With Sebastian Vettel’s stranglehold over the sport and his championship all tied up in India last weekend, there wasn’t a lot to get excited about as F1 headed to Abu Dhabi.
This became even more apparent when the Red Bulls topped the timetables in the second practice session.
Despite this, qualifying didn’t go entirely Vettel’s way, although Red Bull locked out the front row, teammate Mark Webber securing pole position.
The now four-time world champion Vettel had shown his dominance setting the fastest times all weekend until Webber’s final qualifying run. The Aussie, set to leave F1 at the end of the season to race for Porsche, set a time of 1m 39.95 seconds to secure his second pole position of the year.
The Silver Arrows drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton managed to secure the second row for Mercedes, Rosberg third and, having spun off on his final attempt for pole, Hamilton fourth.
2012’s winner and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen secured fifth place despite his continued battle with the team over his supposed unpaid wages. Although teammate Romain Grosjean has stepped onto the podium in the previous three grand prix, the Frenchman could only secure seventh.
Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the final top 10.
Former World Champions, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button failed to make Q3. The Spaniard locked up on his final run and missed out by a tenth of a second whilst Button could only manage 13th.
At the start of the race Vettel immediately pulled alongside Webber, the Aussie’s mirrors also full of silver as both of the Mercedes flanked them. Vettel made it through with Rosberg, but Hamilton didn’t and Grosjean jumped him. In the second Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen went out at the second corner with a damaged push rod.
From here Vettel performed his usual vanishing act and built up a gap big enough to evade DRS on lap 3. Behind, Webber managed to stay with Rosberg.
A few laps on, and with Vettel storming away, Romain Grosjean managed to get a sniff of Webber’s gearbox. Meanwhile, Hamilton jumped into the pits – it looked as though the Mercedes were eating the tyres.
After his first stop Webber caught Force India’s Sutil on lap 12, only to become stuck behind him on fresh rubber. The previous stops promoted the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso up to second and third – signs of a one stop?
Not happy with another World Championship, Vettel wanted a seventh consecutive win under his belt and had gained a 25 second lead, effectively a stop in hand.
By midrace Hamilton, despite informing his team he’s sliding all over the place made a move stick on Sutil into the final chicane and maintained the pass.
On lap 28 Alonso past Sutil to take seventh, whilst Perez and Hulkenberg nearly collided in the pit lane – one for the stewards as Perez clearly had to brake to avoid the Sauber.
Inevitably, Hulkenberg, running 11th, was hit with a stop-go penalty for an unsafe release in the pits.
Lap 39 saw Massa pit, which in turn released Alonso to reel in Grosjean. Not that it changed anything but Vettel made his second stop and sauntered out to reclaim the lead.
After circulating for a handful of laps in clear air, Alonso pitted and rejoined at lightening speed, cutting across the front of Vergne’s line and also in front of Massa in order to keep his sixth position – another one for the marshals as he is under investigation, which is a shame as he set the fastest lap.
Sebastian Vettel claimed his seventh consecutive win, sweeping close to the pit wall as his team celebrated.
It seems Vettel and the RB9 are unbeatable and I was reminded of 2002 when Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races for Ferrari. Can Vettel beat that record next season with the rule changes and a massive engine change? It’s certainly something to ponder.
Final Top: 10
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull
- Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull
- Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus
- Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari
- Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
- Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari
- Sergio Perez (Mex) McLaren
- Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India