Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor James Parker
Sebastian Vettel took a completely dominant victory under the setting Abu Dhabi sun, winning by a completely unbelievable 30 seconds from his team-mate Webber which allowed the Red Bull team to claim yet another 1-2. Nico Rosberg was the only man on the day to take any kind of fight to the Red Bull pair as he claimed a second consecutive podium to take 3rd over the line – resisting a late charge from the Lotus of Grosjean in 4th.
Off the start, Webber made yet another traditional slow start and this allowed both Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg to go either side of the Red Bull man into the first corner to take first and second place. 4th place man Lewis Hamilton also showed his nose inside the Red Bull of Webber, however he was squeezed on the apex and lost 4th place to the fast starting Lotus of Grosjean.
Further back the traditional first corner chaos started to play out. Jenson Button damaged his front wing due to contact with the Torro Rosso of Jean Eric Vergne, forcing him to pit at the start of lap 2 to replace his front wing. Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen who was forced to start from the back of the grid due to failing a floor deflection test post qualifying, made contact with the Caterham of Charles Pic on the apex of turn 1, damaging his front right track rod and therefore succumbing to his first 1st lap retirement since 2006 – a frustrating end to what has been an incredibly tense weekend for the Finn.
By lap 5 the top 8 had started to settle down, and Vettel up front was imperious. Stretching his lead up to 3.7 seconds it was looking like another typical dominant performance was in store. If Webber had any hope of winning, he needed to pass 2nd place man Rosberg and quickly.
The first front running driver to set off the first pit stop phase was Lewis Hamilton on lap 8. Running in 5th place behind Grosjean, he bolted on a set of fresh medium compound tyres – aiming to possibly undercut both Grosjean and Webber ahead of him.
This was short lived however, as the two directly ahead of him covered each other on lap 9, pitting for fresh medium tyres and therefore re-joining directly ahead of the Mercedes of Hamilton. They came out directly behind the longer running Sauber of Guttierez, with both Webber and Grosjean making short work on fresher tyres. Hamilton however was having more trouble and was told to drop back due to overheating his tyres.
Both Rosberg and Vettel were running longer up front, with the Mercedes pitting on lap 11, and re-joining behind the longer running Ferrari’s of Massa and Alonso in 2nd and 3rd place. Vettel waited until lap 14 and came back out ahead of Massa in 2nd place, such was his dominance at the head of the field.
Further back, Hamilton was still struggling to get past the Sauber of Guttierez, until the Mexican decided to pit for the first time on lap 19 – which then released the Briton, who himself was coming under pressure from the Ferrari of Massa who had recently pitted for the first time after running a long first stint.
After dispatching the longer running traffic, Mark Webber was looking at staking his claim on second place. With Rosberg up ahead getting caught behind the Force India of Paul Di Resta, Webber made his move into the turn 12/13 chicane. Using some clever KERS usage and DRS together, he got a great run on the outside of Rosberg and held the line into the chicane to take a provisional 2nd place.
By lap 22, Vettel’s dominance was getting ever more ridiculous as he now enjoyed a 27 second lead over the newly promoted 2nd place man Webber, once the first pitstop phase and traffic shakeup had settled down.
Further back , Adrian Sutil, like India, was looking at doing a super long first stint and by this point in the race was really struggling with tyres, holding up Hamilton, Massa, Hulk and Alonso behind. It was this situation which allowed for potentially the overtake of the race, as Massa made a very opportunist move stick on Hamilton ahead. Utilising DRS and a double slip stream, he poked his nose up the inside of Hamilton into the turn 12/13 chicane to make a move stick.
He then did exactly the same to 5th place Sutil a lap on, and Hamilton followed suit by lap 28 in the same place of the racetrack… Eventually.
As the second pit stop phase’s beganmon lap 28, there was high controversy, as 8th place man Hulk appeared to have been unsafely released into the path of Perez behind – a penalty was potentially on the cards as Perez had to take immediate avoiding action. Inevitably, for the teams actions, this penalty came to fruition on lap 34 as Hulk was given a drive through penalty, destroying his race.
The top 3 at this point where in a race of their own. 2nd and 3rd place men Webber and Rosberg pitted together on lap 34 and retained their positions on the medium compound tyres, Whilst Vettel waited until lap 38 to pit for the final time – re-joining comfortably in the lead once again.
4th place man Grosjean waited until the same lap as Vettel to make his final stop, and exited the pits in extreme close proximity to both Ferrari’s behind in 5th and 6th place.
Both Ferrari’s appeared to be on 1 stop strategies after stretching out their first stints earlier on in the race, but by lap 39 Ferrari looked to have changed tack pitting Massa from 5th place for his second stop, and he re-joined in 9th place behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
The other Ferrari of Alonso was still running strongly in 5th place, with lap times looking very consistent indeed, which led many to believe Ferrari were simply splitting their strategies. But by lap 46, the Scuderia brought the Spaniard in for the soft compound tyres on low fuel, rejoining just behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and having an extremely close call with Jean Eric Vergne exiting the pits – supposedly leaving the track limits to pass the Torro Rosso man.
By lap 51, Alonso was showing excellent pace with fresh soft compound tyres, taking all the life out of them he could. Latching himself on to the back of the struggling Lewis Hamilton, he pounced once again at the turn 12/13 chicane to take 6th place. Following that up with a move on 5th place Di Resta who was one stopping, at turn 8 the following lap, he capped off what was a solid recovery drive from such a poor qualifying session.
But up front it was all about Sebastian Vettel. Claiming his 7th straight victory in 2013, replicating the achievements of Schumacher and Ascari, it was once again yet another champion’s drive from the German, winning by over half a minute from those behind. Webber took a solid 2nd place, but was never in the same race as Vettel during the entire evening. Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean offered the closest resistance to the Red Bull’s in 3rd and 4th place, but the driver of the day had to be 6th place man Di Resta, who held off Hamilton late on and executed a brilliant 1 stop strategy in the Force India.
What Pirelli Say
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “First of all, congratulations to Sebastian Vettel for winning this race. A variety of strategies were deployed, with good levels of wear and degradation on both compounds, which meant that drivers were able to complete long opening stints even on the soft tyre. Sebastian drove a masterful race to win without ever losing the lead, making the most of the fact that he had not used the medium compound at all in qualifying, leaving him with two fresh sets of mediums today.
As usual we saw a high degree of track evolution and falling track temperatures over the course of the race, although perhaps not to the extent we actually anticipated.”
Fastest times of the day by compound:
First ALO – 1.43.434 VET – 1.43.893
Second BOT – 1.44.351 GRO – 1.44.301
Third SUT – 1.45.609 WEB – 1.44.364
Longest stint of the race:
Medium 44 laps – J Button
Soft 28 laps – A Sutil
Pos Driver Team
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault
3. Rosberg Mercedes
4. Grosjean Lotus-Renault
5. Alonso Ferrari
6. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes
7. Hamilton Mercedes
8. Massa Ferrari
9. Perez McLaren-Mercedes
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes
11. Maldonado Williams-Renault
12. Button McLaren-Mercedes
13. Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari
14. Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari
15. Bottas Williams-Renault
16. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari
18. van der Garde Caterham-Renault
19. Pic Caterham-Renault
20. Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth
21. Chilton Marussia-Cosworth
Fastest lap: Alonso 1m43.434s.
World Drivers Championship
World Constructors Championship