cosworth            42
Grosjean      Lotus-Renault                38
Webber        Red Bull-Renault             38
Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes             20
Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth                 8
Rosberg       Mercedes                     8
Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes         1

1 comment:

nomzam said...

Thanks for the very very informative post about AbuDhabi formula one championship. I saw that event on television. But plaining to go see live the upcoming season.