Posted by Carrot on November 17, 2011 | 1 Comment
With Sebastian Vettel suffering his first piece of bad luck all season, Lewis Hamilton rose the occasion and seized the opportunity to remind the world of just how fast he can be. The race also underlined the reason for changes at the Yas Island circuit if there’s to be any real racing in years to come.
Lewis Hamilton ran from the front, fighting a battle of time against the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso in order to take the victory. It wasn’t a confident run to the line, considering his recent form, but an error free race allowed Hamilton to return to the top step of the podium. I’m dubious of making a cast iron statement that Hamilton is back, for all we know it could be a blip and the abysmal form could return in Brazil. Last week I was discussing his recent mistakes and said that I wouldn’t contract him for another season based on 2011, and I stand by that. It’s been a worse year for Hamilton than 2009, when the car was way off the pace, was. It’ll be good for racing if the old Hamilton is back, it’s just too early to tell. Jenson Button brought the other McLaren to the line in third after suffering KERS problems for most of the race. He was only 26 seconds behind Hamilton, even with all of the problems he suffered, so combined with the fact that he was only beaten by Hamilton and Alonso I’m going to call that as an excellent race for the 2009 champion. Although caught up with Mark Webber and Felipe Massa during the race he still managed to beat the pair of them to the end of the race.
They say a great driver takes a car to finishes beyond what it should achieve. Fernando Alonso demonstrated his ability in Abu Dhabi by dragging that Ferrari beyond a McLaren and a Red Bull, both better cars on terms of raw performance. Not only did he beat Button and Webber, but he spent most of his race harrying Hamilton and trying to force an error from the leader. He was, as we all know, unsuccessful in this regard, but I do think that the Abu Dhabi race underlined why Alonso is considered the best driver in the world by many people. In the second Ferrari Felipe Massa did the opposite. While Alonso was showing that he could make any car into a contender, Massa was again saying in a very clear voice that he doesn’t deserve a drive in a top team. Button finished 26 seconds behind his team mate after suffering major problems with the car, Massa was 42 seconds behind Alonso with no problems reported with his race. Massa’s now filling a cockpit where anyone else could be doing more.
Welcome to Red Bull’s worst race weekend of the year, and only their second retirement of the year. Mark Webber spent most of the race dicing with Massa and Button and used some imaginative strategy to cement fourth place. It’s been the story of Webber’s year, fighting with the second drivers in the other teams while Vettel leads the first drivers into the distance. With Vettel’s woes it was the ideal time for him to come through and shine, the lack of straight line speed from the Red Bull meant he was trapped losing time while the top three disappeared. Vettel’s race lasted a corner and a half, and the exact cause of his tyre failure is still unknown. Prevailing opinion is a piece of debris on the opening kerb caused the immediate deflation of the tyre and sent him into a spin. It’s the mark of a champion to have bad luck after the crown is already secure, added to the fact that he now equals the record for number of pole positions in a season means that even though his race lasted only a few hundred metres, it was still a better weekend for him than it was for his team mate.
The fourth running team was again Mercedes GP, cementing their position this season behind the top three and ahead of the rest. It was an interesting inter team battle between Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Wheel to wheel action in the first stint resulted in Rosberg coming out on top, finishing sixth ahead of Schumacher in seventh. With Rosberg having just signed a new multi-year deal with the team it’s important for his future standing to beat Schumacher both on track and in the standings for as long as they are team mates. He’s the only driver in the top four teams that hasn’t won a race and he needs to demonstrate his ability for Mercedes to invest in building the team around him.
Rounding out the top ten were the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi. More points for Force India really underlines the strong finish they’re having to this year. Hopefully though it isn’t to the detriment of next year’s car.
The final thing I want to bring up is the blue flag penalties. Pastor Maldonado received two, one drive through in the race and a time penalty after the race. Suffice to say I’d have black flagged him after his second indiscretion. The blue flags exist to preserve the front running battles, Maldonado’s conduct ended up in the precious one second DRS activation between Massa and Webber being broken. That meant we, the viewing public, were denied something that was shaping up to be a close battle between the pair. The fault entirely lies with Maldonado and Williams, there are no excuses they can bring. If they want the blue flags gone, let them propose a full rule change, not screw up close racing which is what the fans have been crying out for since a time before Maldonado first sat in a kart.
And with Abu Dhabi over we’re almost at the end of the 2011 season. Only Brazil remains. Luckily they’ve restored this great race to its true place as the season finale, although the championships are decided I still expect it to be an excellent race. Especially if it rains. It’s a great race to try and get friends who have never watched F1 before into the sport. See you there.