Sebastian Vettel leads every lap at the Yas Marina Circuit to record his seventh successive victory and eleventh of 2013, ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.
Formula 1 has held less interesting races, but it’s fair to say that the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix won’t go down in the history books as a classic. Sebastian Vettel stormed off into the distance to secure his seventh successive victory – and 11th of 2013 – and behind him the action was hardly spectacular. In terms of pure spectacle, the setting sun over the Yas Marina circuit provides stunning camera shots. It’s a shame the television director didn’t linger on it for longer.
It hadn’t been the perfect day on Saturday for quadruple champion Vettel. By erring on his final flying lap in Q3 he handed the advantage to team-mate Mark Webber and the outgoing Red Bull driver duly reaped the rewards. The championship is over, but Vettel’s reaction demonstrated his competitive streak.
Not that such trifle issues as pole position mattered once the five red lights were extinguished. Vettel took advantage of Webber’s customary slow start to jump into the lead, while behind them Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton both made strong getaways. Rosberg usurped Webber to emerge as Vettel’s main contender (although that was simply positional rather than posing an actual threat) but Hamilton had to duck out of challenging Webber and in turn lost fourth place to Romain Grosjean.
Vettel promptly pulled away up front, extending his lead to 1.9 seconds at the end of the opening tour. It was the closest anyone would get to the German for the remainder of the afternoon as he extended his lead by around a second a lap. Rosberg began pulling away from Webber, who was under pressure from Grosjean.
Vettel’s primary challengers all pitted before the leader but even then, they couldn’t match Vettel’s pace. The reigning champion responded by pitting a few laps later, by which time he was still comfortably ahead of the yet to stop Ferrari drivers.
Webber subsequently pulled away from Grosjean and began hunting down Rosberg. The Mercedes was being held up by Paul di Resta, who was still on his opening stint, and Webber duly seized the upper hand. Webber used DRS to sweep around the outside of Rosberg on lap 20 to secure second place for Red Bull. Rosberg remained within touching distance of Webber but was never close enough to trouble him again.
Grosjean was untroubled in fourth although had a close moment as he exited the pit lane narrowly ahead of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard endured a difficult weekend as the poor traction of the Ferrari F138 was woefully exposed at the Yas Marina Circuit. Starting from 10th place, Alonso got by on Nico Hülkenberg and overtook Felipe Massa in the pits, before scything past Hamilton and di Resta on option tyres. Alonso conceded that fifth place was the maximum, although he was perhaps fortunate to escape unharmed after exiting the pits alongside Jean-Eric Vergne and bouncing across the bright blue run-off.
Di Resta made his one stop strategy work to take a fine sixth place, ahead of Hamilton. The Brit struggled to get past Esteban Gutiérrez but fended off Massa, in spite of the Brazilian pulling off a great move on the Brit earlier in the race. Massa had run ahead of Alonso and felt that Ferrari made the wrong tyre choice at the final stop as the Brazilian puts himself in the shop window for a 2014 seat.
It wasn’t the best race for Ferrari, but they trumped McLaren’s record of 65 consecutive points finishes. Not that such statistics will be of relevance when Ferrari’s management undertake their end of season evaluation…
Sergio Pérez took ninth place for McLaren, while Adrian Sutil escaped punishment for cutting the chicane during a battle with Pastor Maldonado and collected the final point.
Maldonado enjoyed a strong race in the midfield but ultimately fell just short of securing the final point as he came home in 11th place.
Jenson Button was involved in a first lap collision for the second time in seven days and was forced to make an early stop, scuppering the remainder of his day and condemning him to 12th position.
Having frustrated Hamilton for several laps, Gutiérrez could ultimately manage only 13th place, ahead of team-mate Hülkenberg. The German was on course for points but Sauber released him into the path of Pérez and Hülkenberg was slapped with a drive through penalty.
Valtteri Bottas ran well early on but his tyres faded during the final stint and he slipped to 15th, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian made a poor start, had to avoid the midfield contact and his race from there was done.
Jean-Eric Vergne battled inside the top 10 for much of the race but his one stop strategy was futile and he dived into the pits with a handful of laps remaining.
Giedo van der Garde won the battle at the back after a heated radio exchange at Caterham, with the Dutchman urging team-mate Charles Pic to get out of his way, much to Pic’s chagrin. Pic argued his case but eventually relented, claiming that his car was devoid of balance. He was still sufficiently faster than the Marussia drivers, who got both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton to the finish.
The only retirement was Kimi Räikkönen, who exited a race on the first lap for the first time in seven years. With much of the build-up focusing on Räikkönen’s problems with Lotus, he needn’t have bothered turning up to Abu Dhabi. Räikkönen’s task was merely to negotiate the first few corners safely, having been thrown out of qualifying due to a floor problem on the Lotus E21. Räikkönen was wildly optimistic at the first corner, clattered into a Caterham and damaged the right front corner of the Lotus. Räikkönen returned to the paddock, spoke to the media and departed the circuit while the race was still in its infancy. At least there wasn’t enough time for any heated radio exchanges this time.
There were no such problems for Vettel, who decided to do more donuts after winning by over half a minute. He was warned by his race engineer, but replied by saying ‘yes yes yes I know what I’m doing’, and even managed the Finnish accent, a year after Räikkönen’s famous radio message. This year in Abu Dhabi, Räikkönen didn’t know what he was doing. Vettel on the other hand? He did. And he did so ruthlessly.