The Formula 1 Fraternity returned to the Middle East after completing the Races of the Far - East.
The Turn-Around time was very short for the teams as the Race at Abu Dhabi is only a week after the Indian Grand Prix.
"We shall fight to the end, we shall not give up." These were the words of Fernando Alonso who knew that his chances of a 3rd World Championship were fading fast.
"The Twilight Race" has its own aura and is a popular destination for Formula 1 Fans.
The Circuit at Yas Marina delivered a Race which definitely deserved a place in the History Books!!
FREE PRACTICE :
FP1 saw Ma Qing Hua feature again for HRT while Valtteri Bottas got some Track time instead of Bruno Senna ( Certain Rumours gathering pace ). Jules Bianchi replaced Paul di Resta during FP1. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were the Pace - Setters in FP1 while Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso slotted into 3rd and 4th Respectively. Max Chilton too was given a run and was 22nd at the end of the session.
FP2 was pretty straightforward barring a spin by Karthikeyan. The Times were coming down as the track grip increased. Vettel dethroned Hamilton to go fastest but the McLarens looked sharp. The Lotuses looked the part too with Grosjean and Raikkonen 6th & 7th.
FP3 saw everyone stay on track as Hamilton continued the McLaren Domination with Button while the Red Bull duo of Vettel and Webber stayed in touch of the leaders. Alonso was a distant 8th and his chances of qualifying strong seemed a distant dream.
Q1 saw Hamilton, Rosberg and Webber as the fastest 3 of the session. Q1 didnt spring any surprises as the usual backmarkers were relegated.
Q2 saw the ouster of Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Perez, Di Resta, Senna, Kobayashi, Ricciardo. Hamilton was closely followed by Webber and Vettel.
Q3 would be one of the most exciting Qualifying Sessions ever. Raikkonen set the early pace but it was quickly eclipsed by Hamilton and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton's time couldn't be challenged and Alonso's title hopes took a big hit when he couldn't improve his overall 6th Fastest time. Webber went 2nd fastest while Maldonado produced a stunning lap into 3rd only to be dumped down to 4th as Vettel slotted into 3rd. Raikkonen, Button, Alonso, Rosberg, Massa, Grosjean completed the top 10.
However it wasn't over. Vettel's car came to a stop under the Yas Hotel after being instructed by the team to do so. The resut of this action would add a different dimension to the Title Race!
Red Bull and their engine partner Renault announced that the German had been excluded from qualifying as he did not have required amount of fuel left in his tank to be tested by officials. The result was that Vettel was sent to the back of the grid - but Red Bull opted to make set-up changes before the race, which meant that Sebastian Vettel had to start from the pit lane
A very big decision by the Stewards !! Let us see how the race unfolded!
At the start of the parade lap, Pedro de la Rosa stalled on the grid in his HRT which caused him to have to start from the pits behind Sebastian Vettel. When the race began, Hamilton led into the first corner, while Kimi Raikkonen passed Mark Webber and Pastor Maldonado to take 2nd. Contact between Bruno Senna and Nico Hulkenberg caused the Force India driver to retire from the race. During the first lap, Fernando Alonso overtook both Button and Webber. Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg also had damage and headed into the pits. Meanwhile, up front, Lewis Hamilton reported that he had got cold tyres as Kimi Raikkonen tried a bold move around the outside of the McLaren driver. It didn't pay off, though, and Hamilton retained the lead. While this was happening, Vettel took some slight damage to his front wing as he had made contact with Senna while attempting to overtake. ( Lap 3 ). The German was already upto 16th.
On Lap 5, Romain Grosjean made a move on Nico Rosberg at Turns 8 and 9, but ended up with a puncture on the right front which made contact with Rosberg's front wing. Both drivers had to pit - Grosjean for a set of tyres and Rosberg for a new nosecone.
Four laps later, on Lap 8, Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan were involved in a collision. Karthikeyan braked due to a steering problem, causing Rosberg who was right behind him to crash into him, bringing both out of the race but unharmed, and sending out the safety car. During the safety car period, when Daniel Ricciardo was weaving and braking, Sebastian Vettel was unaware, and he swerved to avoid the Toro Rosso and hit the DRS board at the side of the track, causing more damage to his front wing. Red Bull soon gave the instruction to fit a new front wing on Vettel's car, along with a set of soft tyres. It was the call Vettel was hoping to avoid. Vettel rejoined the field 21st and last.
Vettel tried a move on Grosjean at the end of the long straight, but the Frenchman fought back and retook the position. Vettel didn't give up through and slotted down the inside at the next corner. This time, there was no way back for Grosjean Sebastian Vettel however was told to let Romain Grosjean past to avoid a penalty. Vettel crossed a white line, and went onto the blue part of the track during the overtake. He let Grosjean past only to retake the position a couple of corners later.
On Lap 20, the race leader Lewis Hamilton slowed to a halt as a technical issue with his McLaren put him out of the race. Kimi Raikkonen inherited the lead as a result. No safety car was required as he had parked his car in a safe position. On the next lap, Fernando Alonso managed to overtake Pastor Maldonado with the assistance of DRS. On lap 23, while attempting the same move on Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber made contact with the Williams, causing him to spin and lose places to Button, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez, dropping the Australian from 4th to 7th. By this time, Sebastian Vettel had fought his way up to 10th place. Lap 24 saw Jenson Button pass Pastor Maldonado for 3rd.
Lap 24 witnessed something hillarious. The Lotus team told Kimi Raikkonen that he had a five second lead over Fernando Alonso in 2nd. The Finn repliesd: "Leave me alone I know what I'm doing!"
Mark Webber tried a move on Felipe Massa but there was contact and Webber was forced off track. Massa spun the car as he hit the gas. ( Lap 26 )
Alonso pitted on lap 29 and rejoined in 6th just behind Vettel. Webber received a Radio Message a Lap later : "Mark, if Sebastian gets a run, don't fight him,"
By lap 31, Vettel was up into second, about twenty seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen, and his subsequent pit stop on lap 37 put him down to 4th. Inspite of a slow pitstop Red Bull managed to get him out before the train of cars from 5th to 11th.
Kimi Raikkonen pitted on Lap 32 and the Finn rejoined the track in the lead, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Drama continued on lap 39 as Paul di Resta and Sergio Perez tried to overtake Romain Grosjean. Perez ran wide, and when entering the track again, he collided with Grosjean who then collected Mark Webber, taking the Lotus and Red Bull out of the race and earning Perez a ten-second stop and go penalty. This sent out the safety car once more.
McLaren told Jenson Button that Fernando Alonso had struggled on the restart so he should do his best to get close at the restart. Button acknowledged the message but added: "He's very quick in a straight line, very quick." ( Lap 41 )
Kimi Raikkonen's race engineer Simon Rennie ( I have had the privilege of meeting him a couple of times, great guy ) reminded him to keep warming his tyres ahead of the restart to which the Finn snapped back: "Yes, yes, yes, yes. I'm doing it all the time. You don't have to remind me every second." ( Lap 42 )
This is what Formula 1 lacked!! Sheer Entertainment from the ICEMAN!!
In the closing laps, Fernando Alonso put in quick laps to catch Kimi Raikkonen but the latter maintained the gap to around a second. Vettel took advantage of the safety car to close up to Jenson Button and get past on lap 51. Raikkonen after immense pressure managed to do just enough to hold off the Ferrari to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his first win in 2012, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
Kimi Raikkonen punched the air as he crossed the line to take Lotus's first victory in their current guise.
Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Vettel were the podium finishers. Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado, Kamui Kobayashi, Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.
This was his First Victory since the Belgian GP 2009. The Iceman had proved all the doubters wrong as he made more than just a fantastic return to Formula 1.
The Lotus Team went beserk in the Pit Garage and I shouted my lungs out at home!!
The Iceman Deserved it! The Team Deserved it!! They had shown great character the entire season with the limited resources that they had!
The Win had finally come, albeit slightly late. A Win is a Win though!
Sebastien Vettel too produced a stunning drive to climb upto 3rd from the back of the grid, a feat that speaks volumes of the Racer in him. Fernando Alonso would be disppointed as he would have hoped that the gap would be considerably less at the end of the weekend.
On a Personal Note, I am really glad that Kimi Raikkonen got a win under his belt in his comeback year. He has also been the only driver to finish all the races, not to forget that he has finished in the points in all the races except one.
He consolidated his Position ( 3rd ) in the Championship too with the full 25 points. Lewis Hamilton was left to rue what would have been after having the perfect weekend up until that point.
This truly was the Best Race of the season.. it had it all - The Controversies, the Incidents, the Safety Cars, the Retirements, the Stunning Drives, the Fantastic Overtakes, the Hillarious Radio Messages and at the end of the day, A WORTHY WINNER!!
Lets indulge and savour the celebrations through some stills post-race!
ALL HAIL KING KIMI!! THE ICEMAN COMETH!! and the ICEMAN KNOWETH WHAT HE DOETH!!