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Red Bull: 'It was cruel luck'

2011-11-14 07:40

VICTORY: Lewis Hamilton chalks up his third win of the 2011 season after Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel suffered a puncture during the opening lap of the Abu Dhabi race.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Lewis Hamilton savoured a morale-boosting Abu Dhabi F1 GP win after Red Bull's double Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel suffered his first race retirement in more than a year.

The McLaren driver, celebrating the third win of a troubled season, took the flag 8.4sec ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Hamilton's McLaren team mate Jenson Button was a distant third.


"Mega job, mega job, guys - as usual," shouted Hamilton over the team radio, dedicating the victory to his watching mother Carmen as a birthday present.

Vettel, who has already clinched the 2011 title, was pitched off the track by a sudden puncture only seconds after making a lightning start from his record-equalling 14th pole position of the season. He managed to nurse his Red Bull back to the garage on three tyres and a rim but he was forced to retire once mechanics had surveyed the damage.

Christian Horner said: "We were in a great position to win the race today... he'd done everything right. It was cruel luck, really."

The retirement ended Vettel's hopes of matching Michael Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a single season as well as a hat trick of Abu Dhabi wins. He has 11 wins from 2011 with only the Brazilian Grand Prix remaining.

It also ended a run of seven podiums and 19 successive points finishes stretching back to last season.


While Vettel was left as a pit wall spectator on an evening without a Red Bull driver on the podium for the first time in 2011, Hamilton drove a controlled and self-assured race that lap by lap lifted his spirits as day turned to night.

Hamilton has been embroiled in plenty of controversy this season, and six collisions with Ferrari's Felipe Massa, but his race at the Yas Marina circuit was flawless.

Hamilton said: "When I was doing the lap on the way in (after the finish), I was thinking that this was definitely one of my best, just in terms of my own performance, not making mistakes.

"I don't feel I've made a single mistake in the race and with the things that have gone on, with the pressure that I've been under and with the doubt that has surrounded me, I felt just massively proud to have put that kind of performance together and to have come out on top," he said.

While Alonso led for a couple of laps before his final stop, the Spaniard came out of the pits 4.4 seconds behind the McLaren.


Alonso could still be happy with Ferrari's first podium finish at a lavish circuit that has a Ferrari theme park next door, as well as a trophy to complete his personal collection of one from every track on the current calendar.

If the day to night race was hardly a thriller once Vettel had departed, there was at least more overtaking than in the past and a change of winner. There was no doubting Hamilton's happiness either.

He gave Alonso, his former team mate and foe who had sung his praises earlier in the weekend, a friendly hug on the podium and waved to the crowd as Button doused him with fizzy rosewater.

Button's third place, secured on the penultimate lap when Red Bull's Mark Webber had to pit for a mandatory switch to hard tyres, ended a difficult afternoon for the 2009 champion whose KERS system failed early on.

It also meant Hamilton will finish the season behind a team mate for the first time in his single-seater career.

However, the 26-year-old can still hope to end the year with more victories than fellow Briton Button, who has also won three and held on to second place overall in the championship - 10 points clear of Alonso.

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