November 3rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Mercedes have opened up an 11-point advantage over Ferrari in the fight for second place in the 2013 Constructors' Championship after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished third and seventh for Mercedes, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa fifth and eighth for Ferrari.
Rosberg and Hamilton started the race on the second row of the grid, and both made strong starts that allowed them to challenge the Red Bulls ahead into the first corner. Rosberg was able to pass Mark Webber and took second place on the opening lap. Hamilton was less fortunate and lost position to Romain Grosjean on the exit of the first corner as he ran out of space on the inside.
Rosberg enjoyed a very competitive race, despite losing his second place to Mark Webber on lap 20. Although Romain Grosjean caught him in the closing stages of the race, Rosberg's position was secure and he held on for his fourth podium of 2013.
Hamilton struggled throughout the race with a mysterious lack of grip in his Mercedes. He had a difficult time getting past drivers who presented little challenge for Rosberg, which suggested that there was possibly a balance problem in his car. In particular, he did not look confident under braking, which will have compromised his ability to overtake.
Hamilton was locked in a long battle with Force India's Paul Di Resta late in the race. He did manage to pass Di Resta on at least one occasion in the first DRS zone, but Di Resta was able to pass him back in the second DRS zone and ultimately kept the Mercedes driver behind until the chequered flag.
With two races to go, it looks increasingly likely that Mercedes will finish the season second in the Constructors' Championship. Red Bull have already secured the title, which leaves just the runner up position to fight for. Mercedes are 11 points ahead of Ferrari and 37 points ahead of Lotus. At this stage of the season, the Mercedes car looks quicker than the Ferrari and the Lotus, which means Hamilton and Rosberg should be able to deliver stronger results than their rivals in the final races in the USA and Brazil.
This is what the Mercedes drivers had to say after the race:
Nico Rosberg: "I had a great start to the race and was able to catch Mark off the line. I thought there might be a chance to get Seb but it wasn't quite possible. I was able to push hard in the first stint on the option tyres but the second stint wasn't quite as good as the car had a lot of oversteer on the primes and Mark was able to pass me. After the second stop, the set-up worked much better and we were able to set some really good lap times.
"We didn't quite manage to take the challenge to the Red Bulls today but we were closer at least to one of them and hopefully we can make it happen in the last two races. As a team, we scored some great points for the Constructors' Championship this weekend and I'm very happy about that."
Lewis Hamilton: "That was a tough race this evening for me. My race just didn't quite come together and I'm not really sure why as I gave it my all out there. I had some problems with grip and, of course, it's so difficult to overtake here when you are in traffic but we also need to figure out why I'm not getting the maximum performance from the car at the moment. The guys worked so hard this weekend to get my car repaired and ready for the race so it's frustrating not to have delivered a better performance for them.
"A massive thank you to everyone for their efforts and it's great that we have extended our lead for P2 in the Constructors' Championship. All points count but Nico did a really good job today to maximise the potential of the car. Hopefully the last two races will be stronger for me and I look forward to that challenge."