Raikkonen wins action-packed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Kimi Raikkonen took his first comeback victory in Abu Dhabi, finally delivering on the promise shown all season by the Lotus team. He rocketed into second off the start, and accepted the lead when Lewis Hamilton’s car coasted to a halt with a fuel pressure problem. Fernando Alonso came second to close the gap to Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship to ten points, and Vettel completed the podium with an inspired drive after starting from the pitlane.
After a few processional races, it came as something of a surprise to have two safety cars and a large amount of overtaking. The Pirelli tyres had proved durable throughout the weekend and continued to do so during the race, with most drivers pitting only once. As a result, almost all of the overtaking was with the aid of DRS rather than due to extreme tyre degradation as was seen earlier in the season.
The first of the major incidents came on lap nine, when Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan collided in a spectacular crash that launched the Rosberg’s Mercedes over the HRT at high speed. Rosberg had pitted for a new nose after damaging his front wing on the opening lap, and was making his way back through the field when he came up behind Karthikeyan’s HRT. A steering failure on the HRT forced Karthikeyan to brake in the middle of a fast corner, and Rosberg had nowhere to go but to the scene of the accident. The safety car was deployed, which allowed Sebastian Vettel to pit for tyres and a new nose – his front wing had been damaged in the opening period of the race – without losing too much time, which certainly aided him in his drive through the field.
The second major incident occurred between Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber and Paul Di Resta. Di Resta and Perez both managed to pass Grosjean in the second DRS zone, before Perez attempted to pass Di Resta round the outside of turn 11. Di Resta took to the grass in turn 13 while Perez ran wide off the track on the exit of turn 13. Grosjean saw that Perez was off the track and took the inside for turn 14, but Perez chose to defend his position and gave Grosjean no room to back out of the pass. Grosjean clattered into the side of Perez’s Sauber, which spun. Mark Webber was unfortunate to run out of space and collided with Grosjean, further damaging the Lotus and destroying the rear-end of Webber’s Red Bull. Perez carried on but was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for causing the crash. In the ensuing safety car period, Michael Schumacher picked up a puncture after running over the debris left on the track and was forced to pit for new tyres, costing him a likely points finish.
Raikkonen is now the eighth different winner of 2012, underlining how competitive the season has been. He is no longer in the running for the championship however, being 57 points behind leader Vettel with only 50 points still available from the last two races. The title race is now a straight fight between Vettel and Fernando Alonso, with 10 points between them. Vettel can wrap up the title at the next race if he out-scores Alonso by 15 points.
Red Bull looked likely to wrap up the Constructors’ Championship in Abu Dhabi until Mark Webber retired from the race. As it turned out, Red Bull need to score only four points at the next race to retain their crown, which makes it virtually certain that they will secure the Constructors’ Championship at the inaugural race in Texas on 18 November.