Peter Anderson | Nov 5, 2012

Kimi Raikkonen completed his amazing comeback to Formula 1 with a fantastic win under lights in Abu Dhabi.

The Finn inherited the lead after Hamilton's McLaren expired, but his pace was such that the win was almost assured.

Mark Webber had a rotten night while his teammate stormed through the field with the help of two Safety Cars.

 

Practice and Qualifying

Red Bull and McLaren traded blows through the three qualifying sessions, with Red Bull struggling with dramas on both cars - Webber with KERS problems and Vettel with brake issues.

Qualifying saw Lewis Hamilton take a dominant pole position with Webber alongside on the front row. Vettel's third position evaporated after the German stopped out on the track and was later discovered to have less than the mandated whole litre on board the RB8.

Fernando Alonso, as far as the championship was concerned, looked menacing in seventh (which became sixth after Vettel was penalised for a fuel infringement.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified 17th, but ahead of teammate Vergne.

 

Race

Sebastien Vettel had to watch from pitlane exit as the grid formed. The reigning champion had a bit setup change overnight, the better to charge through the field.

Webber was engulfed off the start by Maldonado and Raikkonen while Hamilton rocketed off the number one slot.

Webber's poor start saw him fall into the clutches of Alonso and the Spaniard passed him under braking at the end of the back straight, the Ferrari's straight-line even without DRS was substantially higher.

Senna and Hulkenberg collided at the first corner, the Force India spinning off and out of the race. Grosjean too was in trouble with a front right puncture after yet another first lap misunderstanding, this time with the Mercedes of Rosberg. Both were forced to pit.

Hamilton's first lap lead disappeared with a mistake at the turn eight and nine complex. Raikkonen pounced but the Briton was able to keep the Lotus behind and then re-establish a gap.

Vettel's front wing was damaged as he was too impatient passing Bruno Senna's stricken Williams-Renault. He decided to soldier on, making 16th by lap four.

Daniel Ricciardo had a fantastic start, leaping forward to 11th while the Saubers also shot forward into the top ten after neither of the Swiss cars made it into Q3.

By lap eight, Webber began to attack the Ferrari of Alonso, using the DRS advantage afforded by being within a second of the red car. His campaign didn't last long, though.

The Safety Car was deployed on lap nine after Nico Rosberg, piled into the rear of Karthikeyan's HRT in the much the same way as his more illustrious teammate in Singapore, but this time it wasn't the Mercedes driver's fault.

Karthikeyan's Cosworth engine appeared to be in the process of shredding its internals when Rosberg was caught off guard. The Mercedes was launched into the air and soared over Karthikeyan's cockpit, just missing the Indian driver.

Rosberg's Mercedes skated across the run-off and he slammed into the tyre barrier. Both left their cars unaided, Rosberg looking shaken.

Only Toro Rosso's Vergne pitted under the safety car, the rest of the field choosing not to compromise their strategies.

Vettel managed to crash into the trackside DRS indicator board after failing to pay due attention to Ricciardo in front of him. The German felt it was the Australian's fault but may have found himself on his own in that assessment.

Vettel pitted on lap 14, the fifth lap of the long Safety Car intervention. He took on a new front wing and a set of tyres the team intended would take him to the end of the race.

The Safety Car finally left the track on lap 15 and Webber almost jumped Alonso on the restart, reminiscent of Hamilton's mugging of Webber at Malaysia a few years back. Alonso had perhaps been distracted by Maldonado locking up into the final turn.

Vettel then appeared to pass Grosjean with all four wheels off the racing track after a short, sharp battle, the championship leader a little too keen to carve his way through the backmarkers.

After some radio discussion, he gave the place back and promptly re-took the place, legally, it a few corners later.

The race was again turned on its head on lap 20 after Hamilton's car expired, Hamilton's engineer telling him, "We've lost all power." It was a repeat of Hamilton's disastrous Singapore Grand Prix, this time it was an electrical failure.

This left the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen in the race lead, with a clear six seconds back to Maldonado. Within moments, it was six seconds back to Fernando Alonso.

Webber then took on Maldonado as the Australian struggled with a lack of top-end speed, a perennial Red Bull problem. He took Maldonado around the outside on lap 23 but the Venezuelan was having none of it and pitched Webber into a spin.

Webber lost three places to seventh and survived a steward's investigation.

Sergio Perez was in a fighty mood, taking on Massa - and winning, almost sideways on the way past.

Webber's eventful race continued as he passed Massa. The Brazilian shoved him wide and as Webber rejoined the track, Massa's car was flung into a smoky spin after he took a bit too much kerb. The incident was investigated but again, Webber emerged unscathed.

Lap 28 saw the first of the scheduled stops, with Mercedes' Michael Schumacher coming in, followed by Maldonado and Alonso. Alonso fell behind Vettel during his stop, but the RB8 was supposed to survive 42 laps on the soft tyres.

Vettel caught Webber on lap 31 and the Australian was told not to fight the German but it was academic as the number 2 car was called into the pits for his first stop, dumping him behind a lot of traffic.

Raikkonen stopped at the end of lap 31 in response to Vettel's inexorable march forward. The Finn rejoined just a few seconds ahead of the Red Bull that seemed to be doing perfectly fine on twenty-lap old tyres.

Paul Hembrey of Pirelli told SkyF1 that Vettel's tyres would probably only last a further sixteen laps. Vettel seemed to agree, and he pitted on lap 37, his four-second stop dropping him twenty-four seconds off the lead.

Back behind Alonso, Button was flying after a fairly indifferent weekend until the race, a weekend where he said he was mystified by his lack of pace.

Mark Webber's race was ended by an over-enthusiastically kerb-hopping Perez and di Resta. The Mexican cannoned into Grosjean who then wiped the rear end off the Red Bull. This brought out a Safety Car and, no doubt, a very unhappy Mark Webber.

"I thought there was an opportunity, but then Grosjean made contact with my car and that was the end for us. Whatever we tried today, it just wasn't working out," Webber said after the race.

Perez was deemed at fault and given a ten-second stop and go penalty and the resultant Safety Car brought the field together.

Vettel was, of course, the big winner, bringing him to within a few seconds of the lead, an incredible situation having started from the pitlane.

The restart was uneventful as Raikkonen - who was having a race-long tiff with his engineer over the radio - pulled a useful one second gap from Alonso who had both Button and Vettel close behind. The next lap, the gap was two seconds.

Vettel began a battle with Button that would last for many laps as they both had their eyes on Alonso's second place. Button's defence was masterful, Vettel unable to find a way through until lap 51.

Alonso and Raikkonen traded fastest laps after the Safety Car returned to the pits, the two former champions keen to take the top step.

Alonso's closing speed began to tell as with four laps to go, Raikkonen's lead was just 1.7 seconds, the Spanish driver taking three-tenths every lap.

With a lap to go, Alonso and Raikkonen were separated by a second. Raikkonen held his nerve and his lead right to the line, his impressive comeback complete with his first win after returning and his nineteenth career win.

"I'm very happy for the team, and for myself also. You never know what's going to happen during the race. Today we had a clear circuit to be able to use our speed," Raikkonen said.

Alonso took second while a lucky and speedy Vettel took third ahead of Button.

Daniel Ricciardo took the final point in tenth, behind Bruno Senna who put in an amazing race in a damaged Williams.

 

Abu Dhabi F1 Results

  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

DNF

  • Pic - Marussia-Cosworth
  • Grosjean - Lotus-Renault
  • Webber - Red Bull-Renault
  • Hamilton - McLaren-Mercedes
  • Karthikeyan - HRT-Cosworth
  • Rosberg - Mercedes
  • Hulkenberg - Force India-Mercedes