Winners and Losers: Abu Dhabi

Sunday 03-November-2013 23:13

Sebastian and Mark got free donuts in what is likely to become a regular post-race celebration...

Star of the Race
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st
He's just unstoppable right now. Another virtuoso performance from the four-times World Champion. It was interesting that Red Bull should have four-times World Champion and Renault ambassador* Alain Prost in the garage for the race. Is Vettel a better driver than Prost? Yes. Vettel doesn't stop when it gets wet.

*It would be nice if former F1 driver Danny Sullivan could fulfill a similar role for the Grand Prix of the Americas. That would make him the Austin ambassador.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 26: Felipe Massa on Lewis Hamilton
Adrian Sutil had gathered his own train and Lewis Hamilton was first in line to get past but not having much luck. Finally he looked to get past Sutil only for Sutil to come back at him going down the long back straight. As they braked hard for Turn 11, Massa seized his chance and dived inside of the Mercedes. Luckily for Felipe, Lewis backed off as there isn't enough room for two cars going through without a bit of tyre rubbage and a bit of carbon fibre exchange, as we've seen in previous years. It was a great opportunistic pass.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 2nd
Even if Mark had been a bit more brutal off the startline, Vettel would have got past him one way or another. Especially with two tyre stops to juggle with. Mark was candid enough to admit that after the race. Both Red Bull drivers enjoyed themselves after the race showing off to the grandstand nearest Ferrari World with (penalty) free doughnuts. Expect more in Brazil.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 3rd
A great start from Rosberg, who was good value for his P3 and was putting in fastest laps to stay in front of Grosjean towards the end. It would have been interesting to know what would have happened if Lewis's wishbone hadn't failed on his final lap in qualifying, and if the positions might have been reversed. But that's all history.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 4th
Another strong result for Grosjean, but he wasn't nearly as competitive as had been predicted from Friday running.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 5th
Alonso's avoidance of Jean-Eric Vergne on Lap 45 was one of the most interesting parts of the race. Certainly the Ferrari looked to be exceptionally robust to survive the trip over the (estimated 25g) kerbs. It looked more like an instinctive move to avoid a collision rather than an attempt at passing Vergne. He would have still got P5 whether he'd exited in front or behind the Toro Rosso driver, in the last three laps he was immensely quick. Three fastest laps in the last three laps - he was smokin'.

Vergne, for his part, paid tribute to Alonso for avoiding an accident. Alonso for his part, had a go at Vergne saying that he should have been penalised for not leaving enough if you would leave room for a car you didn't know was about to join the track (the pitlane exit being another reason why the Yas Marina circuit is such a travesty).

If there was any lingering doubt about El Nano's motivation, then that was the answer. He may have needed a trip to the circuit doctor to check that he had all his teeth, but he's almost certainly assured of P2 in the drivers' table now.

Paul DiResta, Force India, 6th
Adrian Sutil, Force India, 10th

Force India one-stopping on a track where it's not easy to overtake is a bit like a football team that picks a goalkeeper and 10 defenders. They're not looking to entertain, they just want a result. Considering they are the Indian national team and India considers F1 an entertainment, that was pretty poor entertainment. Tactically, though, it was brilliant and even if Hulkenberg has another of his spectacular Brazilian GPs Force India look to have banked at least sixth place in the constructors' championship. There's something to be said for 'parking the bus'.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 7th
Yet another grand prix where Lewis was mugged at the start and ultimately lost further places as a result. It's difficult to know why he's so puzzled after grands prix when he says, "I just had so little grip out there." Engineers constantly tell their drivers to drop back to a distance of two seconds to save the tyres. His team-mate was told that during the race. He was less than a second behind Gutierrez for many laps, then followed closely behind Sutil and then Di Resta. His engineers keep on telling him to cool the car, almost like it was their way of getting him to ease off on the tyres, but they didn't want to mention the 't' word.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 8th
Given that Massa had pitted two laps later than Alonso first time round, it was odd that he was brought in five laps before him second time round. As Felipe said himself, if the team had left it a few more laps they could have given him softs like Alonso.


Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Organisers
You spend a billion dollars on a race track and it's still rubbish. People like to say Yas Marina is a glamour circuit, like Monaco. It is like Monaco in that you can't overtake. Monaco for all its offensive tax-dodging ethos at least has some history and a few hills. Despite limiting the attendance, they still can't fill this place.

Monisha Kaltenborn made the point last weekend that F1 should try harder in new countries. Should it hell. F1 has a huge fanbase that it chooses to ignore because property developers in countries like Korea and India are prepared to bankroll a circuit and a race to get stuff built.

The most interesting thing about the Yas Island circuit is the changing LED lights of the Yas Viceroy Hotel (which from the air bears a striking resemblance to the Cerne Abbas Giant). If the Middle East is as a big a centre for petrolheads as it's made out to be, where were they on race day?

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, DNF
Kimi's long-time engineer Mark Slade, explained the argument for starting on the grid as opposed to starting in the pitlane before the race, but even he didn't seem that convinced. Raikkonen's first corner accident looked like all his own fault, he knew the Caterham was going to turn in and it did.

Given that he hasn't been paid all season, his efforts have been pretty remarkable up to now and his Quantum of solace is that the investment group taking 35% of the Lotus team have pushed all the green buttons.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 12th
Jenson (or as Jenny Gow inadvertently called him, Johnson Button) knew he was the architect of his own downfall by running into the back of Paul DiResta at the start, and from then on he was just testing car parts.

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 16th
Having started in P9 - to come round on the first lap in P16 is nothing short of catastrophic at a circuit like Abu Dhabi. It's not the first time that Dan has reversed his Toro Rosso through the field on the opening lap and it will be a definite concern to Red Bull. The pressure is only going to increase when he moves up a team.

Sauber not only threw away points by a suicidal release of Nico Hulkenberg in the pit-stops, they handed more points to Force India. It's not known whether the plan was for Hulkenberg to go for the medium-speed lane of what is a very wide pitlane at Yas marina, but he strayed onto the fast track and that was that. The stewards took eight laps to work out what was a no-brainer.

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 13th
Gutierrez was certainly moving and blocking under braking - as he was in India. The stewards and race control did nothing then, and they did nothing today. The TV director had a lot of fun because when Gutierrez veered across, he switched to the camera on the Mercedes front wing, and displayed in the upper right corner on the bodywork of the W04 was the message 'Action on Road Safety'.

Race Stewards
Forget about the Fernando Alonso incident, that was an instinctive reaction by a highly motivated driver who wasn't going to lift. What was most worrying is that we were told at the beginning of this weekend that the Indian GP had been an aberration. In fact Driver Steward Martin Donnelly had said they were going to put particular emphasis on cars sticking to the circuit this weekend, unlike in India where it was a free-for-all, a complete shambles. The track limits were going to be enforced this race.

As early as Turn 2 Felipe Massa used the run-off tarmac to maintain his position. Through Turn 1 he was forced wide, which was fair enough, but he had another go at it, which was far more marginal. Throughout the race there were serial offenders. Turns 19, 20 and 21, through the hotel to the final corner onto the pit straight, some cars regularly had four wheels off the track. And not just there, a lot ran wide after Turn 1, and in his bid to get past Esteban Gutierrez, Lewis chose a very wide line into Turn 8.

Media Watch
Here at Media Watch we love a Yoda moment, and the BBC's James Allen has done them before. In qualifying he was talking about Kimi Raikkonen failing to beat the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg in one of the sessions, and, as James remarked: "Disappointed, I think he will be."

Andrew Davies

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