November 04, 2012

F1 Update!: 2012 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

The sun was beginning to set over the Yas Marina Circuit as 22 cars took to the grid, and two took to the end of the pit lane, in preparation for today's race.  A sense of excitement was nearly palpable amongst the fans, both at home and the 40000 in the stands, thanks to the demotion of Seb Vettel... this race was wide open, and everybody knew it.  As a result, the Driver's Championship standings were also up for grabs again.  But how did everything shake out in the end?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2012 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.

*LIGHTS OUT:  It's a long run to the first, left-handed, corner at Abu Dhabi, which gives plenty of time for... things, both good and bad, to occur as the Thundering Herd makes its way there, and we had plenty of both today.  To begin with, Mark Webber, starting 2nd, had one of his patented Mark Webber Lousy Start©s to the race, allowing both Hakham Maldonado and Kimi Raikkonen to quickly get past, and Jenson Button to slip by moments later.  Indeed, Raikkonen took the opportunity to also get by the Williams of Maldonado to take second place and begin to race after polesitter Lewis Hamilton.  Further back, four midpackers tried to side-by-side through Turn 1, a trick which never works in any form of motorsports.  Nico Hulkenberg's Force India wound up being craned off, Lettuce Grosjean had a puncture, and Bruno Senna's Williams... suffered nothing visible from a rather hard clout.  Back up at the front of the field, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, racing for his Driver's Championship chances, outraced Webber for fourth place down the second back straight.  When the field crossed the line for the first time, the order was Hamilton, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Alonso, Webber, and Button.  Further back, Red Bull's Seb Vettel was 20th with a damaged front wing and beginning his long climb up the field.

:  After an action-packed first lap, everything settled down, at least up front.  To be sure, there was jockeying as Alonso hounded Maldonado for third, but nothing up front changed.  There had to be a portion of everybody minds, however, that was curious what the Drivers' Championship leader was doing.  "Working his way through the field" is what he was doing.  By Lap 4 he was 16th.  Lap 7 saw him claw his way up to 14th, and by the end of Lap 8 he was 13th.  All was not wine and roses, though.  The front wing damage was severe enough that Adrian Newey, designer of the RB8 and member of the Red Bull pit wall, was seen inspecting a spare nose, obviously checking to see what sort of structural stability the damaged wing had left... and not looking all that happy with what his mental tallies came up with.

:  Nico Rosberg had to be cursing his luck.  He had started seventh, but broke his front wing against Lettuce Grosjean's Lotus and needed to pit at the end of the first lap.  Now he was working his way back up the field and closing fast on the HRT of Narain Kittylitter as they worked their way through the twiddlybits of Sector Three.  As the two came down the sole fast patch in the Sector through the dog-leg Turn 15, the Mercedes was well-positioned close behind the HRT to outbrake it into 17, or overpower it through 16.  A thin wisp of smoke was seen issuing from Kittylitter's car, though, and the Indian suddenly slowed at a dramatic clip.  Surprised, there was nothing Rosberg could do. 

The Mercedes climbed right overtop of the HRT, its right-rear corner not taking Kittylitter's head off by only a few inches.  After clearing the remains of the backmarker, the Mercedes flew a few more yards before settling back to the track with quite a bit of violence.

Rosberg would slide into the TecPro barriers at a speed seemingly unreduced from before the impact.  Fortunately, both drivers would exit their cars unaided and with some speed.  Neither were obviously injured, though Rosberg will probably be sore in the morning.  Nearly before the Mercedes stopped moving, the Safety Car was called out and Berndt Maylander began to do his thing.

*SAFETY?  CAR:  During a Safety Car period, you usually see a rush of cars heading for the pit lane.  Today, not so much.  In fact, the top 10 runners stayed firmly on circuit, fearing the loss of track position would be impossible to make up as Yas Marina is notoriously hard to pass on.  Even Seb Vettel, now in 12th place but with a damaged front wing, seemed loath to come in... until the decision was made for him.  As he horked the car left and right to keep his tires and brakes warm, the Toro Rosso in front of him did the same, but out of sequence with the Red Bull driver.  In effect, when Vettel was accelerating, the Toro Rosso was braking.  On Lap 13, the asynchronicity proved to be too much and Vettel had to take evasive action... at a part of the track where he was not alone.

Fortunately, the trackside DRS notifier is made out of styrofoam for just this reason, but the RB8 was going fast enough that the impact broke off another chunk of the already-damaged front wing.  The team immediately told him to pit, and suddenly Vettel was back in 21st place.

*GREEN GREEN GREEN:  At the end of the lap, the Safety Car came back in, and Vettel spent the next five laps climbing his way back up to 14th place while the top five was Hamilton, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Alonso and Webber.  While back in the backfield there was some action (see Move of the Race), up front it looked like Hamilton had the race solidly in hand.  Raikkonen couldn't close on him, and nobody could close on the Lotus driver.  The only question was how much damage control Vettel could execute for his Drivers Championship chances.

:  And then Lewis Hamilton was seen coasting to a stop in the grass.

The team later said it was a fuel pressure problem and Hamilton said it just happened instantly... first it was going great guns, then the engine was completely cold and quiet.  In any case, the leader had just withdrawn from the race, ceding first place to the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen.  A half-lap later, Fernando Alonso passed Maldonado for second place and sent his Ferrari off in pursuit of the 2007 World Driving Champion.  With Hamilton's retirement from the race, he was also eliminated from the 2012 chase for the Championship as well.  At the end of Lap 26, Kimi Raikkonen led Fernando Alonso by 6.5 seconds, followed by Jenson Button, Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa, Mark Webber... and Sebastian Vettel.

*LET THE PITSTOPS BEGIN:  The Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi is a 55-lap race.  Despite starting on the soft Option tires, which theoretically shouldn't be able to last very long, the first of the heavy hitters (Vettel excepted, but his was a special case) still hadn't stopped by Lap 28.  To be sure, there'd been a long Safety Car period, but even given that, the tires had to have been going off soon.  On Lap 29, Fernando Alonso made the first move, pitting from second and shifting onto the medium-compound Prime tires, obviously going for a one-stop strategy.  The team knew that the race was still up for grabs and they wanted to give their man the best chance possible to win it: Alonso was stopped for only 2.7 seconds.  Over the next couple of laps everybody but Raikkonen and Vettel stopped for tires, giving us the incredible standings of Raikkonen, Vettel, Alonso, Button and Senna.  Vettel had picked up 22 places in 31 laps, and if Lotus didn't service their man cleanly, had a chance to be in the lead!  Kimi came in on Lap 32 with a nearly 23-second lead.

He came out in first, but not by a whole heckuvalot.  The thought amongst the F1U! team was that Vettel would have to pit again, that 40 laps would be too far for the Prime tires to go, even with Vettel driving... which brings up an interesting strategy dilemma.  If the RB8 pitted, he'd throw away any chance, small though it may be, for a race victory, but on fresh Option tires, he could make up a lot of time and positions quickly.   OR, he could push the old Prime tires for the remaining 23 laps and have a shot at winning... or dropping down the field if the tires fell off the cliff.  An interesting dilemma, and earlier in the season the decision would be an awfully tough one to make.  In Race 18, with Vettel not needing a victory, however, the choice was easy.  Red Bull brought in their man on Lap 38, and he fell to 4th place, behind Raikkonen, Alonso, and Button.  He then got some help.

*AGAIN WITH THE SAFETY CAR:   When you get a number of cars gathered together that all have roughly the same performance, things can get a little dicey if the drivers aren't all of superb skill levels.  On Lap 38, Paul Di Resta, Sergio Perez and Lettuce Grosjean were all dicing for fifth place, with Mark Webber hovering closely behind the three.  Di Resta attacked Grosjean, which gave Perez a chance to try passing around the outside of Turn 11.  However, the Force India cut the corner of Turn 13, sending the Sauber into the run-off area on the outside.  When he returned to the track, he found the Lotus of Grosjean there and the two made sharp contact.  Perez was tipped into a spin, Lettuce's front suspension was shattered, and his car staggered across the track.

The Red Bull of Mark Webber had no place to go.  His right rear wheel was ripped clean off, taking the rear wing with it.  While he skidded to a halt in the grass off-track, and Perez was able to limp to the pits, Lettuce's Lotus died on the racing line.  Berndt Maylander was duly summoned, and suddenly any lead Raikkonen had over Alonso, Button and yes, Vettel, was gone.

*ENDGAME:  When the Safety Car period ended, the standings were Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Vettel, Maldonado, Gandalf Kobayashi, Massa, Senna, Jules Vergne, and Paul diResta.  Kimi had a great restart and began to pull away from the Ferrari, by Lap 50 opening a 2.129 second lead.  But Alonso, aware that Button was probably going to fall to Vettel, began to push Kimi hard.  The lead began to drop lap by lap.  On Lap 53, Vettel got past Button, and Alonso had cut the lead to 1.384 seconds.  As the Finn and the Spaniard crossed the start/finish line on Lap 54, the lead was less than a second, but somehow opened to 1.090 seconds when they crossed the DRS line... just a smidge too far apart to allow the use of the speed-boosting device.  Finally, on the last lap, the Ferrari got to use the DRS, but was too far back to make it really count.  Alonso was driving his car on the limit, almost drifting through the final few turns in his last desperate attempts to catch up to the leader.  To no avail.  Kimi Raikkonen brought his Lotus across the finish line for his first win since he unretired, just .805 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was four seconds ahead of a hard-charging Seb Vettel in third, completing a remarkable drive, and bringing the Race of the Year to an end.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Any other race, Kimi Raikkonen would be the obvious choice.  Retired for three years and earning a win in his first season back?  Yeah, that'd be enough for a Driver of the Race award... usually.  Not today.  Seb Vettel started from the pit lane, worked his way up the field, fell back to 20th, then worked his way up the field again to finish on the podium, just behind his main competition for the Drivers Championship.  He limited the damage to his lead to just three points, earning 15 to Alonso's 18.  The possibility existed that he'd lose it all today... that he didn't can only be credited to great driving and good luck.  Drive of the race for sure.

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  Lotus.  Finally

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  This was a wild one.  On Lap 16, the order was Charles ToothPic in 17th, then Grosjean, Vettel and Di Resta in 20th as they came down the long long back straight.  Everybody but ToothPic could use the DRS, and Lettuce and Vettel decided to make their moves at the same time.

As one would expect, the Lotus and the Red Bull made it past the Marussia, though it did require some late braking on the part of Vettel going into the chicane to the second long straight.

It then became a straight drag race to Turn 11.

Vettel managed to outrun Lettuce, while Di Resta caught and passed ToothPic, and nearly the Lotus as well.  All four of them get to share in the MotR for making it happen without wrecking.  Good job everybody!

*MOOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  We still don't know just what happened between Mark Webber and Felipe Massa on Lap 26.  It looked like Webber passed Massa, the two touched, Webber left the track and when he returned, it spooked the Brazilian.

It seems ridiculous, but that's all I can come up with, because Massa just spun completely unbidden.  The Red Bull wasn't even close to him.  Whatever it was, congratulations Felipe, you just won a Moo!


David Coulthard: "Kimi, what's it like to win a Grand Prix?  The people want to know."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Last time I was on the podium, the team was giving me shit for not smiling enough." (note: real quote)

"They (Red Bull) have the better car, we have the better team." - Fernando Alonso (note: real quote)

"If we had started from third, it would have been a different race, but, yeah, it was obviously a chance to fuck it up, and we didn't do that." - Seb Vettel (note: real quote)

"Congratulations to Kimi - he's a man of few words, but he's all about racing." - Jenson Button (note: real quote)

"Well, shucks.  Gosh darn it.  Jeepers." - Hakham Maldonado

"I was mentioned in the writeup, y'know." - Gandalf Kobayashi

"Webber deserves a penalty for being scary." - Felipe Massa

"Well that was fun... let's do it again!" - Bruno Senna

"Not bad after the puncture on Lap 1!" - Paul di Resta

"Gee, what a shame about Vettel and the DRS sign.  I have no idea what he was thinking." - Daniel Ricciardo

"Kimi Raikkonen just scored more points in one race than I've earned in the three years since I returned from retirement.  Oh dear." - Slappy Schumacher

"Please Mr Vettel, take the position from me, no really, I insist." - Jules Vergne

"It's quite simple, really.  If Caterham finishes 10th in the Constructor's Championship, I'll have a race seat next year.  If we don't, my career is probably over." - Heikki Kovaleinninninnie

"The Kovaleinninninnie Killer.  I like the sound of that." - Tim O'Glockenspiel

"I... uh... it wasn't my fault?" - Sergio Perez

"I have nothing to say that is either relevant or true." - The Red Menace

"We're just not very good." - Pete Rose

"My engine died, I presume of embarrassment." - Charles ToothPic

"Can't blame this one on me!" - Lettuce Grosjean

"Well (censored), that bloody (censored).  Hey, how come Vettel can swear, but I can't?" - Mark Webber

"I'm gutted." - Lewis Hamilton (note: real quote)

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" - Narain Kittylitter


"Seriously?  One turn?" - Nico Hulkenberg

And that ends the best race of the year so far, and the most unlikely track to present it at that.  Next up in two weeks?  The debut US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin TX!  Think we're excited about that? 

See ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:14 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 2711 words, total size 18 kb.

1 Those still pictures of Rosberg's wreck are terrifying! It's a testimony to the safety standards (and a lot of luck) that they both walked away.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 04, 2012 11:03 PM (+rSRq)

2 Is a record kept for 'most passes for position in a race', and if so how did Vettel do? That was a surreal performance.

+5 irony for Kimi finally winning a race and losing even a theoretical shot at the championship at the same time. Between him and Alonso, that may have been the least amused podium of all time.

Damn fantastic race.

Posted by: Passerby at November 04, 2012 11:05 PM (Xl2DB)

3 +100 irony for Kimi finally winning a race... and getting non-alcoholic juice on the podium.

Vettel "only" picked up 20 positions on his way to 3rd place.  There is record of a driver starting in 22nd and winning... they mentioned the drivers' name on SPEED today, but I don't remember it.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 04, 2012 11:50 PM (lS5Cn)

4 It was John Watson in the McLaren Ford Cosworth at the 1983 US Grand Prix West.

I couldn't find any stats on the most passes for position in a race, but I did find the most positions gained.  Obviously this doesn't include cars that had to be passed more than once.  But in any event, that record is held by Jim Rathmann at the 1957 Indy 500, who went from 32nd at the start to 2nd at the finish.  That was when the Indy 500 was an F1 event, and there were some teams, including Rathmann's Epperly Offenhauser team, that contested only the 500, and not the rest of the F1 season.

Excluding Indy, the record for most positions gained would fall to Roberto Mieres, who drove from 32nd to 6th at Silverstone in 1954.

Vettel's drive in Abu Dhabi puts him tied with 6 other drivers for 17th on the list of most positions gained in a race.

Posted by: flatdarkmars at November 05, 2012 11:12 AM (I55Es)

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