Sebastian Vettel’s absolute domination of Formula One continues as he took his seventh consecutive victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand.
He won by over 30 seconds over Mark Webber for his eleventh win of the season. It means he has now matched the number of races he won in his all-conquering 2011 championship campaign.
Pole sitter Webber’s chances of victory were over in a few seconds. Once more the Australian failed to make a start as strong as his team mate, dropping two positions to Vettel and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton initially made a good start but had to settle for fourth, only to come under pressure from Nico Hulkenberg on the opening lap. He briefly lost the position, but was able to reclaim the place in turn eleven.
It was a disappointing race for Hamilton who had his race ruined after getting stuck behind slower cars. He re-emerged back onto the race track behind Esteban Gutierrez after his first stop, and spent several laps behind the Mexican till the Sauber driver eventually made a pit stop of his own.
Hamilton would then struggle to pass Force India’s Adrian Sutil on his way to a disappointing seventh place. He caught Sutil’s team mate, Paul di Resta, in the closing stages but was unable to gain the place.
There was interest before the race as to how much progress Kimi Raikkonen would make. The Lotus team elected for him to start on the grid, rather than from the pit lane, but this was his undoing. The Finn made contact with Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde at the first corner. The collision broke his right front suspension, and he was forced to retire before even making the second corner. He would be the only retirement of the race.
Also in the wars early on was Jenson Button. Like Raikkonen, he started on the prime tyre, but sustained damage on the first lap. Like last time out in India, this forced him to make an early pit stop, costing him any chance of scoring points. Team mate Sergio Perez had a better time of it, taking two points with a ninth place finish.
Fernando Alonso was one of the biggest movers of the race, finishing in fifth after starting tenth. However, the Spaniard faces a steward’s inquiry after he appeared to pass Jean-Eric Vergne off circuit after his final stop. Alonso was stuck behind team mate Felipe Massa for much of the race, but moved ahead in the closing stages after a later stop than his Brazilian team mate. Massa had been delayed with a slow pit stop.
He still featured heavily in the race however, the highlight of which was surely a fantastic move on Hamilton for sixth place on lap twenty five. The Mercedes driver had been trying to find a way past Sutil, but ended up losing a place to Massa at the end of the second DRS zone.
The in-form Nico Hulkenberg had a difficult race, failing to score points for the second time in a week. Unlike India, it wasn’t a mechanical failure that prevented the German from scoring, but a penalty. He was awarded a drive through penalty after Sauber released him into the path of Sergio Perez during his first pit stop.
Despite a late race pass on both Toro Rossos, he was unable to recover much ground and was classified in fourteenth.
Both Ricciardo and Vergne endured a disappointing day, finishing sixteenth and seventeeth respectively. Ricciardo started in the top ten, but made a bad start and was unable to make much progress. Meanwhile, Vergne’s one stop strategy back fired spectacularly in the closing laps. The Frenchman ran inside the top ten for much of the race, but older tyres left him defenceless in the last stint.
Thankfully for Red Bull, they had a much better time of it. Vettel was never headed after the start, such was his dominance. Meanwhile, Webber recovered from his bad start to re-pass Nico Rosberg for a net second place on lap twenty one. The pair had re-joined behind Paul di Resta after their first stops, but Webber’s move sealed a one-two finish for the team.
Romain Grosjean finished off the podium for the first time in four races. The Lotus driver finished fourth after starting sixth. Any hopes of a long opening stint disappeared when he was forced to make his first stop at the end of lap eight. He began to close in on Rosberg on fresher tyres in the closing stages, but had to settle for fourth.
Further down the order, Giedo van der Garde put the disappointment of India behind him to claim “new team” honours. He prevailed in a battle with team mate Charles Pic, while Jules Bianchi reversed the form of recent races to finish ahead of Max Chilton.
The penultimate round of the 2013 championship takes place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin in two weeks’ time.