Posted by Carrot on November 7, 2012 | No Comments
2007′s World Champion returned to the top step of the podium on Sunday in a surprising, but well-deserved, win in Abu Dhabi. A strong start by Kimi Raikkonen set the stage to take advantage of Lewis Hamilton’s mechanical woes and hold off the late charges of both championship contenders. Given the time in the championship, we’re going to focus on the top four teams, who certainly decided this race
It’s been a long time coming for the Finn and for the former Renault, now Lotus, team. The team have had the car to be threatening to take a win for most of the year based on both their car and the raw pace their drivers can bring to the fore. Kimi was his usual self during the race, driving to the limit when required and being his usual self when his team tried to coach him over the radio, telling them to leave him alone as he knew what to do. His comments were vindicated after 55 laps when he led over the line from Alonso. Team mate Romain Grosjean had a messy day, two collisions which ultimately caused him to go into retirement. Neither collision was the fault of Grosjean in my opinion, which I’m quite glad about. I like Grosjean, he reminds me a lot of Lewis Hamilton in his early career, and after his (frankly unbelievable) one race ban I’m glad he’s not courted further sanctions from the stewards. Abu Dhabi also confirmed that Lotus will finish at least fourth in their maiden (in their current form) season. They cannot be caught by Mercedes AMG, and could still catch McLaren for third, obviously an excellent result for the season.
Fernando Alonso really needed a result here. Although Sebastian Vettel couldn’t put the title beyond mathematical certainty on Sunday, he could have made it extremely unlikely for Alonso to be able to mount a comeback. As usual, Alonso gave everything he could to try and capitalise on Vettel’s misfortune and came away with second place, close behind the winner. Although it doesn’t reduce the lead Vettel has in the standings, it was an important result from a psychological point of view, it stops the rot of Vettel outscoring Alonso in recent races. This is of course mitigated by the fact that it required a severe error from Red Bull to achieve this result, although time is on the side of Ferrari with Abu Dhabi (a Red Bull circuit) now bypassed as they head towards Brazil where they expect the advantage. Felipe Massa continues to perform better, which is good news for Ferrari’s standing in the team championship, and good for fans. I was one of those calling for Massa’s replacement after some abysmal performances, but it’s always a good thing to see the likeable Brazilian move closer to the pace.
For Red Bull the weekend was supposed to be a charge to extend their championship leads, it quickly turned into one of damage limitation after qualifying. Sebastian Vettel’s drive was one of the more entertaining bits of the race for me. I thought his demotion to starting in the pit lane would be good for taking the championship down to the wire, some of his errors in the first half did give great insight into how he was coping with the pressure (not very well, particularly with the incident behind Daniel Ricciardo and the safety car) but ultimately it can be seen as the drive of a champion. Taking Button in the closing laps to limit the damage that Alonso could cause to his lead was magnificent, in difficult circumstances he demonstrated the form he’s known for when leading from the front. If he does take the title at the end of the year, this will be the race that is looked back on as the point where he won the title, even though it’s nowhere near mathematically certain yet.
And I’m going to finish with McLaren, again, what happened? Another error from the team, this time in reliability to add to their pit stop and strategy screw-ups from earlier in the season. It’s getting easier to see why Hamilton would rather move anywhere but here. The speed of the car over the last 18 races mean that he should be challenging Alonso and Vettel all the way to Brazil, as it is he can’t even achieve victory even when he’s controlling the race because of the tools given to him by the team. Jenson Button finished a reasonable fourth, reasonable as a finish, but way off the form he team mate had shown when he was leading.
And that was Abu Dhabi, errors from teams and impressive drives from certain individuals. With only two races left, the new United States Grand Prix and Brazil, there only remain 50 points at stake in the drivers’ standings and 86 in the constructors’ race. Both titles will now be decided between Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, Vettel and Alonso. We expect the Brazilian track to play to the strengths of Ferrari so Red Bull and Vettel will both be looking to really score in Austin, Texas. Scoring 16 more than Alonso will allow Vettel to seal the fight there, whereas Red Bull are all but guaranteed a third team crown. The season may be a record breaking 20 races, but F1 has still retained its ability to fight until the end.