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GP Week : Issue 194
When Mark Webber secured pole on saturday night in Abu Dhabi, few expected the Australian to hold onto the lead into the first corner. Lining up next to teammate sebastian Vettel, the assumption was that the younger driver would charge off into the sunset as soon as the lights were out. The assumption proved to be correct, with both Vettel and Nico Rosberg getting ahead of Webber in the run to Turn One. Another man to make a slow start on Sunday evening was Lewis Hamilton, who lost a place before the pack had reached the first corner of the Yas Marina Circuit. But whatever struggles Webber and Hamilton suffered in the opening stage of the race it was nothing compared to Kimi Raikkonen’s short-lived and miserable race. The winner of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix lined up at the back of the pack after being excluded from the results of qualifying, and was parked up at the side of the track before the first lap was complete, following contact with Giedo van der Garde that broke the Lotus’ steering. At the head of the pack Vettel was up to his usual tricks, opening up a 1.9s lead over Rosberg by the end of the first lap, and extending that lead with every tour of the circuit. After an early run of pit stops the Red Bull driver had a 26.3s lead over the yet-to-pit Ferrari of Felipe Massa in P2, and Vettel was able to make his first stop at the end of lap 13 and emerge still in total control of the race. By the beginning of lap 15, Vettel was 6.6s ahead of Massa, and the grand prix was effectively over. After his own scrappy start Hamilton found himself staring at the rear wing of a Sauber for much of Sunday evening, the second such occurrence in two short weeks. It was another difficult race for the Briton, who was once again out-paced and out-performed by his underrated Mercedes teammate. Hamilton struggled to find a way to make the car work for him, and despite a few spirited attempts at keeping up with the Joneses the Briton spent most of the evening alternating between being overtaken by slower cars with better grip and destroying his rubber in face-saving attempts to DRS his way back past those who had overtaken him. In the closing stages of the grand prix Hamilton struggled to pass the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, despite lapping nearly a second faster than the Frenchman. In the end, a seventh-place finish was the best Hamilton could hope for, finishing the race fifty seconds behind his teammate. While Vettel extended his lead with every passing lap – at one point emerging from the pits with a comfortable 15s in hand despite the 25 seconds lost in the pitlane – there were some small moments of excitement in the chasing pack, with the drivers continuing to fight despite the inevitability of the outcome. Having out-qualified teammate Fernando Alonso yet again, Massa delivered a spirited performance under the desert skies, scrapping with Alonso, Hamilton, and Sutil before losing position to the Spaniard after the second round of stops, when problems fitting the front left rear saw the Brazilian lose a precious second in the pits. But Alonso was on a characteristic charge, unwilling to give ground to any of his rivals. Emerging from the pits ahead of Massa after his final stop, the Spanish racer was involved in a near- miss with Vergne that saw the Ferrari exceed the track limits in dramatic fashion, an incident the stewards decided to investigate after the race. After much deliberation, the stewards elected to take no further action, and Alonso’s work in overtaking Hamilton and Paul di Resta for fifth place was not for naught. 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> ABU DHABI