Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winners and Losers: Abu Dhabi GP

This article was written by Andrew Davis and published on PlanetF1.com. The original article can be found here.

Raikkonen was disappointed at winning so late in the season, while Vettel got away with murder both in the cockpit and on the podium...

Star of the Race
Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 1st

He may have been gifted the win but he had an error-free day in which he resisted both the challenges of Fernando Alonso and the advice from his engineer Simon Rennie. Most satisfying of all from the man who has spent a season being disappointed about every success was that at his moment of ultimate triumph he was still downbeat. The quote: "I was really hoping to have won before so there is no reason to be jumping around," was exactly what we had been hoping for in the Planet-F1 office. High-fiving all round.

And Raikkonen has every reason not to get carried away with his win, he only won because a Mercedes fuel pump gave up on Lap 20. Before that Lewis Hamilton was going away from him with consummate ease.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 1: Fernando Alonso, Ferrari on Mark Webber, Red Bull.

They may be good friends but it looked like that friendship was about to be strained on the opening lap of the race when Fernando Alonso made one of the most critical passes of the race. Alonso more than anyone else knows the virtues of not getting stuck behind people and as he showed on the opening lap in India, he has a very good judgement of what he can do on full tanks. Cars struggled to get by on the back straight in Abu Dhabi with the DRS enabled but Alonso made it with only the assistance of KERS and good old-fashioned braking.

Sat on The Naughty Step
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 3rd

If you're a World Champion, you have to behave like a World Champion and marginally a grown-up. It's not big and it's not clever to swear in front of the World's media on the podium or spray champagne on the grid girls - you just look like a bit of a tosser. Sebastian Vettel can be charming and articulate and often spends more time than most (or he needs to) with the media, but put him on a podium and he reverts to twelve years old. David Coulthard was trying to do a job of work up there. I wonder how funny he'd find it if DC came along and poured water down his neck as he sat in his cockpit on the grid.

The Big What If...
What would have happened if Vettel had started from his original P3 on the grid?

For the want of 0.15 litres of Total essence, Seb could have started the race from P3. And it's not too hard to conjecture the pathway of events should that have happened. Hamilton was away clear as the red lights went out. With Mark Webber having such a catastrophically bad start it would have been Seb into P2 off the line. Raikkonen would have been behind Vettel so even though he hooked up perfectly he would only have taken P3 with Maldonado P4 and Webber P5.

Alonso didn't get such a great start and took advantage of Button trying a move on Webber that didn't come off and lost Jenson a place. Had Button been one place further back from Webber then he probably wouldn't have bothered and just aimed to consolidate his place.

Thus at the end of the first lap it would have been: 1.Hamilton, 2.Vettel, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Maldonado, 5.Webber 6.Alonso, 7.Button. (Alonso, as we saw with Webber, has immense first lap speed and would have made up at least one place).

Given that Maldonado lost KERS after his pit-stop then we can assume that both Mark and Fernando would have got past the Venezuelan, making it: 1.Vettel, 2.Raikkonen, 3.Webber, 4.Alonso - once Hamilton had retired. Alonso proved that he can get past Webber without the DRS as he did on the opening lap and so the sheer top speed down the straights that made Fernando uncatchable would have given him the pass on Webber at some stage. So the result would have been a fairly boring 1.Vettel, 2.Raikkonen, 3.Alonso, 4.Webber, 5.Button.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 2nd

Alonso was pretty near perfect, he didn't make the most brilliant of starts, but his opening lap move on Webber was breathtaking. His only flaw - which was almost certainly down to the machinery - was that his re-starts after the Safety Car were slow. He dropped 1.7 seconds to Maldonado on the first restart and he dropped 1.9 seconds to Raikkonen on the second. And he went on dropping seconds from 1.9 to 2.5 to 3.1 seconds before he started turning the tide on Lap 47 with a string of heart-stirring fastest laps that brought him back to 1.7 seconds on lap 51. Had he not dropped back so dramatically, he would have been in a position to pass before the end of the race.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 3rd
Vettel was very lucky to claim P3 in Abu Dhabi. Not so much down to the Safety Cars, more to his escape from a far more serious accident with Bruno Senna on the opening lap. Vettel wafted his RB8 up the inside of Senna just as Senna tried to get past an HRT. If you get a significant chunk of your car inside another they're suppose to leave you room, but when you know that driver will be watching the other car, you're leaving a lot to chance. The Red Bull front wing escaped more or less intact, but it could have been far worse. By the end of the race, he had become exceptionally polished at taking cars into Turn 11, and his overtaking move on Button was one of the best.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 4th
Button was unlucky at the start, trying a move on Webber, then getting passed by Alonso because it didn't come off and almost losing a place to Felipe Massa in the aftermath. He shouldn't have been so far back, qualifying an unhealthy distance behind his team-mate. He put in a good move against Maldonado but quickly ran out of ideas with Alonso.

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 5th
Pastor Maldonado showed what could be done with a blend of aggression and circumspection. Whereas in the past he has been the cause of needless contact, he was pretty good today and the contact with Webber was hardly his fault.

Race Stewards
You couldn't really argue with any of the decisions today and some of the racing incidents they dismissed were dealt with very efficiently. They certainly had enough to keep them busy till after the young driver test.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, DNF

Well, that was unlucky.

Sergio Perez, Sauber, 15th
More dodgy moves from Checo, though it has to be said that he made some very good ones, unseen by the TV camera as he made his way forward. He had dropped to P9 having been involved in the opening lap skirmish that involved the warring Force India drivers and had got past Kobayashi and Massa. But then he tried to be too greedy and overtake both DiResta and Grosjean in the same corner, when one would have been enough. It's not a GP2 sprint.

Force India, 9th and DNF
On a day when Kobayashi could claim a P6, the Force India should have been in contention for that P6 and a P7. Nico Hulkenberg got a poor start which contributed to the melee at the first corner.

Mercedes, 11th and DNF
Still no points since Singapore. Mercedes board meetings must be interesting right now - when they look down the balance sheet and see how much they signed Lewis for.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 7th
It's hard to understand how Felipe can get away with post-race statements such as: "...it is not the first time that we see the stewards not getting through the right decisions or the right direction. They decided not to give anything, which for me is completely wrong." Massa was whining about his contact with Mark Webber. Webbo had gone to pass him round the outside into Turn 11 and just as Perez got a stop-and-go penalty for bumping DiResta to the right-hand side of the chicane by not leaving room, so Massa would have been on course for a stop-and-go for bumping Webber out to the right. Though it was a risky move, Mark couldn't have made the turn because the laws of physics and Massa's shove pushed him into cutting the corner.

The stewards deemed it a racing incident because Massa didn't benefit from his lack of care. Had they imposed the same logic as they did for Perez, then he would have had a stop-and-go penalty and lost more places. So in effect they did him a favour and all he can do is whinge. And presumably he's whingeing because he looked stupid when he spun.

Romain Grosjean, DNF (how surprising is that)
If you go onboard with Grosjean over the opening corners of the first lap you can see that he's trying very hard to be good and resist the openings that Rosberg presents him with. But as we all know with fully signed-up members of the Carbon Fibre Club, temptation is never far away and following Rosberg down the back straight the devil on his shoulder said, 'go on, you're not going to let this opportunity get away'. So going into Turn 8 he dived for the inside and he didn't leave enough room for the Mercedes on the exit resulting in both going back to the pits for tyre and front wings. That same devil was present later in the race when Sergio Perez veered off track having indulged in some wheel banging with Paul DiResta that sent the Sauber wide.

Grosjean went for the corner despite Perez already tuning in and the pair collided, sending the Frenchman into his favourite accident buddy Mark Webber. It wasn't the pure stupidity for which Grosjean has carved out his own niche this season, they were racing incidents, but it was racing incident for someone who desperately doesn't need racing incidents

Abu Dhabi CircuitEverything is so perfect in Yas Marina World that at times it looks like a CGI of an F1 track. What they might think about doing is reprofling Turns 11 and 12 so that we can gettwo cars running alongside each other. All that money spent on infrastructure and the one fundamental change left undone.
While they're at it, a tunnel pitlane exit isn't vey dramatic, because you can't see the cars going through the tunnel and watch the track at the same time - so have a flyover.

Crawling up Bernie's Buttcrack - "Loike You Would Not Believe"
Never a race goes by that Eddie Jordan cannot pay homage to the man who has made a multi-billion pound fortune on the back of Formula 1. Jake Humphrey was talking about taking F1 to new places and this immediately sets off a Pavlovian response from EJ. "There is nobody who can stand up and dispute anything like that with Bernie because in terms of visionary he is the ultimate crusader. He has been absolutely sensational." Cheque's in the post.

Let's Go Outside
Jonathan Leggard commentating on Free Practice was waxing lyrical about Lewis Hamilton's drivenperformance. He wanted to say "he's a man on a mission," and then halfway through the sentence he changed his mind and wanted to say "he's a man with a misson." And in the end it came out all George Michael: "Lewis Hamilton, I think he's on a man with a mission."

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