Sebastian Vettel wins in India, Nico Rosberg with a good drive to second place and Romain Grosjean claims the final place on the podium after a good drive. McLaren yet again have made small improvements to their car in order to gain their way back to the front and score some much needed points. And people are still wishing that Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes’ drivers still do not have the pace with their cars in qualifying…
Prior to the Grand Prix, the biggest talking point is the new rumours circulating in the paddock is if Ross Brawn is leaving the Mercedes team at the end of the year, hereby leaving Paddy Lowe in charge. Niki Lauda on Sky Sports F1 has made his feelings clear by saying that he would like Ross to stay. But the question is will Ross leave?
Also, things are not all great at Lotus at the moment. Firstly, not only are they answering questions about who is going to take Kimi’s place in the Lotus team for next year. The two contenders gunning for this place is Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado. But if you believe the rumours Hulkenberg is linked very highly to Lotus. You cannot also discount Paul Di Resta or Felipe Massa for the drive either. But we shall see in the next few weeks who will Lotus choose for next year.
And secondly, the ‘Team Radio’ saga that happened in the Indian Grand Prix is still being felt. Kimi did not show up for the Grand Prix until Thursday evening which fuelled the flames that Kimi is threatening to stop racing for the team due to not being paid and could be taking the team to court because of this. Personally, I think that Kimi will continue to race until Brazil and then decide on a course of action to try and get paid by the team. But if the rumours of Quantum Motorsport investing into the team are correct, then the future of the team looks secure, Kimi will be paid before leaving for Ferrari and Hulkenberg partners Grosjean next season? All will be revealed in the coming weeks.
I should also mention that Sebastian Vettel secured his fourth consecutive drivers title and Red Bull’s fourth consecutive Constructors Championship in India so the fight continues for second place in the Constructor’s Championship between Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a very special event. And the circuit is one that the teams and the drivers seem to like and is one of the highlights of the season. The race starts at dusk and finishes at night. It has a high percentage of low and medium speed corners. It is a medium to high energy brake circuit and braking stability is vital. The two special features of the track are the passage under the Yas Hotel and the pit lane exit which feels like coming out of an underground parking garage.
This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who again can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, which car has got their car set up the most competitive and race ready? Have McLaren and Williams made a significant step forward with their upgrades in their fight to get back to the front?
Alongside these questions, questions if Red Bull, Lotus or Mercedes will be able this weekend to help their own fight in the championships, can McLaren small improvements on their cars help them this weekend before Hungary where more upgrades are planned to take place on the car, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?
The race weekend begins now….
Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from the Practice sessions is Red Bull look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
Practice 1 saw Romain Grosjean top the timesheet with a time of 1.44.241 followed closely by Hamilton with a gap of 0.192 seconds, Vettel in third with a gap of 0.258 seconds, Grosjean in fourth with a gap of 0.417 seconds and Hamilton in fifth with a gap of 0.500 seconds.
Practice 2 saw Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheets with a time of 1.41.355 followed by Webber with a gap of 0.155 seconds, Hamilton in third with a gap of 0.355 seconds, Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 0.391 seconds behind and Rosberg in fifth with a gap of 0.423 seconds behind Vettel. Sergio Perez and Jenson Button managed to achieve a top 10 finishes with 6th and 7th places. The early pace is showing that McLaren may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend.
Within Practice 2, Max Chilton in his Marussia experiences a spin at Turn 1and also his brake duct braking and going onto the track. Paul Di Resta experiences a puncture on the inside shoulder when the tyre deflated on his Force India. Also, Gideo Van Der Garde spins his Caterham at Turn 17.
Practice 3 saw Vettel tops the timesheet again with a time of 1.41.349 followed by Webber with a time of gap of 0.222 seconds behind, Hamilton in third with a gap of 0.231 seconds behind, Rosberg in fourth with a gap of 0.372 seconds behind and Grosjean in a fifth with a gap of 0.372 seconds behind. The surprise of the session is Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Guiterrez managing to grab 7th and 8th places showing that Sauber may have good pace within their cars. Button looks to be having a good weekend so far with claiming 6th place which show that McLaren might be able to get into Q3 with a fight and to gain some championship points on Sunday.
Within Practice 3, Jules Bianchi in his Marussia at Turn 2 experiences a spin due to touching the kerb and losing the rear of the car and braking the driveshaft leaving the team a lot of work to do before Qualifying.
You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg, Webber and also Vettel to gain pole position again this weekend. As all four drivers seem to be excelling in qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with them from all of them claiming Pole Positions in the championship so far. Alonso, Massa, Webber and Raikkonen also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.
Button and Perez even with their upgrades and making good and solid progress with points finishes in previous races, seem to have made an improvement. It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is coming slowly and steadily and both drivers I will admit will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or maybe even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable, unless a bit of unexpected rain happens (which is very unlikely). However, I think that Toro Rosso, Force India or Sauber have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…
It looks like Red Bull, Mercedes or even the Lotus’s are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session look set to challenge Ferrari, McLaren and the rest of the field for pole position today due to current form that they have shown. But Force India or Sauber may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, Hamilton tops the timesheets with a time of 1.40.693, Massa was second with a gap of 0.561 seconds, Raikkonen was third with a gap of 0.583 seconds, Maldonado was fourth with a gap of 0.672 seconds and Alonso was fifth with a gap of 0.704 seconds. Rosberg, Grosjean, Webber, Hulkenberg and Di Resta managed to get 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th places for their teams. At the end of Q1, we lose Guiterrez, Sutil, Van Der Garde, Bianchi, Pic and Chilton.
In Q2, Rosberg tops the timesheets with a time of 1.40.473, Hamilton is second with a gap of 0.004 seconds behind, Webber is third with a gap of 0.102 seconds behind, Vettel is fourth with a gap of 0.308 seconds behind and Perez is fifth with a gap of 0.339 seconds behind. The big surprise of the sessions was Riccardo finishing in 6th place and Hulkenberg finished the session in 7th place. At the end of Q2, we lose Alonso, Di Resta, Button, Vergne, Maldonado and Bottas.
The battle for pole position is on…
In Q3, Webber tops the timesheet and gets pole with a amazingly fast lap time of 1.39.957 ,Vettel was second fastest with a gap of 0.118 seconds behind, Rosberg was third fastest with a gap of 0.462 seconds behind, Hamilton was fourth fastest with a gap of 0.544 seconds behind, Raikkonen was fifth fastest with a gap of 0.585 seconds behind, Hulkenberg was a credible sixth fastest with a gap of 0.619 seconds behind, Grosjean was seventh fastest with a gap of 1.040 seconds behind, Massa was eighth fastest with a gap of 1.088 seconds behind, Perez was ninth fastest and Riccardo was tenth fastest.
During the latter stages of Q3, Lewis Hamilton spun his Mercedes on his last qualifying run and suffered a suspension failure.
It would seem that Red Bull genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both sets of drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Hamilton, Webber or Rosberg to be challenging also for the race win in order to keep their seasons off to a flying start. Alonso or Raikkonen could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes and Red Bull and Ferrari and Lotus to gain some points on his rivals for the championship.
Button, Perez, Massa, Hulkenberg and Riccardo could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for McLaren and Sauber before heading to the next race in Austin. Will it rain tomorrow? Maybe. Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship after this race? Will it be Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen, Alonso or Hamilton? I don’t know. The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like the last race. Let’s see what happens…
Prior to the race, Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus after Qualifying failed a floor test conducted by the FIA. The front left floor broke and was clearly damaged. This also happened with Kimi’s team-mate Grosjean in Hungary when his was clearly broken. Kimi now has to start from the back of the field.
While lining up for the formation lap, it seems that Lewis Hamilton could have a problem with his rear brakes on his Mercedes. There was a huge group of Mercedes personnel and engineers trying to correct the problem and it seems that all is well.
The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…
All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!!
Hamilton gets off the line well and Vettel is ahead of Rosberg and Webber. Grosjean has also made a decent start. There is a battle between Perez and Massa and Massa runs wide. Hamilton now has had a bad start and appears to be going backwards. Alonso passes Perez for position.
Meanwhile, Raikkonen is out of the race at Turn 2 when Kimi took too much kerb, broke his steering and collided with Pic. This is the first time since the 2006 United States Grand Prix that Kimi has failed to finish a race due to a first lap incident. There is a battle between Rosberg and Webber and Alonso and Massa. Jenson Button has a damaged front wing after running into Di Resta. Perez is now looking at Alonso. Maldonado and Guiterrez find themselves in 11th and 13th places.
Lap 2 and Vettel leads the field by 1.9 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Massa and Alonso are battling each other for seventh place. The next lap sees Button pit for a new front wing and he rejoins right at the back of the grid. Sutil passes Guiterrez for 13th place.
Lap 5 sees Vettel extending his lead by 3.7 seconds. At this stage of the race, Grosjean is looking good on his tyres if he can make this stint stretch for as long as possible. Webber reports a KERS charging problem to his team. At the end of the lap Maldonado and Bianchi pit. The next lap sees Guiterrez and Riccardo battle for 13th place. Riccardo tries to get past but cannot do so. At the end of the lap Perez pits with a stop time of 3 seconds and rejoins the race in 17th place.
Lap 7 sees Vettel’s lead extended to 6.3 seconds. Webber and Grosjean are battling for third place. Grosjean is now really starting to gain on Webber. At the end of the lap Hamilton pits with a stop time of 2.6 seconds and rejoins the race in 12th place. At the end of Lap 8 Webber and Grosjean pit and rejoin the race in 10th and 11th places. On Lap 9, Webber passes Guiterrez for 10th place. However, a battle for 9th between Webber, Guiterrez, Grosjean and Hamilton is ongoing. At the end of the lap, Hulkenberg pits with a stop time of 3.7 seconds and rejoins the race in 12th place.
By Lap 10, Vettel leads the field by 8.2 seconds. Guiterrez and Grosjean are battling for 9th place on the track. Grosjean is able to pass Guiterrez. At the end of the lap, Rosberg pits with a stop time of 2.8 seconds and rejoins the race in 6th place. The next lap sees Vettel leading Massa by 22.4 seconds. Rosberg, Sutil and Webber are battling for 6th place and Guiterrez and Hamilton are battling for 10th place.
Lap 14 sees Vettel leading Massa by 24 seconds exactly. On track, Webber passes Sutil. At the end of the lap, Vettel pits. By Lap 16, Vettel leads by 6.4 seconds. Sutil and Grosjean are battling for eighth place. Grosjean is able to pass Guiterrez for 8th place, Webber passes Vergne for 6th place and Sutil is able to re pass Grosjean. Guiterrez and Hamilton are still battling for the final point in the race. At the end of the lap, Alonso pits with a stop time of 2.8 seconds and rejoins the race in 12th place.
By Lap 18, Vettel leads the field by 12.4 seconds. Hulkenberg is now gaining on Hamilton and Guiterrez. Grosjean is finally able to pass Sutil. Sutil tries to re pass Grosjean but cannot do so. At the end of the lap, Massa and Guiterrez make their pit stops. The next lap sees Hamilton, Massa and Hulkenberg are battling for 7th place and Di Resta, Rosberg and Webber battle for 2nd place.
Lap 20 sees Webber and Rosberg gaining on Di Resta. Webber passes Rosberg for third place. At the end of the lap, Di Resta pits with a stop time of 3.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 10th place. The next lap sees Alonso finally able to pass Perez for 10th place after a brief battle.
Lap 22 sees Vettel leading Webber by 27 seconds exactly. Alonso is now eying up Bottas for position on track and is able to pass him for ninth place. Lap 23 sees a tea radio row taking place at Caterham between Van Der Garde and Pic. At this stage of the race Van Der Garde was faster than Pic. The team asked Charles to give way to Gideo. Pic then challenges the team and still maintains position.
Vettel by Lap 24 has built up a 28.1 second gap on the field. Van Der Garde is able to finally pass Pic. Sutil and Hamilton are battling for fifth place on the track. At the end of the lap, Bottas pits. The next lap sees Massa, Hulkenberg and Alonso joining Sutil and Hamilton in the battle for 5th place. Hamilton is then able to pass Sutil. Sutil then re passes Hamilton but Massa passes both drivers with a cracker of a move!
Lap 26 sees Vettel extending his lead to 28.5 seconds. A battle for eighth place between Hulkenberg and Alonso taking place. Alonso passes Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg re passes Alonso for position. Massa is then able to pass Sutil. The next lap sees the battle for 6th place intensify between Sutil, Hamilton and Alonso. Hamilton passes Sutil finally. At the end of the lap, Hulkenberg pits with a stop time of 4.5 seconds and rejoins the race in 13th place.
Lap 28 sees Vettel’s lead of 28.5 seconds unchallenged. Alonso and Sutil are battling for 7th place. Maldonado passes Sutil. Hulkenberg re passes Maldonado for 14th place. At the end of the lap Sutil and Riccardo pit. The next lap sees Perez trying to pass Maldonado but cannot do so. At the end of the lap, Hamilton pits with a stop time of 2.9 seconds and rejoins the race in 10th place.
Lap 30 sees the stewards announcing that the incident between Hulkenberg and Perez regarding the unsafe release in the pit lane being investigated. On track, Sutil leaves the track ahead of Perez. At the end of the lap, Guiterrez pits. Lap 33 sees Vettel leading by 30.5 seconds. Rosberg is hanging onto Webber. There is a drive through penalty for Hulkenberg regarding the unsafe release in the pit lane with Perez. At the end of the lap Webber and Rosberg pit and rejoin the race in 3rd and 4th places.
Lap 34 sees the stewards investigating Sutil and Maldonado regarding track limits. Alonso is now starting to catch his team mate Massa. By Lap 37, Vettel leads the race by 40.1 seconds. At the end of the lap Vettel and Grosjean make their pit stops and rejoin the race in the lead (Vettel) and fourth (Grosjean). Lap 38 sees the stewards taking no action against Sutil. Grosjean comes out of his pit stop just ahead of Massa. Grosjean, Massa and Alonso are battling for fourth place in the race. At the end of the lap, Massa pits.
Lap 42 sees Vettel leading by 32.7 seconds. Sutil and Perez are battling for 11th place in the race. Hamilton is now catching Vergne. The next lap sees Hamilton still gaining on Vergne and Massa is now gaining on Hamilton. Lap 44 sees Hamilton able to pass Vergne for seventh place. At the end of the lap sees Alonso pits with a stop time of 3 seconds and rejoins the race in seventh place.
Lap 45 sees Vettel extending his lead by 33.2 seconds. Alonso goes over the circuit to get seventh place ahead of Vergne after his pit stop. Massa was very lucky not to go into Vergne while this was taking place. At the end of the lap, Bottas pits. The next lap sees Alonso, Vergne, Massa, Bottas and Sutil all battling each other for 7th place.
Lap 47 sees Vergne and Massa battling each other for eighth place. Massa then passes Vergne. Sutil is now gaining on Vergne. Hamilton is gaining on Di Resta. Alonso is now under investigation by the stewards regarding track limits. Perez is now gaining on both Vergne and Sutil. The next lap sees Sutil passing Vergne for 9th place. And now Perez is looking at Vergne.
Lap 49 sees Vettel leading by 31.1 seconds. Maldonado is now gaining on Perez. Perez now passes Vergne for position. The next lap sees Alonso gaining on Hamilton. Hamilton is now gaining on Di Resta. Maldonado passes Vergne for 11th place. Di Resta, Hamilton and Alonso are battling each other for 5th place. Alonso tries to pass Hamilton but cannot do so. Hamilton then passes Alonso for 6th place. On Lap 51, Vergne pits.
Lap 52 sees Vettel leading Webber by 30.6 seconds. Alonso passes Di Resta for 5th place. The investigation with Alonso and track limits will be investigated by the stewards after the race. The next lap sees Grosjean gaining on Webber slowly. Di Resta and Hamilton are now battling each other hard for 6th place and Hamilton is gaining steadily on Paul. Lap 54 sees Di Resta driving strongly to keep Hamilton at bay.
The final lap of the race sees Vettel leading Webber by 31.3 seconds. Vettel completes the final lap and he wins the Grand Prix and clinches his seventh consecutive race win and equals Michael Schumacher’s record in a season, Webber is a brilliant second 30.8 seconds behind Vettel, Grosjean finishes a brilliant third and claims the final spot on the podium 33.6 seconds behind Vettel, Grosjean is a credible fourth 34.8 seconds behind Vettel, Alonso finished fifth 1.07.1 seconds behind Vettel, Di Resta was a credible sixth 1.18.1 seconds behind Vettel, Hamilton finishes seventh 1.19.2 seconds behind Vettel, Massa was eighth 1.22.8 seconds behind Vettel, Perez finished ninth 1.31.1 seconds behind Vettel and Sutil picked up the final point in tenth.
Sebastian Vettel wins the Driver’s championship with 347 points, Alonso is second with 217 points, Raikkonen is third with 183 points, Hamilton is fourth with 175 points, Webber is fifth with 175 points, Rosberg is sixth with 159 points, Grosjean is seventh with 114 points, Massa is eighth with 106 points, Button is ninth with 60 points and Di Resta is tenth with 48 points.
Red Bull wins the Constructor’s championship with 513 points, Mercedes is second with 334 points, Ferrari is third with 323 points, Lotus is fourth with 297 points, McLaren is fifth with 95 points, Force India in sixth with 77 points, Sauber in seventh with 45 points, Toro Rosso are eighth with 32 points and Williams are ninth with 1 point.
The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the high level of tyre degradation, just like the many races we have had this season. However, I am glad that the small changes that Pirelli made to the tyres have worked this weekend and they have not compromised safety or the racing.
I was not happy that Jenson did not have some pace to challenge today and could not score some points for the team. Jenson had a battle to finish 14th today and I am sure the team are thankful for his efforts. But Sergio managed to gain some points for the team. This just shows how much they are making improvements at the moment. But it shows that McLaren are taking slow and steady progress to try and get to the front of the field once again. But I am happy that Jenson and Sergio managed to do his best this weekend for the team and they were rewarded with Sergio bringing home some good points. But they need to try and make the car competitive and understand the issues surrounding their problems and learn the lessons from this year’s car and focus on 2014.
The team this weekend I believe have made small steps into looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. As I said last race, I know McLaren will bounce back to the performance they and their fans crave and when that happens, it will make it all the more special.
Lotus this weekend may not have gained another victory this weekend but they have scored some good points from Romain this weekend that will help their fight in the Constructors Championship. I was impressed with Grosjean this weekend. Romain has been in top 10 form all weekend and thoroughly deserves his place on the podium. He has showed that he has the potential and the maturity to pass a car for position and to follow the rules straight away shows that he handled the pressure very well indeed and had a great drive.
Who knows what would have happened if Kimi started from the pit lane this weekend. As for the conspiracy theories, there is no way that Kimi would deliberately crash out of the race to make a point about not being paid. Kimi is a racer, through and through. He is a racing driver. It runs through his blood. Sadly, this weekend luck was not on his side.
I was a bit surprised that Lotus was not able to challenge for the win this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season. Despite the problems of this weekend, the Lotus team have managed to get again score some points, even though they are now fourth in the Constructor’s Championship.
The biggest surprises this weekend for me was the 6th and 9th places of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil. Firstly, Paul has had an impressive weekend but he has impressed me a lot this weekend yet again as in early races of the season.
He drove a cracking race to bring home some much needed points for the team. Luckily, his pit stop strategy worked and he was rewarded with good points. I believe that Paul this year has learnt his lessons from his last and this season from the sport and is working harder than ever to impress with his performances in the sport this year and trying to get some much needed points for Force India. I really believe that Paul when is good is a high quality driver that he is and I was happy to him get a point today after a great drive. But Paul needs to keep this up until Brazil if he has any chance of keeping his seat at Force India for next season.
But the question is, when will the top teams give this man a chance? Paul deserves in my view to be in a competitive car! Come on Lotus, give him a chance if you do not want Nico!
Also Sutil scored points in the race this weekend and he did it the hard way keeping drivers such as Guiterrez behind him. I think that Sutil had the form that is required to have a successful weekend. And I think that his performance will remind everyone of his ability and qualities that made Force India sign him up for his year.
Rosberg, Hamilton and Massa do deserve a mention. Firstly, Mercedes seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. They seem to be able to make sure that their qualifying performance is also consistent and reliable, while it seems they have improved their race pace today. And yet again Rosberg and Hamilton extends their and the team’s points into the championships today moving into second place in the Constructors.
While both of the Mercedes drivers undoubtedly have the car to challenge Red Bull at qualifying on Saturdays but still need to work on the pace on Sundays. But I believe that Mercedes seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year and will get there eventually. And I think that Nico and Lewis both drove solidly despite battling Webber, Sutil, Perez and Massa very hard today and both drivers deserved to take some points for their efforts.
Massa drove a solid race this weekend. He has been on top 10 form all weekend and managed to gain some good points this weekend. Massa is now fighting to stay in the sport after Ferrari announcing that Raikkonen would be teaming up with Alonso for next season. Felipe I believe is now showing the passion he has always had in order to gain a seat for next year.
I would also like to say that Webber drove to my mind a really good race today and deserved to take some good points home today after finishing in second place. The qualifying lap Mark did to claim Pole Position was one of the best I have ever seen him do. The commitment and the speed showed by Webber was thrilling to watch.
Mark drove solidly with the grit and determination that all fans and the paddock admire, respect and love about him and his battle with Vettel had us all hooked. I really will miss Mark next year and I really hope that he can win a race before the end of the season. As Mark deserves to leave the sport with a bang and I am sure the Red Bull team would like to reward him with a win.
All that is left to say about this race is that Vettel sadly deserved to win today. His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race. They seem to be able to make sure that their qualifying performance is also consistent and reliable, while it seems they have improved their race pace today. And yet again Vettel extended his and his team’s points into the championships today and even though the title has already been decided.
Sebastian Vettel now joins a very exclusive club in the sport: seven consecutive race wins in one season, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record in the sport. And I don’t like Vettel, but I will congratulate him on this remarkable achievement especially after only being in the sport for six years as a driver.
Now that the champions have been crowned, will Sebastian be able to win his eighth consecutive race win in Austin? Can Hamilton, Webber, Raikkonen, Grosjean or Alonso be able to challenge? We shall see in a two week’s time!
My next posts will be my Track Preview on the United States Grand Prix which will be uploaded before the start of the race weekend.