Monday, November 5, 2012

Iceman Beats the Heat: Raikkonen Takes Lotus to Abu Dhabi GP Win

Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic

Somewhat fitting with a race running into dusk, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the third-to-last event on the 2012 Formula 1 schedule. For 24 drivers in the series, 55 laps on the 5.554-kilometer Yas Marina Circuit is one of the last remaining moments to take honours in what has been a Formula 1 season that already presented some surprises.

Among several late-season story lines is a driver's championship that still hangs in the balance. In Saturday qualifying, points leader Sebastian Vettel was handed a massive setback when his times were excluded as a result of a low fuel load that violated FIA rules requiring a one-liter sample in post-qualifying technical inspection. Starting from the pit lane Sunday, rival Fernando Alonso sat in 6th place on the starting grid eager to make sure the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be the solution to regain his advantage on the Red Bull Racing driver.

Taking pole, Lewis Hamilton driving his McLaren-Mercedes was in prime position to take an early lead in the Abu Dhabi race. Hamilton is also aided by a poor start performed by the front row-mate Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber. Webber's slow wind-up was so poor that Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus-Renault and Pastor Maldonado driving for Williams F1 gained track position early.

Spoiled for victory at the Singapore Grand Prix by a mechanical issue, Lewis Hamilton's chance at victory would once again end with a gremlin biting his McLaren-Mercedes. On lap 19, Hamilton slowed for was discovered to be an electrical problem. McLaren F1's race weekend at Abu Dhabi would be salvaged by teammate Jenson Button who finished 4th at the Yas Marina Circuit.

With Lewis Hamilton's retirement, the lead of the race was turned over to 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. Missing the 2010 and 2011 season, Raikkonen's return with the Lotus F1 Team was a curious move at the beginning of the 2012 season. Third in points late into the 2012 Formula 1 series calender, Raikkonen revealed terrific consistency on the race track with the Lotus-Renault race car. Despite some great runs, the Finnish driver had been denied victory. Leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen would once again fall under attack by the best opponents looking to keep him from the top of the podium.

Photo source: Pirelli Photo Service

Besides the exit of the pole-sitting McLaren-Mercedes from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the race also claimed several other front runners over the course of 55 laps. Nico Hulkenberg's Force India-Mercedes was an early race victim when he collided with Bruno Senna's Williams Renault. The Mercedes GP car of Nico Rosberg also departed from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix early with a frightening impact between him and the HRT-Cosworth driven by Narain Karthikeyan. Both drivers escaped major injury by ended their race after just 7 laps. The incident brought out the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG safety car as efforts took place to clean up the wrecked race cars. Nico Rosberg spoke about the "Narain told me that his steering broke and he needed to brake which I didn’t expect in that high-speed corner. There was no time for me to react, and I’m very thankful that we are both fine. I went to the medical centre for a precautionary check but everything is good. I will look forward now and hope for a better two races to end the season."

Lap 37 into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the safety car would once again be called onto the Yas Marina Circuit when a Sergio Perez pass on Romain Grosjean went wrong. Occurring in turn 13, Mark Webber's Red Bull-Renault was also involved in the mayhem. Grosjean and Webber retired from the race while Sergio Perez brought his damaged Sauber-Ferrari to the pits for repairs.

In the final laps, the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso hunted the Lotus-Renault and was within DRS range. Despite the fight from his former race team's current lead driver, Kimi Raikkonen held off the challenge from Alonso crossing the finish line by just eight-tenths of a second earlier than the Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen's win is his first Formula 1 victory since the 2009 Belgium Grand Prix. "I’m very happy for the team – and myself – but mainly for the all the crew here and everyone at Enstone. It’s been a hard season and I feel this win is well deserved for everyone and just what we need. It’s also something great for all the fans who have continued to support me and the team." said Raikkonen in post-race comment. For the Lotus name, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was even longer coming since the brand returned to the Formula 1 grid in 2010. The last time a Lotus driver stood at the top of a grand prix podium was in 1987 when Ayrton Senna won on the streets of Detroit.

The win for Lotus F1 Team also comes after what has been months of a rumours on the state of Lotus Group. The ousting of Dany Bahar and hints that their anticipated production car line-up was in peril has also enveloped the support of the Formula 1 team beyond the 2012 season. Lotus' commitment to the sport had been solidified prior to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory.

Steven Tee/LAT Photographic

Finishing in second place, Fernando Alonso managed to advance himself in the points against Sebastian Vettel for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix. However, Two safety cars and a valiant drive by the German Red Bull Racing driver minimized the gain. Vettel finished in third place equating to only a three-point loss in the driver's standings after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel is now 10 points ahead of Fernando Alonso with just two races to go.

Behind Jenson Button in fourth place, Pastor Maldonado captured fifth place, his second-best result in the 2012 Formula 1 season, for Williams F1. Kamui Kobayashi climbed from 15th place to finish  sixth with his Sauber-Ferrari narrowly pursued by Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta for. Daniel Ricciardo driving for Toro Rosso took the final point in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix crossing the line just sixth-tenths of a second ahead of Michael Schumacher.

Honourable mentions in the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix goes to the Caterham-Renault of Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock piloting a Marussia-Cosworth.

2012 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Constructor
1 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
2 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
4 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
5 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
6 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
7 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
8 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
9 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
10 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
11 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
12 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
13 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
14 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
15 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
16 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
17 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
18 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
19 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
20 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
21 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
22 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1
23 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
24 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes

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