Category Archives: Qualifying and Races

Raikkonen takes surprise triumph in Melbourne thriller

Kimi Raikkonen has taken the first victory of the 2013 Formula 1 season, employing a stellar strategy to sneak ahead of the rest of the field.

Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel struggled for pace slightly, and could only manage 3rd position. Ferrari confirmed their excellent race pace with 2nd and 4th for Alonso and Massa, while Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil put in brave drives for their teams. Here’s the breakdown of what happened:

A typical Webber start

At the start, Mark Webber made yet another disastrous start, falling to 9th by the end of the first lap. The Ferraris stormed past Webber and Hamilton, with Massa fending off Alonso for 2nd.

Having qualified a brilliant 3rd, Lewis began to slip down the order. First he was passed by Massa and Alonso, then he came under huge pressure from Kimi Raikkonen, to which he succumbed to on Lap 2. Amazingly, Jules Bianchi in the Marussia had a storming start, and managed to get up to 13th before burning out his first set of tyres.

Jenson Button, predictably, was the first to pit for new tyres, seeing as the McLaren had shredded his super-softs in Q3 earlier. Webber followed suit, and it quickly became clear that the Red Bulls were struggling to control their tyre wear.

By Lap 6, Vettel’s typical “first lap advantage” had run out, and both Massa and Alonso were breathing down his neck. Raikkonen, having dispatched of the Mercedes, was the quickest of the 4 of them, and soon joined the action up front.

Resurgent Sutil

Vettel removed his super-softs on Lap 8, with Massa, Alonso and Raikkonen pitting soon after. This left the Mercedes drivers briefly out in front, who had opted to stay out on the options for longer than anyone else.

Adrian Sutil found himself at the front of the pack, having started on the medium tyres. More impressively, he was capable of holding off Vettel lap after lap, and even began to pull away from the Red Bull.

Sebastian seemed unable to pull the maximum out of the medium tyres, and Alonso made his second pit stop in response, having been backed up by both the Red Bull and Massa. Sutil and Vettel pitted on Lap 21, and the world champion exited the pits behind Fernando, his sudden change in strategy now paying diviends.

Despite his initial pace, Massa was caught unawares by this development, and fell away from the frontrunners after his second stop. Vettel improved on his new set of rubber, diving past Sutil at Turn 3.

Approaching the halfway mark, Pastor Maldonado became the first retirement of the day, touching the grass in the braking zone of Turn 1 and spinning into the gravel.

Mercedes’ strategy falls apart

Up at the front, Hamilton and Rosberg again found themselves ahead of the leaders, being on a different strategy. Nico was running as high as 3rd, but an electrical problem forced him to pull over and retire.

Light rain soon began to fall around Albert Park, making conditions even trickier. Raikkonen now led Hamilton, neither of them having made their second stop, while the 3-stopping Alonso soon began to catch the Mercedes.

On Lap 31, after spending a few laps staring at the Mercedes’ rear wing, Alonso took advanateg of a lock-up at Turn 12, and swept past Hamilton for 2nd place. Lewis pitted soon after, and it became apparent that his attempt at a 2-stop had failed.

Once the final set of stops were over and done with, Raikkonen was now in control of the Grand Prix, holding a solid 6 second lead over Fernando Alonso. Vettel and Massa both overtook Hamilton for 3rd and 4th, whose slower car was now restraining his efforts.

Sutil led the race briefly again, but began to sharply drop back on his final set of tyres. With the Force India out of contention, the focus switched back to the front, where Alonso was doing his absolute best to reel in Raikkonen.

A tense finish

Having fallen to as little as 4 seconds during the stops, Kimi was able to bring the gap back up to 7 seconds once he put his foot down. However, Fernando remained vigilant, knowing that his tyres were 5 laps newer than the Lotus’.

Adrian Sutil slipped away from the frontrunners, even on the super-soft tyres, and was even reeled in by teammate Paul di Resta, who had a very quiet race in 8th place. The Force Indias were within a second of each other with a few laps to go, but Di Resta was ordered to hold position until the end.

McLaren knew they would have a difficult race, and a 9th placed finish by Button was acceptable considering how poor qualifying was. Sergio Perez was resurgent towards the end of the race, but was unable to pass Romain Grosjean for 10th on the final lap.

Holding the 6-second gap until the end, Raikkonen cruised to his first victory of the season, his superior strategy and speed proving to be unmatched. Alonso and Vettel joined him on the podium, while Massa and Hamilton slipped away in the final stint.

Red Bull’s “domination” clearly failed to materialise, and the 2013 season looks to be just as closely-fought as 2012. The Malsyaian Grand Prix can’t arrive quickly enough.

Vettel heads Red Bull lockout, Hamilton shines in Australia qualifying

After a 16-hour delay, qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix finally got underway, with Sebastian Vettel taking a comfortable pole position, 0.4 seconds ahead of Mark Webber.

However, the star of the day was undoubtedly Lewis Hamilton, who excelled in his new Mercedes role to take 3rd position. Teammate Nico Rosberg initially impressed in the damp Q2 session, but fell away as the session progressed.

Here is what happened across the 30-minute session:

Q2

Similar to yesterday’s qualifying, Nico Rosberg was immediately fast, remaining at the top of the timesheets for the majority of Q2. Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton all went head-to-head, each of them improving across the 15 minute session.

The track was still damp from rain earlier that morning, which gradually dried out. With several minutes to go, McLaren made a brave call, and switched both Button and Perez to the slick tyres. It failed to pay off, with both cars sliding off on their first laps. Jenson immediately pitted, while Sergio struggled on, and finished 15th.

Button recovered from his poor call, and snatched 4th on a new set of intermediates.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:38.067

12) Adrian Sutil – 1:38.134

13) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:38.778

14) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:39.042

15) Sergio Perez – 1:39.900

16) Valtteri Bottas – 1:40.290

Q3

While the Red Bulls, Ferraris and Mercedes drivers exited the pits on intermediates, the other remaining drivers waited in the pits, in anticipation of the the track drying out further.

This occurred with 5 minutes to go, and the frontrunners were forced to scramble back to the pits for the super-softs.

Quickly enough, the times began to tumble. Button, Hamilton and then Vettel lowered the fastest time by huge margins, with Vettel eventually setting a 1:27.407 on his second last attempt.

Mark Webber was in with a shot of pipping his team-mate, but his terrible home form continued, with the Aussie making a mistake in the final sector and dropping 4 tenths.

The Ferraris slotted into 4th and 5th, with Massa just getting ahead of Alonso. Hamilton hugely impressed with 3rd, while Nico Rosberg was forced to settle for 6th place.

None of them were able to unseat Vettel at the front though, and he starts the 2013 season in a commanding position.

Times from Q3:

1) Sebastian Vettel – 1:27.407

2) Mark Webber – 1:27.827

3) Lewis Hamilton – 1:28.087

4) Felipe Massa – 1:28.490

5) Fernando Alonso – 1:28.493

6) Nico Rosberg – 1:28.523

7) Kimi Raikkonen – 1:28.738

8) Romain Grosjean – 1:29.013

9) Paul di Resta – 1:29.305

10) Jenson Button – 1:30.357

Melbourne qualifying descends into farce – Q2 and Q3 postponed until Sunday morning

The 2013 Formula 1 season has suffered a stunted start, as the final two sections of qualifying have been pushed back to Sunday morning because of heavy rainfall in Melbourne.

However, it was not just an open-and-shut case. Today’s qualifying session was underway for two hours, but the cars only left the garages for 20 minutes in total. The session was delayed no less than 6 times, and eventually a lack of sunlight forced the session to end.

Q2 and Q3 will take place at 11:00 local time (midnight UK time), with the race taking place 6 hours afterwards.

Q1 did eventually take place, with several drivers crashing during the session. Giedo van der Garde, Felipe Massa, Esteban Gutierrez and Charles Pic all lost their front wings, while Lewis Hamilton spun into the barriers at Turn 2 and damaged his rear wing.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Pastor Maldonado – 1:47.614

18) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:47.776

19) Jules Bianchi – 1:48.147

20) Max Chilton – 1:48.909

21) Giedo van der Garde – 1:49.519

22) Charles Pic – 1:50.526

 

The heroes of Interlagos 2012

To put it simply, the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2012 was one of the best races I’ve seen in my life. Aside from 2008, you couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to a fabulously entertaining season.

What make the race even more special was that it wasn’t just the two title contenders driving their hearts out. Throughout the field, we saw some astounding performances, resulting in a race that will be talked about for years to come.

Let’s have a look at the stars of Brazil 2012:

Sebastian Vettel

Couldn’t write this article without him. Punted into a spin at turn 4, his championship battle appeared to be over before it even begun.

What happened next was pure magic. Vettel blitzed through the field at an astounding pace, even with a damaged floor and exhaust. He tore his way up to an incredible 6th place after only 10 or so laps.

A mistake deciding what tyres to go onto, and then a slow pit stop, left him down in 12th as the race entered its final 20 laps. However, he again laid waste to the midfield, tearing back up to 6th to seal the title.

What was even more impressive is how he continued to push his way up the field, even when the championship was effectively decided. A true triple world champion’s performance.

Nico Hulkenberg

This was the true shock of the day. With the rain falling, a smart tyre choice helped Hulkenberg gain 25 seconds over most of the grid.

With this opportunity, he kept Button and Hamilton under massive pressure, and shocked most viewers by putting a pass on the McLaren.

Even more amazing was how he managed to pull away from the fastest cars on the grid. A small error at turn 1 ruined his chances of victory, but the subsequent penalty was too harsh in my opinion. Still, it doesn’t detract from an absolutely enthralling performance.

Felipe Massa

The fast-starting Ferraris laid waste to the Red Bulls at the start, and surprisingly were able to pull away comfortably for most of the race.

Massa’s start was particularly impressive, moving up as high as 2nd before shuffling down the order soon after. After losing a lap to the leaders after a delayed pit stop, the safety car period gave him an opportunity to fight back, and he seized it with both hands. He picked off car after car, and eventually relieved 2nd to Alonso.

His resurgence in form has been extremely impressive, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him fighting on equal terms with Fernando next season.

Lewis Hamilton

Again, Lewis did everything right, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

After taking his 7th pole of the year, he was all set to dominate the race, but several factors collided to take him out. The first period of rain allowed Jenson Button to briefly take the lead off the sister McLaren. A poor call for intermediate tyres dropped him down the order, but the safety car slashed a 45-second deficit, and gave him another chance to take a final win with his childhood team.

But like so many times this year, it didn’t happen. A mistake by Nico Hulkenberg took Hamilton out on the spot, and ruined what could have been a beautiful end to the McLaren-Hamilton relationship.

Kimi Raikkonen

All set to finish every single lap of the 2012 season – an incredible record – Raikkonen decided to entertain the fans watching at home instead. A true heroic performance!

Button wins, Vettel triumphs in Interlagos epic

The Brazilian Grand Prix has played host to many incredible races over the years, and 2012 was no exception. After a crazy race that saw several downpours, three different race leaders, and a shocking first-lap crash, Sebastian Vettel presevered to finish 6th, and seal his third world championship in a row.

Incredibly, Nico Hulkenberg led a sizeable portion of the race, but accidentaly crashed into Lewis Hamilton, ruining either’s chances of taking a final win for their team. Jenson Button held on in the closing stages in tricky conditions, and led home Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

This was a race that will be talked about for years to come. Here is the breakdown:

Disaster for Vettel?

It was a taste of Brazil 2007 at the start – the championship leader slipped down at the start, while the challenger pushed through. Vettel found himself down in 5th, but worse was to come at turn 4. A fiesty Bruno Senna clumsily dived down the inside of the Red Bull, and clattered into the side of his car. Sebastian was spun around, while Bruno’s race was ended on the spot.

The clash left Vettel 24th, and seemingly in huge trouble for his championship aspirations. Meanwhile, Alonso was 4th, and his teammate was up in 2nd. Being pressurised by Mark Webber on lap 2, Fernando pulled an epic move, taking both positions at turn 1.

Despite his advantage, though, he made a slip on lap 5, sliding wide at the Senna S and just about holding off Webber. Unbeknownst to the cameras, Vettel was preparing an epic comeback…

Rain-filled chaos, part 1

Nico Hulkenberg made a decent start, and was able to pass Mark Webber soon after the start. After another slip from the Ferrari on lap 6, the Force India was able to inherit 3rd.

Just when it appeared as if the frontrunners were beginning to settle in, the rain threw a spanner in the works. Light rain began to fall on lap 7, and the drivers began to struggle. Webber spun, while Jenson Button began to pressurise teammate Lewis Hamilton for the lead of the race.

After Romain Grosjean spun out of the race, it became clear that the track was too damp for dry tyres. Lap 11 saw the majority of the field pit, while Button and Hulkenberg made the brave decision to stay out.

The focus then shifted back onto Vettel, who had astonishingly made his way all the way up to 6th before the stops. He easily passed Webber with little resistance, and within several laps he had fought his way back into a points position.

A surprise leader

Up front, the Force India of Hulkenberg would not let go of Button’s McLaren, and amazingly jumped past Jenson on lap 19.

In the next few weeks, the intermediate-shod drivers slinked back into the pits, admitting they made the wrong call regarding the weather. Further back, shards of carbon fibre found their way onto the racing line, causing a puncture for Nico Rosberg.

Alonso went onto his radio to complain of the dangerous track, and the safety car was promptly called out to clear the debris.

Hulkenberg and Button promptly received their free pit stop, while the order settled down. Nico still led, ahead of Button, Hamilton, Alonso, and then Vettel, who had dispatched of yet another train of drivers.

Rain-filled chaos, part 2

At the restart, Hulkenberg impressively pulled away, while Button made a move on Hamilton for 2nd place.

Kamui Kobayashi raised plenty of eyebrows, as he battled for a drive next season. The Japanese driver bolted past both Vettel and Alonso for 4th position, before succumbing to the Ferrari a few laps later.

Felipe Massa helped Alonso’s chances, but passing Sebastian for P6. The damage to the Red Bull after lap 1 was noticeable, but didn’t result in a chronic lack of pace.

In his final race, Michael Schumacher had his hands full defending 11th place against Kimi Raikkonen. After nearly being collected by Paul di Resta, the Lotus driver squeezed past the Mercedes, closely followed by the second Force India.

However, the rain was back again. By lap 42, consistent drizzle had dampened the track again, and the times began to slip away again.

Battles at the front and back

At the front, Hamilton began to close on the slowing Hulkenberg. In the slippery conditions, the Force India driver had lost his confidence, and on lap 49 put a wheel onto the white line, spinning and handing the lead to Lewis.

At the back, a battle was forming to decide which team would take 10th place in the constructor’s championship. A single 12th place would suffice, and it was being fought between Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov and Marussia’s Charles Pic.

Petrov held 12th for as long as he could, but spun entering the middle sector, and handed the place back to Pic on lap 47.

Despite the darkening clouds, Vettel opted to take on another set of slicks on lap 52. His actions were mirrored by Daniel Ricciardo, while Nico Rosberg took on the intermediates.

Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, slipped wide at turn 12, took the escape road, only to discover that it didn’t lead back to the track as planned. Cue a hasty retreat:

 

Rain-filled chaos, part 3

Hulkenberg attempted to retake the lead on lap 55, but disaster ensued. He lost control entering turn 1, clipped the McLaren, and spun around. Lewis’s race was over, and a drive-through penalty for Hulkenberg ruined his heroic drive.

The worsening conditions made it clear – Vettel had made the wrong call. He dashed back to the pits for inters, but had lost crucial track position. He emerged from the pits in 12th place with it all to do again.

There was no debate amongst the frontrunners this time – all of them immediately pitted by lap 56. After Hulkenberg’s penalty, Alonso was elevated to 3rd, but Vettel was able to claw his way back to 7th.

Button now held an enormous lead over Felipe Massa, who was being caught sharply by Alonso. Within a few laps, a 5-second lead was annihilated, as Massa understood the situation, and allowed his fellow teammate past.

Meanwhile, Vettel wasn’t satisfied with his situation, catching and easing past Michael Schumacher, who similarly posed no threat to the Red Bull.

A tense battle for 12th continued, with Petrov zipping past Pic as the two were being lapped by Alonso.

Despite his searing pace, and attempts to close a 20-second gap to Button, Alonso surely had a sinking feeling in his stomach. With Vettel 6th, the title was out of his grasp.

Premature end to a classic race

Kamui Kobayashi made another attempt to make an impact on the race, doing his best to pass Schumacher for 7th. But, a spin only proved to dampen his sprited charge.

With the race entering the penultimate lap, any hopes for a Brazil 2008-style finish were dashed, as a crash for Paul di Resta brought out the safety car.

After weaving through the debris, Button crawled home to take a triumphant win, while Sebastian Vettel sealed the championship with 6th place. Fernando Alonso was visibly gutted, having lost out on his third title for the 3rd time in the final race of a season.

Di Resta’s sudden retirement meant that Petrov was elevated to 11th, which sealed Caterham’s 10th place in the constructor’s championship. Oddly enough, this works out better for Charles Pic, whose new team next year will enjoy extra FIA funding because of this result.

But the man of the day – and year – was Vettel. Having taken everything that Interlagos could throw at him, he charged through the field countless times to become the youngest ever triple world champion.

And so ends another classic season. In a dog of a car, Fernando Alonso did himself and Ferrari proud, but the best driver/car combination was clearly Vettel, who returned triumphant after a disappointing start to the season. Today’s classic race will cement Vettel’s reputation as one of the fastest drivers in Formula 1 history.

Title fight will go to Brazil – Hamilton pips Vettel in thrilling American GP

Lewis Hamilton has continued his streak of winning every single United States Grand Prix he has competed in, with an excellent drive today at the Circuit of the Americas.

The McLaren driver hunted down Sebastian Vettel for the majority of the race, then had to hold him off in a tense final few laps. Fernando Alonso did all he could to minimize his championship losses, but was half a minute behind in 3rd place.

At the start, all the even-numbered starters slided down the field, with Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen losing out in particular. Alonso leaped up to 4th place, while Jenson Button couldn’t get his hard tyres up to temperature, falling to 16th.

As is the case these days, Michael Schumacher began to slip away, causing a large train of cars to form from 8th all the way down to 15th. Hamilton quickly recovered from his disappointing start, dispatching of Mark Webber for 2nd place.

As Michael slipped down the order, Button began his recovery drive, his prime tyres proving to be particularly effective once they were up to temperature. Up front, Hamilton began to close on Vettel, but was unable to get close enough to make a move just yet. Red Bull’s reliability fears were proved, as teammate Webber pulled over with an alternator failure on Lap 17.

This elevated Alonso to 3rd, which he immediately lost after a slow pit stop. Kimi Raikkonen opted to stay out while the frontrunners pitted, and spent several laps just behind Sebastian before stopping. However, a similar mistake with the right rear tyre resulted in the Lotus falling behind the Ferrari.

Felipe Massa’s gearbox penalty seriously disadvantaged the Brazilian, but he shrugged it off, and pulled off an impressive performance to pull himself back into contention. By the end of the pit stops, he was able to reel in and put a move on Raikkonen, who was not as fast initially on a new set of rubber.

On a completely different strategy to everyone else, Jenson Button stayed out until Lap 36, pulling out a string of impressive – and fastest – laps to rejoin the race behind the Raikkonen/Massa fight.

Nico Hulkenberg – who was the subject of an epic pass by Raikkonen earlier – had made it as high as 5th in the opening stages, but the Force India proved to be uncompetitive in race trim, and lost another place to the other Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

After a brief lull in activity at the front after the stops, Hamilton again got up close behind Vettel. Lap after lap he tried to get close using DRS, but the gap to the Red Bull was just too big. However, an opportunity arose when Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT held up Vettel in the first sector, and Hamilton wasted no time in punishing Sebastian’s misfortune. Once he got past, he did his best to pull out a gap.

Further back, the two Williams drivers began to tussle, with both drivers’ contracts on the line for 2013. Bruno Senna had got up as far as 9th, but an ambitious pass by Pastor Maldonado relegated him to the final points-scoring position.

Although Lewis had done his best to pull away from Sebastian, the Red Bull’s pace proved to be undeniable. Vettel was able to reduce the gap to around a second in the final few laps, and chased Hamilton all the way to the flag in an extremely tense finish.

Alonso was over half a minute off the battling duo, but later stated that his podium finish felt as good as a win. Felipe Massa was able to find his way past Raikkonen and Button to take an excellent 4th position. After a decent grid position, race day was a disaster for Michael Schumacher, falling all the way to 16th.

The most important piece of news from this race is that the title fight will go on to Brazil. Vettel now has a 13-point lead over Alonso, while at the same time Red Bull have clinched the constructor’s championship with one race to spare.

Ferrari intentionally give Massa gearbox penalty to hand Alonso 7th, on clean side of Austin grid

A late gearbox penalty for Felipe Massa has dropped him down to 11th on the grid for the Grand Prix of America.  Crucially, this means that Fernando Alonso has been elevated to 7th on the grid – the clean side of the track.

Rival teams have reacted with fury, as Ferrari attempt to give Alonso every advantage possible, after a disastrous weekend so far for the Italian squad.

Ferrari didn’t even need to actually change the gearbox on Massa’s car – they simply broke the seal on top of it.

It remains to be seen will Red Bull attempt a similar situation with Mark Webber, but it is highly doubtful, knowing the Aussie.

Kimi Raikkonen takes stunning win in breathtaking Abu Dhabi GP

Kimi Raikkonen has taken a surprise victory in one of the most tense and exciting races in recent times – in Abu Dhabi, of all places.

The Finn inherited the lead after Lewis Hamilton’s engine expired, and he was unbeatable in terms of raw pace. Fernando Alonso did well to move up to second place, but Sebastian Vettel was the star of the day, dropping to the back twice, and still fighting his way through to a podium finish.

In contrast to expectations, the race was jam-packed with unpredictability, and brilliant racing. Here is what happened:

At the start, Mark Webber had an absolute howler of a getaway, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to waltz into 2nd place from 4th. Jenson Button was quickly passed by Fernando Alonso, as the Ferrari made its way into 4th place.

A 4-car clash occurred at the first corner, as Nico Hulkenberg squeezed Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and himself into an unavoidable accident. Romain Grosjean was then clipped by Nico Rosberg, and the Lotus crawled back to the pits.

Up front, Lewis Hamilton made a mistake on lap 2, nearly being passed by Kimi Raikkonen, but the McLaren just about held his position.

At the back, Sebastian Vettel began to make progress, but clipped his front wing against Bruno Senna’s Williams, suffering minor damage. Sebastian wasn’t fazed though, and made his way up as far as 13th before lap 10.

However, the race took another sharp twist, with the safety car deployed for a scary crash between Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan. The HRT backed off going into turn 16, and the Mercedes smashed over Narain, forcing both cars out on the spot.

Red Bull took this opportunity to pit Vettel, dropping him to the back of the field. At the restart, the sister Red Bull put Alonso under huge pressure, but Fernando managed to hold onto 4th place.

From 19th, Sebastian got to work again, passing both Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean within a matter of corners. However, he passed Grosjean off the track, and was forced to allow the Lotus past. A lap later, the Red Bull sailed past again to secure 17th place.

Then, as if the title battle didn’t need another twist, it got another one – Lewis Hamilton suffered a sudden engine failure, causing him to coast to a halt. A dejected Lewis exited his car, and at the same time, Alonso found his way past Pastor Maldonado for 2nd place.

Mark Webber then closed in on the Venezuelan, but put the Williams under too much pressure, clashing with Pastor at turn 12, spinning the Red Bull and leaving him in 7th. Vettel quickly closed in on his teammate, and a conveniently timed pit stop for Mark ensured that there was no inter-team battle.

After his stop, Webber began to battle with Felipe Massa, resulting in yet another clash at turn 16. They clashed wheels, with Webber running wide, and Massa suffering an embarrassing spin.

The majority of the frontrunners pitted around lap 30, with Button finding his way past Maldonado in the meantime. Vettel stayed out, but it became clear that his used tyres were beginning to wear. He had found his way up to 2nd, but Alonso was now reeling him in at several tenths per second.

Red Bull made the sensible call, and pitted Vettel on lap 37, with Sebastian emerging in 4th place. Within a lap, a bizarre crash caused another safety car, and a perfect opportunity for Vettel.

In the battle for 5th, Paul di Resta shoved Sergio Perez off the track, who clashed with Romain Grosjean once he rejoined the circuit. A damaged Grosjean then moved into Webber’s path, eliminating all 3 cars on the spot.

On the restart, there were no major changes of position, but the battle at the front began to intensify. Button in 3rd was under pressure from Vettel behind, while Alonso began to slowly reel in Raikkonen.

The last 10 laps were incredibly tense. With only a few laps to go, Sebastian made a brave move on Jenson to take 3rd place, and reduce the damage to his championship lead. Meanwhile, Fernando was able to close the gap to a single second on the last lap, but Kimi was able to keep it together, and took an incredible victory.

Pastor Maldonado had a quiet run to 5th, followed by Kamui Kobayashi, Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and Daniel Ricciardo.

The gap between Vettel and Alonso is 10 points, and despite Kimi’s win, he has now been ruled out of the title bid. The F1 circus will roll up in Austin in two weeks time, where the next plot twist will take place…

Vettel thrown out of qualifying, will start from 24th after fuel infringement

In a stewards’ decision which may well prove to be the pivotal point of the 2012 season, Sebastian Vettel has been thrown to the back of the grid for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel pulled over at the end of Q3 today, and failed to make it to parc ferme. After inspection, the stewards found that his car had only 850ml of fuel in it – less than the 1 litre required for a fuel sample.

The same breach of rule occurred to Lewis Hamilton in Spain, with the same reprocussions.

Fernando Alonso will now start from 6th position, and is in a perfect position to claw back the 13-point deficit. Tomorrow’s race has taken an extremely exciting twist…

Update: Team principal Christian Horner has stated that Vettel will start from the pit lane. This implies that Red Bull will be changing bits and pieces on Vettel’s car overnight.

Hamilton back on form, takes pole in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton has taken his first pole position in Abu Dhabi since the Singapore Grand Prix. The McLaren driver was miles ahead of anyone else, taking pole by over 0.3 seconds ahead of Mark Webber.

Sebastian Vettel was disappointed with 3rd, but Fernando Alonso was even angrier with 7th position. Here is what happened:

Q1

Pastor Maldonado was the first driver to set a 1:42, while the Lotuses could only manage 1:43s.

Fernando Alonso was out on track early, but could only pip Maldonado’s time. Jenson Button could only take 3rd place, even when most frontrunners hadn’t left the pits yet. Surprisingly, Maldonado set another good lap time, retaking the fastest time by 0.2 tenths.

Lewis Hamilton had a momumental lock-up on his first flying lap, ruining his front right tyre. Alonso retook the lead, until Lewis’ next attempt slashed the top time by 0.6 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel typically left his laps until late, but scraped the barrier on his first lap, causing a huge array of sparks to come out of his right rear tyre. His next lap left him 5th, while Mark Webber took 2nd.

Jean-Eric Vergne had a huge spin while lying 18th, which sealed his exit from Q1. Charles Pic impressed his team by splitting the Caterhams.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:44.048

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:44.956

20) Charles Pic – 1:45.089

21) Vitaly Petrov – 1:45.151

22) Timo Glock – 1:45.426

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:45.766

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:46.382

Q2

Again, Maldonado impressed right away in Q2, setting a 1:41.9 to take top spot in the early parts of Q2, until he was displaced by both Lotus drivers.

Following a dominative lap in Q1, Hamilton again went fastest in Q2. Vettel’s first lap was aborted, after he took too much kerb on the exit of a corner.

On his next lap, he took 2nd place, while teammate Webber pipped Hamilton’s time by just under a tenth of a second. However, that didn’t last long, as Lewis immediately responded with a 1:40.901.

It appeared as if Mercedes were going to have another embarassing exit from Q2, but Nico Rosberg pulled off a good lap to put himself 7th. After their impressive showing in Friday practice, Force India could only manage 11th and 13th.

Drivers knocked out of Q2:

11) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:42.019

12) Sergio Perez – 1:42.084

13) Paul di Resta – 1:42.218

14) Michael Schumacher – 1:42.289

15) Bruno Senna – 1:42.330

16) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:42.606

17) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:42.765

Q3

Kimi Raikkonen was the first out of the pits, his Lotus sparking heavily as he undertook his first lap. A 1:41.756 set the benchmark, which was quickly annihilated by Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button and Webber.

Sebastian Vettel took 2nd, but was almost half a second away from the charging Hamilton. A lock-up for Felipe Massa put him out of contention, with the second Ferrari only taking 6th place.

After good showings in Q1 and Q2, Pastor Maldonado was able to split the Red Bulls, taking 3rd position. After Mark Webber displaced the Williams and his teammate, Vettel was unable to improve, finishing in 3rd. He pulled over at the end of the session, indicating a car problem.

Fernando Alonso struggled on his final lap, and was knocked all the way down to 7th place by Button and Raikkonen.

Hamilton was left unchallenged to pole, and was absolutely ecstatic as he aborted his final lap. The championship battle has taken another twist, with both Vettel and Alonso further back than they would have wanted.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers