Kimi Raikkonen claimed Lotus’ first win of the season under the lights at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, following a top level drive from the Finn.
The 33-year-old – who accepted an option to stay with the Enstone team for 2013 – kept ahead of Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso, although it was a close run thing.
A late move by Sebastian Vettel on Jenson Button rewarded ensured a podium finish for the Red Bull man, despite starting from the pitlane after an apparent fuel line failure at the end of Saturday’s qualifying session.
Yas Marina’s fourth Grand Prix was not an all Raikkonen’s affair. Lewis Hamilton led the opening third of the race with ease, before a fuel pump failure sidelined the 2008 world champion on lap twenty.
From there Raikkonen displayed stellar pace in the E20, with the Finn’s charge helped by some quick pitwork from his Lotus mechanics.
Although Alonso initially looked to have settled for 2nd spot, the Spaniard drew close to Raikkonen in the final laps; however the Ferrari man-and-machine combination could not overhaul the gap – Raikkonen eventually won by eight-tenths.
One could argue that Vettel’s effort to 3rd was helped by two safety car periods; however that would be churlish and an unnecessary sly against the Red Bull driver.
Irrespective of the situation he found himself in following Saturday evening’s penalty, the twice world champion still drove the car with skill and maturity, scything through the field and maintaining tyres when the time was right.
Button, too, raced well in a car that fell away as the temperatures dipped and tyre grip ebbed away. It would certainly have been a podium were it not for the safety cars, but where Button lost out in Abu Dhabi, he has certainly gained in other Grand Prix…
And then there was the rest of the field.
It was difficult to miss comments on the internet calling the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the best race of the year, or of the decade (etc and ad infinitum) and while it was an entertaining event, this race was certainly no great.
Indeed, some of the driving standards on display were more a stain on Formula One and the talent therein.
One does not wish to be overly negative, but a good number of the rest of the field drove like mindless also-rans. Some of the driving in yesterday’s Grand Prix would have found a better place in a Marx Brothers film than a Formula One race.
It was like watching amateur hour at the circus. Several incidents were more reminiscent of the occasionally unsure, clumsy driving seen in junior formulae from drivers unused to equipment, as opposed to the ultra-professional level that Formula One is supposed to be.
Whether it be the Force India pair tripping over each other and taking Bruno Senna with them (Senna and Paul di Resta drove well from there to finish 8th and 9th respectively), or the near clattering between Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) – all on the opening lap and therefore partially forgivable – it was all just a bit silly.
Add into the mix Felipe Massa, who spun comically after being spooked by an off the road Mark Webber (Red Bull).
Webber also clashed with Williams’ Pastor Maldonado, who was lining up to pass the Australian. Maldonado would spin and lose time, but had enough in hand to claim 5th spot.
Later Webber was later innocently taken out, when Sauber’s Sergio Perez rejoined the track after being forced wide by Grosjean, who was in turn banging wheels with the recovering di Resta That also removed Grosjean from the action, with Perez garnering a stop / go penalty for his troubles.
It was this incident that brought out the second safety car. The first in-race stoppage came on lap nine when Rosberg violently rammed and jumped over Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT, after the Indian driver suffered a sudden hydraulic failure.
That was unfortunate, but everything else seemed a little too much like a sketch from The Beano.
A good race – a surprisingly good race in fact. We saw fantastic drives by the top four and the unlucky Hamilton, with that quintet displaying just why they are world champions; however beyond that, there was simply too much poor driving on show – and it was embarrassing to watch.
On the basis of yesterday’s performance, many of the other competitors could do with lessons from the GP2 fraternity. Who knows, they might actually learn something.
2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Rd 18, 55 laps) 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 + 27.463 11. Schumacher Mercedes + 28.075 12. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 34.906 13. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 47.764 14. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 56.473 15. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 56.768 16. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1:04.595 17. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1:11.578 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 Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:43.964
World Championship standings (Rd 18) Pos Drivers: Points 1. Vettel 255 2. Alonso 245 3. Raikkonen 198 4. Webber 167 5. Hamilton 165 6. Button 153 7. Massa 95 8. Rosberg 93 9. Grosjean 90 10. Perez 66 11. Kobayashi 58 12. Hulkenberg 49 13. Di Resta 46 14. Maldonado 43 15. Schumacher 43 16. Senna 30 17. Vergne 12 18. Ricciardo 10 Constructors: 1. Red Bull-Renault 422 2. Ferrari 340 3. McLaren-Mercedes 318 4. Lotus-Renault 288 5. Mercedes 136 6. Sauber-Ferrari 124 7. Force India-Mercedes 95 8. Williams-Renault 73 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 22