Kimi Raikkonen has stormed to his first Grand Prix win since his return to the sport. Lewis Hamilton was leading the race but dropped out roughly halfway through. Sebastian Vettel started from the pit lane after failing to have enough fuel to give a sample to the FIA, but still recovered to finish in a fantastic 3rd place.
At lights out Lewis Hamilton got clean off the line while Mark Webber, as usual, got bogged down, allowing Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Raikkonen to sweep past him. Mark Webber dropped to P4 while Raikkonen fought Maldonado for P2 and made the pass. Behind them, Nico Hulkenberg was fired up and felt a calling to dart between Paul di Resta and Bruno Senna, but the racing gods weren’t with him. He drove straight into the back of Paul di Resta, giving the Scot a puncture, and sending Hulkenberg into Senna. Both Nico and Bruno were sent off the track into Turn 1 but Bruno managed to recover while Hulkenberg had to climb out of the car.
Romain Grosjean made contact with Nico Rosberg out of turn 10, giving the Frenchman a front right puncture for his efforts. The stewards though, decided that the incident was a racing incident and decided to have no further action. Sebastian Vettel was also in the wars. He made contract with Bruno Senna while trying to pass him as quickly as he could, but refused to come into the pits to change his wing.
Sebastian Vettel made great progress, going from P24 to P13 in just FIVE laps! On Lap 9, All hell broke loose. Narain Karthikeyan’s engine began to go with Nico Rosberg running right behind him. Narain going into Turn 15 had to back out of the throttle to stop himself going off the track. Rosberg got completely caught out with the difference of speed, sending him straight into the back of the HRT and into the air. It was a frightful collision and Rosberg was sent at a very high-speed into the TecPro shock observing barriers. Nico, luckily, got safely out of the car, as did Karthikeyan who was lucky not to be injured.
A safety car came out while the debris was cleared. Vettel came on the radio, blasting Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo who had suddenly braked while weaving his car behind the safety car. Vettel had to take precautionary action, which was to drive into one of the polystyrene advertising boards at the side of the track. As a result, he now had a very badly damaged front wing and he was forced to pit for a new front wing.
The safety car came in on Lap 14 with Vettel back in 21st. Hamilton streaked away from the grid while Kimi seemed to fall asleep and dropped back. Mark Webber pressured Alonso immediately but he could do nothing to get past the prancing horse. At the back, Vettel was hassling Grosjean for P19 but Romain was putting up a fight. Vettel eventually managed it out of turn 10 but was forced to give it back, after the team feared a penalty for overtaking off the track, as Vettel ran onto the painted blue line on the outside. But as soon as he let him pass him, he sped up and passed him back!
Hamilton was untouchable at the front, as he had being all weekend and had just stretched his gap to Kimi by 0.4 seconds when his engine gave out! Such cruel luck! Just like what had happened in Singapore when Hamilton was leading by a big margin, he was again out of the race!
Raikkonen stormed past Hamilton with a snigger while Hamilton plodded back to the pits. Meanwhile, Webber who was catching Maldonado tried to take a pass around the outside of the Venezuelan. If you remember back in Silverstone, when Webber passed Alonso for the lead into Luffield? Well this was an identical remake, except Maldonado doesn’t yet have the extreme skill needed in such a situation to prevent a collision, and the two came together. Webber spun round and rejoined in 7th place. The stewards deemed the incident a racing incident and everyone carried on.
But just a couple of laps later, Webber tried to overtake Massa just a few laps later. Massa has had his fair share of fights out on track but while Mark cut the corner, Massa took the corner too tight, sending himself into a spin. The stewards agreed that this too, was a racing incident.
Vettel had a fantastic run and was up to 2nd place after the first round of stops. He had not stopped since coming in during the safety car, but he was forced to come in after his tires began to hit the cliff. Nevertheless, he came out in 4th place, behind Raikkonen, Alonso and Button.
Sergio Perez has really dropped off form since he signed with McLaren and today was no different. He bullied Paul di Resta off the track, then shot across the track and nearly hit the barrier on the opposite side. He then dived left into Romain Grosjean, who then had no control as his car hit Mark Webber’s. Webber’s rear wing and two rear tires were completely destroyed and both Webber and Grosjean were out. It was entirely Perez’s fault and he was awarded a 10-second stop/go penalty for his efforts.
Another safety car was coming out while Charles Pic was coming in. The Marussia driver had been having a strong race and was up to 17th but he was called into the pits and had to retire. The field bunched up while Vettel thanked the racing gods. The safety car came in and Raikkonen bolted away from the pack. Alonso did his best but couldn’t quite keep the up with Raikkonen’s pace. Vettel stormed past Button and destroyed Button’s all podium record at Abu Dhabi.
But despite not being able to keep up with Kimi at the restart, he was soon catching him at 0.2 seconds per lap. This increased to over 0.6 seconds near the end and it really seemed that Alonso could pass Raikkonen with 2 laps to go. But right on cue, Alonso’s Pirelli tires gave up and he could no longer push. Lucky Kimi!
And so Kimi was clear to cross the line to win his first Grand Prix since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. Vettel’s fantastic charge made sure that he is still 10 points ahead of Fernando Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen, despite finishing 1st, has dropped out of contention. The 2013 Champion will now definitely be either Alonso or Vettel.
1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Sebastian Vettel
4. Jenson Button
5. Pastor Maldonado
6. Kamui Kobayashi
7. Felipe Massa
8. Bruno Senna
9. Paul di Resta
10. Daniel Ricciardo
11. Michael Schumacher
12. Jean-Eric Vergne
13. Heikki Kovalainen
14. Timo Glock
15. Sergio Perez
16. Vitaly Petrov
17. Pedro de la Rosa
Nico Hulkenberg – Collision
Narain Karthikeyan – Collision
Nico Rosberg – Collision
Lewis Hamilton – Fuel pressure issue
Mark Webber – Collision
Romain Grosjean – Collision
Charles Pic – Mechanical