November 3rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, half a minute ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull. Nico Rosberg finished third for Mercedes, achieving his stated aim of being "best of the rest" this weekend.
Webber was on pole position, but lost two places off the start as Vettel and Nico Rosberg surged past him before the first corner. At the back of the field, Kimi Raikkonen - who had been relegated to last on the grid after his car failed post-qualifying scrutineering - had a late stab down the inside of a Caterham and broke his front suspension against the left-rear wheel of the Caterham. That was the end of the race for Raikkonen, who had had a weekend to forget anyway.
As has become his typical race strategy, Vettel disappeared into the distance in the opening laps, quickly opening up a commanding lead. He ran quite a bit longer than the other leaders in the first stint, and by the time he pitted had such a lead over then-second placed Felipe Massa that he was able to return to the track still in the lead.
By the second round of pit stops, Mark Webber had made his way into second place, but was more than a pit stop behind Vettel, who again managed to change tyres and emerge from the pits in the lead. From the point on, Vettel's engineer dedicated his energy to convincing Vettel to take it easy and get his car to the end of the race.
Nico Rosberg had another strong result for Mercedes. After running second for the first stint of the race, he was passed by Webber on lap 20, but then held his third place until the end of the race. Although the television coverage did not show their battle at all, Rosberg had Romain Grosjean in close company towards the end of the race. Grosjean finished fourth, 1.1 seconds behind Rosberg.
Fernando Alonso finished fifth, but was involved in an incident that could still result in a penalty. He ran behind Felipe Massa for much of the race, but pitted later than Massa for their second tyre stops. As Alonso emerged from the pits, he found himself battling with Jean-Eric Vergne, who had only made one pit stop and was running ahead of Massa on the track.
Alonso managed to pass Vergne as he was exiting the pits, but ran well off the track in turn 3 in the process. It seemed clear that Alonso had gained an advantage by running off the track, which should have meant he had to give up the place to Vergne. He did not do so, and the stewards announced that they would investigate the incident after the race.
If Alonso is found to have gained an advantage by running off the track, he will likely receive a time penalty that will be added to his race time and put him a bit further down the field, but for the moment he is classified fifth.
Before the race, there was some speculation that a one-stop strategy could result in unexpected results. The two Force Indias were the only cars to make a one-stop strategy work, and it paid off well, as both drivers managed to finish in the points. Paul Di Resta held off a challenge from Lewis Hamilton late in the race, while Adrian Sutil hung on to tenth place, just 2.7 seconds ahead of Pastor Maldonado at the finish line.
Hamilton endured a frustrating afternoon, complaining to his Mercedes team about a lack of grip during the race and eventually finishing a fairly lowly seventh. Considering that Rosberg was able to finish on the podium, Hamilton will be disappointed to take just 6 points away from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Felipe Massa finished eighth for Ferrari after having a strong afternoon and making good aggressive passes at various stages of the race. Sergio Perez finished ninth in the leading McLaren, ahead of the second Force India of Adrian Sutil.
Vettel's victory is his seventh in a row, which equals the personal best of Michael Schumacher from 2004. Seven is the record for consecutive races won inside a season, but the record for most consecutive race victories overall is held by Alberto Ascari, who won nine races in a row in 1952-53. Vettel could equal that record this season, but it will take until the first race of 2014 for him to beat it.
After the race was over, as he was on his slowing down lap, Vettel took a small time out to do some donuts on the outside of turn 7, perhaps in reference to the Indian Grand Prix, where he received a reprimand and Red Bull were fined when Vettel did donuts on the start-finish straight after securing his fourth title. It's not yet clear if Vettel will be penalised for today's donuts, but it seems unlikely as he took his car back to the pits as required after the race.
Full results from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||Winner||2||25|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||55||+30.8 secs||1||18|
|3||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||55||+33.6 secs||3||15|
|4||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||55||+34.8 secs||6||12|
|5||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||55||+67.1 secs||10||10|
|6||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||55||+78.1 secs||11||8|
|7||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||55||+79.2 secs||4||6|
|8||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||55||+82.8 secs||7||4|
|9||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+91.1 secs||8||2|
|10||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||55||+93.2 secs||17||1|
|11||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||55||+95.9 secs||14|
|12||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+ secs||12|
|13||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||55||+ secs||16|
|14||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||54||+1 Lap||5|
|15||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||54||+1 Lap||15|
|16||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||54||+1 Lap||9|
|17||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||54||+1 Lap||13|
|18||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||54||+1 Lap||18|
|19||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||54||+1 Lap||19|
|20||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||53||+2 Laps||21|
|21||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||53||+2 Laps||20|