Sebastian Vettel has stormed to yet another race victory around the Yas Marina Circuit, joining the greats of Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher in winning seven successive races in the sport. The German was joined by Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg on the podium, in what was a race dominated by the rampaging Red Bull.
At the start Sebastian Vettel catapulted himself immediately into a dominant lead, whilst team-mate Mark Webber endured another of his uncompetitive starts from pole. Nico Rosberg also managed to make the jump on the Australian driver into Turn 1, as further back Kimi Raikkonen collided with the rear of Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham. This resulted in the Finn sustaining damage to his front-right wheel, and forced him into an unfortunate first lap retirement, his first since the 2006 United States Grand Prix.
Despite minor altercations throughout the pack through Turn 1, the field amazingly managed to negotiate the remainder of the lap relatively incident-free. After suffering from suspected brake issues on his way to the grid before the race, Lewis Hamilton endured a frustrating opening few laps as the 2008 World Champion was overtaken by Romain Grosjean and then put under severe pressure from the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg. After making contact as the field threaded its way through Turn 1 at the start, Jenson Button was forced to return to the pits after the opening lap for a new front-wing. This saw the former World Champion rejoin the action plum last, as Sebastian Vettel fully stretched his legs at the front.
As the opening laps of the race ticked away, Sebastian Vettel produced several consecutive fastest laps in a bid to open up a considerable gap to the cars behind. As Romain Grosjean began to catch the second Red Bull of Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel was instructed over the team radio to maintain his current pace to give his team enough flexibility later in the race. Whilst one Red Bull driver ominously scampered into the distance, the other in the form of Mark Webber reported back to the pits of a suspected KERS issue, something which has plagued Red Bull in recent races.
By Lap 5 the first scheduled pit-stops of the race began to take place, with Pastor Maldonado and Jules Bianchi diving into the pits for a fresh set of Pirelli tyres. A lap later the McLaren of Sergio Perez did likewise, setting the trend for the next couple of laps as numerous other drivers made their respective stops. Lewis Hamilton pitted surprisingly early for Mercedes on Lap 7, which in turn forced both Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean to react several laps later with the duo eager to remain ahead of the British ace. Throughout the next few laps many other drivers up and down the order made their first pit-stops, including Nico Hulkenberg and Nico Rosberg.
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel remained out on the track and continued to open up a lengthy gap to the two Ferraris, who had also elected to remain out for a longer period. With Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean pitting earlier, the duo found themselves behind those who had elected to remain out on track, including the likes of Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil who they gradually began to overtake. On Lap 15 Sebastian Vettel finally pitted from the lead of the race, with over a twenty second gap to Felipe Massa in the Ferrari. This allowed the German to retain his lead out in front by some margin, after an absolutely sensational opening stint.
Further down the order Lewis Hamilton’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix failed to improve, as the Briton struggled to overtake the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. With the Mexican rookie yet to pit for the first time, he was understandably keen on defending his track position, thus allowing his team-mate to catch up as well. Eventually Esteban Gutierrez pitted, in doing so releasing Lewis Hamilton as Sebastian Vettel produced another fastest lap of the race. As the Ferrari duo eventually made their first pit-stops of the evening, Mark Webber managed to rise up ahead of Nico Rosberg to take 2nd position behind his team-mate in the distance.
After enduring a torrid qualifying performance, Fernando Alonso began steadily rising through the order as the race progressed, after making his first pit-stop. The Spaniard soon managed to overtake both Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas, as he rose up to 9th position. Just ahead of the former World Champion, Lewis Hamilton was still struggling behind the wheel of his Mercedes as he was robbed by both Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa. After initially overtaking the German driver into Turns 8 and 9 via DRS-assistance, he was pounced up through the second DRS zone by both Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa as he dropped down to 7th.
Meanwhile Fernando Alonso enjoyed a similar battle with the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg, as the Spaniard sneaked ahead of the German at Turn 7 before trading places with him through the two DRS zones. Eventually Fernando Alonso managed to win their battle and rise up to 8th, as ahead team-mate Felipe Massa made a move stick on the Force India of Adrian Sutil. Lewis Hamilton soon managed to recapture his position from Sutil for 6th, before Alonso did likewise behind him on track.
As the race ensued the second round of pit-stops for those two-stopping began to ensue, with Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez becoming the first two drivers to dive into the pits. Unfortunately for Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber the German was unsafely released into the path of Sergio Perez, which eventually resulted in a drive-thru penalty. Adrian Sutil finally made his first stop on Lap 29, with the German expected to make it to the end on a one-stop strategy. As Sebastian Vettel continued to enjoy a flawless and untroubled race comfortable in the lead, utter mayhem ensued further back as Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado fought relentlessly for track position at Turns 11 and 12.
Both were forced to cut Turn 12 in a bid to avoid collision, however Adrian Sutil in particular gained an advantage whilst rejoining the circuit as Pastor Maldonado almost collided with the unsuspecting Sergio Perez. Although the race stewards investigated the incident, no further action was taken after what was a frenetic couple of corners. Lewis Hamilton pitted for his second stop on Lap 30, before 2nd and 3rd placed drivers Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg did likewise together on Lap 34. This enabled Romain Grosjean to silently rise up to 2nd position, with Sebastian Vettel continuing to extend his lead at the front.
As the race entered its final stages, Fernando Alonso began catching team-mate Felipe Massa for 5th. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel pitted from the lead of the race, and subsequently rejoined still in the lead due to his enormous 40 second lead over Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman also returned to the pits for his second stop, and only just managed to rejoin ahead of the battling Ferraris at the high-speed pit exit. Felipe Massa became the next driver to pit for the Scuderia, rejoining behind Lewis Hamilton and releasing Fernando Alonso behind Romain Grosjean.
With Jean-Eric Vergne electing to remain out on track, Lewis Hamilton found himself stuck behind the Frenchman with the Ferrari of Felipe Massa close behind. After several laps stuck behind the Toro Rosso driver, Lewis Hamilton eventually managed to make a move stick into Turns 8 and 9. Unlike the 2008 World Champion, Felipe Massa was unable to replicate such a maneuver into Turns 11 and 12 as he remained stuck behind the Frenchman.
As Felipe Massa struggled to find an immediate way around Jean-Eric Vergne, Fernando Alonso pitted further up the road for the soft tyre compound. Upon rejoining the track action, the Spaniard was forced to momentarily leave the track as he came out alongside the Toro Rosso of Vergne and bumped perilously over the kerbs as he strove to avoid making contact. As the duo somehow managed to avoid each other, Felipe Massa was forced to take avoiding action and cut Turn 5 for fear of colliding the rear of Jean-Eric Vergne.
This incident saw Fernando Alonso come under investigation by the race stewards for exceeding track limits and gaining an advantage, with the stewards later confirming the incident would be investigated after the race. Jean-Eric Vergne then proceeded to drop through the order, with firstly Felipe Massa and then Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez overtaking the Frenchman before he pitted on Lap 54. Despite a hairy exit from the pit-lane, Fernando Alonso managed to produce the fastest lap of the race as he hunted down ex-team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
With DRS-assistance the Spaniard made light work of Lewis Hamilton, before then catching and overtaking the Force India of Paul di Resta for 5th. The Spaniard continued lighting up the timing screens in his Ferrari, however it was Sebastian Vettel who breezed with ease to his seventh successive race victory for Red Bull. The World Champion was distantly joined by team-mate Mark Webber, with Nico Rosberg 3rd for Mercedes only just ahead of Romain Grosjean.
The newly-crowned Champion now matches the current record for the most amount of races won in succession, joining both Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher with an unbelievable seven in a row. The sport will now take a two-week break before reconvening around the glorious Circuit of the Americas in Austin for the United States Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has never before won on American soil, and will be unquestionably looking to change that stat when the sport reconvenes for the penultimate race.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi; 55 laps; 305.355km; Weather: Clear. Classified: Pos Driver Team 1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 3. Rosberg Mercedes 4. Grosjean Lotus-Renault 5. Alonso Ferrari 6. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes 7. Hamilton Mercedes 8. Massa Ferrari 9. Perez McLaren-Mercedes 10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 11. Maldonado Williams-Renault 12. Button McLaren-Mercedes 13. Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 14. Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 15. Bottas Williams-Renault 16. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 18. van der Garde Caterham-Renault 19. Pic Caterham-Renault 20. Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 21. Chilton Marussia-Cosworth Fastest lap: Alonso 1m43.434s. Not classified/retirements: Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
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