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Rencken: 2013 Abu Dhabi GP wrap

2013-11-04 08:07

I BEAT YOU BY 33.6 SECONDS: Winner of the 2013 Abu Dhabi GP, Sebastian Vettel (left), poses with third place Nico Rosberg after dominating the night race. Image: AFP


Toying with the opposition, including his own team mate: that is, frankly, the only apt description of quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel’s absolutely dominant performance at the twilight 2013 Abu Dhabi GP.

He beat Red Bull Racing team mate Mark Webber by more than 30 seconds despite rolling back towards the end and (again) having an overheating kers unit during the early stages.

Having not, in his own words, “gotten the most of the car during qualifying, in fact I am annoyed with myself”, Vettel once again rocketed into a lead he retained despite his two pit stops to score his 37th career win, 11th win of the season, and seventh in a row.


Webber, who qualified on pole, was second, half a minute behind despite having the same kit as Vettel, the most complete driver on the grid.

Webber, with only two more GP’s before switching to racing sports cars for Porsche, was pre-race optimistic of taking winning to maintain his unblemished record of at least a win a season since breaking his duck in 2009; instead, he left the emirate with the consolation prize after Red Bull’s third 1-2 of the year.

Once again the race lived up to its tradition of not rewarding the pole starter, only once (2010) in the four editions has the opposite been the case and this time Vettel was on a mission to extend that statistic, opening a gap of two seconds by the end of the first lap then extending it lap-by-lap until called to pit on Lap 14 for a switch to Mediums from Softs, with a second visit for the same again on L37.

This was five laps longer than Pirelli’s predicted two-stop strategy of L9/32, Vettel thus retaining the lead throughout despite the likes of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil (both Force India) stopping once.

Post-race, Vettel positively crowed about his crew after being asked how it felt to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven straight wins.

Vettel said: “The thing is that people see seven races. People don’t see the challenge it takes every single race to nail it.

“It’s been exceptional. The fact that we got everything right: smooth pit stops; reliability. All these things need to come together. To answer your question, the numbers are not that important to me, but equally they make me very, very proud.”


Webber openly admits to having acquired a few grey hairs as he rued maturing just as Vettel came on stream back in 2009. Once again he did little wrong, which arguably made loss of victory tougher to take.

Webber praised his team mate: “I don't think the [patchy] start was decisive, Vettel was in another category today. I got the maximum result possible. He was quick and very, very strong. I was very slow in the first stint, very, very poor at dealing with the rear [tyres], and that made [degradation] even worse.”

Another to give his all was Nico Rosberg: third on the grid in the season’s second-fastest car, and just three seconds behind Webber at the finish. He grabbed second in the run to the first corner, relinquished the place to Webber in a scrap on Lap 20, yet once again finished ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton, who eventually ended a disappointed seventh behind Resta.

Yes, Hamilton had a scare in qualifying when a suspension wishbone cracked and pitched him into a spin, but the silver car was repaired in parc ferme and he started fourth – losing three places raises questions about his overall performance, as he himself candidly admitted:

Hamilton said: “Clearly with Nico's result the car's better than what I'm able to bring home with it. Same old... different day. It's the same every race. It can't be other people's fault.”

Once again the revelation of the race – apart from, that is, Vettel - was Romain Grosjean, who drove an immaculate race to fourth, stopping on Laps 8 and 37 for Mediums after starting sixth in his Lotus, but only after team mate Kimi Raikkönen, who qualified fifth, was turfed to the back of the grid after his floor failed a deflection test because of kerb damage.

Team boss Eric Boullier was bewildered as to why the stewards did not accept their explanation after Grosjean escaped penalty-free in Hungary after an identical incident – but the stewards argued that Lotus should have beefed up the car’s floor mountings after that incident.

Whatever, 2007 champion Raikkonen had a fraught weekend, retiring on the opening lap after a Turn 1 collision with Guido van der Garde’s Caterham – raising questions as to why Kimi did not start from the pits lane to avoid just that.

Raikkonen, who won the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP, had put cash-strapped Lotus on notice that he would not race the final three rounds in the championship unless he was paid his salary arrears, believed to be R200-million. After frantic negotiations he left home in Switzerland, arriving in time to participate in  first practice. Whether all was resolved will be revealed in Austin, Texas, in a fortnight…


Fernando Alonso drove arguably the hardest race of his season to date, charging from 10th on the grid to fifth, rattling both Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne in the process. As the 2005/6 champion exited the pits lane tunnel on Lap 44 after his second stop he came up alongside the Toro Rosso, which clearly failed to see the red car and thus squeezed the Ferrari over kerbing with such force that the Ferrari’s g-light, which records unacceptably high g-forces, illuminated.

Undeterred Alonso kept his foot flat, overtaking Grojean and leaving Massa, also duelling with the blue car, in the desert dust. Post-race, Alonso was called in by the stewards, but clearly justified his leaving of the track’s limits sufficiently to escape unpunished.

Massa ran out an eventual eighth, but was highly critical of Ferrari after the team went conservative and fitted Mediums for his final 17 laps – he had run an initial 18-lap stint on Softs with full tanks before sunset – which he felt cost him fifth or sixth.

Given that Massa will be out of Ferrari at season’s end and lining up at Job Centre he needs every result going – as does Ferrari, which is a provisional third in the (financially) all-important Constructors’  championship, a point behind Mercedes.

Sergio Perez, another South American facing an uncertain future, was ninth after two stops (Soft/Medium/Medium), with Sutil completing the top 10 after a steady and unspectacular drive.

A classic race it was not but it proved without a shadow of twilit doubt that the combination of Vettel and Red Bull’s RB9 are in a class of their own. Only equal Schumacher’s records? At this rate Sebastian will stretch the consecutive wins records to nine by season’s end.

No toying...

Read more on:    red bull  |  sebastian vettel  |  abu dhabi  |  f1  |  motorsport  |  formula 1

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