Abu Dhabi was a tale of two Nicos – one flew but took the points, another bogged down and didn’t…
Because in F1 the first person you have to beat is your team-mate…
Red Bull Racing
Season: Sebastian Vettel 14 – Mark Webber 4
Given that Mark had the perfect opportunity to stamp his authority on a race, free from intervention from his team-mate, he blew it. Starts have always been a problem for him and they’re not getting any better. Unless the RB9 suits his style exactly, it’s hard to think of Webbo becoming a World Champion now. Or maybe if one of the grid girls gets fed up with being sprayed with champagne and punches Sebastian Vettel so hard he has to miss races. Maybe that’s it.
Webber’s start was dreadful and though he fought valiantly to keep hold of P4 on the opening lap, Fernando Alonso is a man seldom denied when he has a full tank of fuel. Vettel took an opening lap gamble down the inside of Bruno Senna and Pedro de la Rosa and almost came unstuck. He was also lucky not to have a more serious spin when he lost control behind Daniel Ricciardo. True, he still had to return to the pits for a new nose, but it’s better than collecting the barrier.
It was a hell of a result for Vettel and a body blow for Ferrari after seeing the glimmer of hope with Vettel’s relegation to the back of the grid with a fuel irregularity. Worse still, the Scuderia have already had the advantage of testing in the middle of the year – Red Bull and McLaren have got three days of young driver tests this week ahead of Austin and the ability to further refine their speed advantage.
Season: Jenson Button 5 – Lewis Hamilton 13
Lewis Hamilton was embarrassingly quicker than Jenson Button in Abu Dhabi. Even though Lewis has the perfect excuse for not putting in a full shift at the end of his McLaren years/first stint at McLaren, he looks like he’s ramping up the performances, not letting them fade. And what does he get in return? The latest excuse from McLaren about a part “that hasn’t failed for five years”. Given that there are a lot of components in the MP4-27 there are still quite a few left to surprise the team’s management with. Hamilton was on fire around Yas Marina and even if Vettel had started where he qualified he looked unlikely to catch Hamilton.
Season: Michael Schumacher 8 – Nico Rosberg 10
To his very great credit Nico Rosberg didn’t take the easy route and blame Romain Grosjean for their racing incident on Lap 1. But from
that point onwards his race was compromised. He’d already qualified significantly faster than his team-mate who forgot to go KERS harvesting. His in-car footage will surely make the end-of-year highlights.
Season: Fernando Alonso 17 – Felipe Massa 1
Massa put in the perfect qualifying – fast, but not in front of Alonso. His race was less impressive than his team-mate’s, but the distance between the two was probably more down to Alonso’s outstanding ability than his team-mate’s failings. Felipe did some old-school wheelbashing with Webber into Turn 11 which the stewards diagnosed – in lightning quick time – as a racing incident. Felipe was not so happy with the re-soolt. Alonso was impeccable as ever – he can hardly look back at the season and think ‘you know if I’d tried a little harder there…’ He’s been on it all the way. Hence the 17-1.
Season: Kimi Raikkonen 15 – Romain Grosjean 3
In dull races in the future Eric Boullier should be tasked with getting his engineer to tell Kimi Raikkonen a stream of unnecessary things. Kimi’s team radio was the highspot for many in the PF1 office. “I know what I’m doing, leave me alone,” was good but we also liked, “yes, yes, yes, I’m doing all of this.”
In some ways he and Michael Schumacher are like the Old Gits from The Fast Show, Kimi’s the miserable one and Michael’s the cantankerous one who goes round blocking people in practice, or rejoining the track in front of them. Kimi got a great start, something he’d been looking for all year. Romain got a clean start and was so nearly round the first lap when the devil took hold and he launched one up the inside of Rosberg. To be fair, it was close to coming off. Unlike his assault on Perez later in the race which never looked like coming off and didn’t.
Season: Paul DiResta 9 – Nico Hulkenberg 9
Much stronger qualifying from Hulkenberg and much weaker starting. Apart from naturally wanting to beat his team-mate you can hardly expect Paul DiResta to slot in behind Hulkenberg when he’s had a dodgy get-away. So it’s understandable that he’d come alongside into Turn 1 and it’s unfortunate that they touched. DiResta reckons he already had a puncture at the opening corner (Shades of Vettel last year).
Season: Kamui Kobayashi 6 – Sergio Perez 12
Perez qualified better than Kobayashi, but Kamui got ahead after keeping his nose clean on the opening lap. Sergio hauled him back and overtook him, put a neat move on Massa, then tried to be greedy taking Grosjean and DiResta at once. He survived a bash with DiResta, but didn’t count on Romain trying another suicidal overtaking move at the following corner. People weren’t expecting two Safety Cars in Abu Dhabi, but Grosjean is the kind of driver who could bring the Safety Car out on a hillclimb.
Season: Maldonado 8 – Senna 10
Maldonado had his second best race of the year, qualifying brilliantly and driving sensibly. His wheel-to-wheel with Mark Webber was hardly of his making and he didn’t defend stupidly against Button. Bruno Senna recovered from a first corner incident that he couldn’t really afford, and drove well, but all Williams’ eyes were on the car in front.
Season: Daniel Ricciardo 10 – Jean-Eric Vergne 8
Daniel Ricciardo edged this one as he has edged qualifying for most of the season. If anyone’s going to step into Webbo’s shoes in 2014 it’s him.
Season: Vitaly Petrov 8 – Heikki Kovalainen 10
Heikki needed to re-establish dominance over his team-mate as well as Caterham sorting out Marussia. He did and they did, but not before Charles Pic gave them a qualifying scare on Saturday, the Frenchman leaping to P19 before Heikki’s very last lap of Q1. That 12th place was tantalisingly close for the team – they’re going to have to hope it rains in Brazil.
Season: Timo Glock 11 – Charles Pic 7
Pic’s qualifying showed a glimpse of what might be in store for whoever gets him next year. Glock had the racing edge.
Season: Narain Karthikeyan 3 – Pedro de la Rosa 14<