Vettel Unchallenged En Route To Seventh Consecutive Victory

Almost unbelievably, it was Vettel not starting on pole for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, admitting after qualifying that he had made a mistake into T1 on his flying lap. Nevertheless he was starting beside his team-mate on the front row, with both Mercedes’ drivers behind him. Kimi Raikkonen provided the talking point for Saturday evening when his car failed a post-qualifying scrutineering and was found to have an illegal floor. As a result he had his qualifying time deleted and he was given the option of starting from the back of the grid or from the pit lane. The latter would allow him to make changes to his car, but Lotus estimated that the time lost from starting in the pits would be too large and so decided to start from 22nd on the grid.

This led to a myriad of questions pre-race as to how the race would unfold with several key drivers out of position. Could Webber keep the lead? Could Alonso make an alternative strategy work to storm through the field? Could Raikkonen repeat Vettel’s run from last to podium in 2012?

As it turned out, Webber couldn’t keep his lead. With yet another dodgy start from the veteran, he dropped behind both Vettel and Rosberg while closing off Hamilton into turn 1, who was then passed by Grosjean. Alonso cleared the first corner melee but Raikkonen was overly ambitious and found himself driving into an ever closing gap between Charles Pic’s Caterham and the barrier. He made contact with the Caterham which damaged his suspension and he pulled over on track, the Finn’s first first lap retirement since the 2006 United States Grand Prix.

Vettel did what he does best and stormed off into the horizon like very competitive AI on a video game, while Rosberg, Webber, Hamilton and Grosjean battled for second and Alonso began a challenge on his independent team-mate. Jenson Button pitted for damage sustained on the opening lap and rejoined at the back where he was soon joined by team-mate Perez who opted to take an early stop. Webber took the lead from Rosberg and got to business early, reporting a KERS issue on his RB9.

Hamilton’s pit stop on lap ninth proved to be the finger that pushed the domino as Webber and Grosjean pitted to cover off Lewis’ attempts at making the undercut work. Stops completed, Webber led Grosjean from Hamilton as they set into battling the traffic ahead of them. Webber caught and passed the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez with a surprising ease and was shortly followed by Grosjean’s Lotus. The Sauber proved trickier for Hamilton who had to get comfortable behind the weaving Mexican. It was a similar story for Grosjean who couldn’t past Adrian Sutil when Webber had dealt with the German. This helped stretch out the order and handed Rosberg an opportunity to pit, reporting that his rear tyres were spent.

Rosberg rejoined sixth and Webber began chasing the Mercedes down while Vettel pitted from the lead and rejoined back in front, with Massa and Di Resta his provisional podium companions, with both men still to stop. Grosjean finally makes a move stick on Sutil while Gutierrez pits and frees Hamilton who was now been followed by Nico Hulkenberg. Massa pitted from second and provided a wedge between Hamilton and Hulkenberg while Webber used his DRS to breeze past Rosberg. Di Resta pitted and Webber assumed P2 while Alonso stole past Perez and Bottas, the latter who was yet to pit.

Hamilton got past Sutil into T10 and thought he’d secured the place until both Sutil and Massa used DRS on the back straight and cued an incredibly ballsy move from Massa into the T13 chichane to pass both men. Sutil ventured into the pits for a fresh set of boots and rejoined the track in the middle of a battle between Maldonado and Perez. Sutil sized the Venezuelan up into T13, locked up, took to the escape road and rejoined ahead of Perez who had just passed the Williams. The incident was investigated by Stewards but they took no further action. On the other hand, Hulkenberg was handed a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release into the path of Perez.

Back to the battle for fifth where Massa and Alonso were scrapping away, Massa had no obligation to obey the team orders and was instead called into the pits to clear the way for Alonso. Closer to the front, Webber covered Mercedes’ attempt at the undercut by joining Rosberg in the pitlane and rejoining ahead of the German. Whereas Massa had pitted, Alonso tried to bring his Ferrari to the line on a one-stop strategy. The effect on his time was too much, however, and he journeyed into the pitlane for a fresh set of Pirellis. Rejoining the circuit, he came out right in front of Vergne who pulled alongside and pushed him onto the kerbs. Alonso stayed off track, got small air and swerved to the other side of the track, forcing Vergne off the other side. Massa nearly ran into the back of the duo which left the Brazilian cutting the first chicane. The stewards weren’t impressed and announced that they would be investigating Alonso for exceeding track limits post-race.

Alonso, Grosjean and Vettel swapped the fastest lap in the closing stages and Hamilton was passed by Fernando but nothing could challenge Sebastian Vettel up front as he crossed the line to claim his seventh consecutive victory of 2013 – and with it, Red Bull’s 100th podium finish. He celebrated in style by pulling off track at turn 7 and doing doughnuts. However, don’t expect a penalty for Vettel as he got the car back to Parc Fermé, unlike leaving his car on the start/finish straight as he did in India.

Final Standings: 

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Mark Webber
  3. Nico Rosberg
  4. Romain Grosjean
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Paul di Resta
  7. Lewis Hamilton
  8. Felipe Massa
  9. Sergio Perez
  10. Adrian Sutil
  11. Pastor Maldonado
  12. Jenson Button
  13. Esteban Gutierrez
  14. Nico Hulkenberg
  15. Valtteri Bottas
  16. Daniel Ricciardo
  17. Jean-Eric Vergne
  18. Giedo van der Garde
  19. Charles Pic
  20. Jules Bianchi
  21. Max Chilton
  • Kimi Raikkonen – suspension failure

1 Comment

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One response to “Vettel Unchallenged En Route To Seventh Consecutive Victory

  1. Pingback: No Further Action On Alonso Investigation | Ben Sweeney's F1 Blog

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