F1 Blast from the Past: Vettel’s Red Bull Charges Amid Chaos in Abu Dhabi
Round 18 of the 2012 Formula One World Championship took place at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu
Dhabi. Coming off the back of four successive victories, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel led the
championship by 13 points ahead of his chief rival, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Qualifying was interesting affair with the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton taking his sixth pole position of
the season, three tenths of a second clear of Mark Webber’s Red Bull. The Australian’s teammate,
Sebastian Vettel, recorded the third fastest time but was instructed by the team to stop the car on
his in lap due to low fuel.
Subsequently, the FIA were unable to retrieve the required one-litre fuel sample and just like Hamilton in Barcelona earlier in the season, Vettel was relegated to the back of the grid. Not what the German wanted given his title aspirations. This left the Williams of Pastor Maldonado lining up third, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen’s Lotus.
55 laps of Abu Dhabi started with Hamilton maintaining his grid position and leading into the first
corner. Räikkönen got a flyer elevating the Finn from fourth to second.
Further down the field, chaos reigned supreme as Nico Hülkenberg, Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna and the two Sauber’s of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez all jockeyed for the same piece of track and tangled heading into the first corner.
Hülkenberg was out of the race, while di Resta and Grosjean headed for the pits.
Vettel had started from the pits and was making progress through the field. That was until a collision with
Bruno Senna’s Williams damaged his front wing endplate. Compatriot Nico Rosberg’s race
came to premature and frightening end on lap nine when he was caught out by the slowing HRT of
Narain Karthikeyan. The Mercedes was launched into the air and careered into the barriers at Turn 17.
Thankfully, both drivers were uninjured, but the Safety Car was brought out. Vettel came into the pits after suffering more damage to his front wing, the German had swerved to avoid Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso and collecting the polystyrene DRS marker board. The furious Vettel had to start his fightback all over again. Though, he could make it to the end if could manage his soft tyres.
Once the racing resumed on Lap 15, Hamilton again led away from Räikkönen, Maldonado, Alonso
and Webber. Vettel was battling the Lotus of Grosjean for 17th position and drove inside the run-off
area whilst making a move.
To avoid being issued with a penalty, as had happened in Germany, Vettel handed the place back to Grosjean. A potential dominant victory for Lewis Hamilton was lost on Lap 19 when he was forced to retire with a fuel pressure problem, handing the lead to Räikkönen as Alonso overtook Maldonado.
When Räikkönen’s race engineer, Simon Rennie came on the radio informing his driver about the gap to Alonso, the Finn gave his now legendary response; “Just leave me alone, I know what to do.”
Sebastian Vettel was recovering well and was up into the points, team mate Mark Webber tried a
move on Pastor Maldonado’s Williams on Lap 23 but the two collided, sending the Australian into
spin back to seventh place.
His scrappy race continued three laps later when he came to blows at turn twelve with Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. On Lap 28, Fernando Alonso made a pit-stop which elevated Vettel to second.
Three laps later, Räikkönen made his sole stop and retained the lead. Not wanting to risk a drop in tyre performance, Vettel made another stop and exited the pits in fourth place.
Dramatic closing act
On Lap 39, the battle for fifth place involved Grosjean, di Resta, Perez and Webber. Di Resta utilised his DRS on the back straight and moved ahead of Grosjean. Perez tried to follow suit, but the Mexican got a little too keen as he tried to negotiate Turn 13 alongside di Resta.
The Sauber ran wide and re-joined into the path of Grosjean who in turn was hit by Webber.
Perez was handed a stop/go penalty but that was little consolation for Grosjean and Webber who
both retired. The Safety Car came out again, wiping out Räikkönen’s lead.
As the race restarted on Lap 42, Alonso closed in on Räikkönen, while Jenson Button’s McLaren was
been chased by Vettel. The German finally made it through on Lap 52 and into third place.
Alonso got within a second of Räikkönen but the Finn held on to take his first win since Belgium 2009, becoming
the eighth different winner in an extraordinary season. With Alonso second ahead of Vettel, the
championship battle was down to 10 points with just two races remaining.
Button was fourth ahead of Maldonado, Kobayashi, Massa, Senna, di Resta and Ricciardo. Räikkönen’s victory was thoroughly deserved after a hugely impressive comeback campaign and the Lotus name returned to the top
step of the podium after 25 years.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend? Host George Howson with panellists Mikael Kataja, Alex Booth and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Abu Dhabi Prix Preview. Video and audio versions of the show are linked below: