Abu Dhabi GP – A second place to gain three points
Scuderia Ferrari has a further twenty four points to its name after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, thanks to a second place for Fernando Alonso and a seventh for Felipe Massa. This is Fernando’s eleventh podium finish of the season, the twelfth for the team. The Spaniard has reduced the gap to the series leader to ten points, while with his eighth consecutive points finish, his twelfth of the season, Felipe has moved up to seventh. Ferrari now has a 22 point advantage over the third placed team in the Constructors’ classification, 82 points off the leaders.
Stefano Domenicali: “Yet another great race from Fernando in what is an amazing season for him. Today’s second place came about mainly because of his ability to get the most and maybe even a bit more than that out of what we gave him to work with. The gap to the leader in the classification has come down to ten points and everything is still up for grabs. Of course, we must do something extra and better than what we have done to date to give him a more competitive car. If we had been offered this gap on leaving Abu Dhabi, immediately after qualifying yesterday evening, maybe we would have taken it, but it’s also true that this afternoon, before the start, our prospects had changed. Definitely, the way the race played out and the incidents that occured, did not do us any favours in light of the championship, but these are circumstances over which we have no control. The important thing is we have reduced the gap in the Drivers’ classification in a Grand Prix that was particularly difficult because, not only did our performance level not match that of our closest rivals, but it was actually worse than that of other teams. On top of that, we have increased our lead over our closest rival in the Constructors’ championship, which is a good thing. Ten points is a lot but it can also be seen as very few. We have a duty to try right to the very last metre of the final Grand Prix and that’s what we will do, you can be sure of it.”
Fernando Alonso: “I’m happy with the way this weekend turned out. It’s true that with Sebastian last, there was an opportunity to reduce the gap more significantly but it’s equally true that our performance and our grid position could have seen us lose points in this Grand Prix. I repeat, they have the quicker car, we have the better team. Everyone fights with the weapons they have at their disposal: we will not manage to turn our car into the quickest of the pack with a wave of a magic wand, but we will counter their performance with the perfection of our team. The simulation put us somewhere between fourth and sixth and we finished second, therefore once again this was a more than perfect race, running at the maximum from start to finish. Sure, there were a number of unexpected retirements and two neutralisation periods that did not really come at the right time or suit us, but these are things beyond our control. We just had to stay focused on our race and that’s what we did. Now we go to Austin, a new circuit for everyone: we have just had a taste of it on the simulator, but the track is something else. Let’s hope we can get a good result and put on a good show in an important country like the United States. Tonight I will go to sleep thinking the glass is half full rather than half empty. We must be proud of what we have done, the work of the mechanics at the track and the engineers who tried to fine tune the car. I fought from start to finish: first with Maldonado, then Jenson and, in the end I tried to go and catch Kimi. I could not relax for a single lap. The best race of the year? It’s still to come…”
Felipe Massa: “It was a difficult race for me. In particular, I suffered on the Softs because of more degradation than we had expected. On Friday, the long run seemed much better: we must understand what changed compared to two days ago. I had problems with the balance: understeer in the fast corners and oversteer in the slow ones. The duel with Webber was the vital moment, as it meant I lost a lot of places at a crucial point in the race. He tried to go round the outside of me and we touched. Then he cut the chicane and came back across the track, forcing me to spin to avoid hitting him. A shame, because I could at least have finished ahead of Kobayashi. In any case, I managed to bring home some points which are important for the Constructors’ championship, as we have increased our lead over McLaren. At the next race, I too will have the technical updates that Fernando had here and we hope there will also be other ones to improve the car’s performance. However, it’s true that the track characteristics can alter the balance of power: here we saw that McLaren and Lotus were very strong, apart from Red Bull of course, but it’s not certain that elsewhere it will be the same.”
Pat Fry: “It’s been a difficult and intense weekend and coming out of it having improved our situation in both championships compared to the start of it is undoubtedly positive. There’s no point brooding over what happened: the Safety Cars did not come at the best times for us, but there was nothing we could do about it. We had to do our utmost and, on that front, we’ve got nothing to reproach ourselves for. Once again, Fernando delivered an amazing performance, getting everything he could out of the car, both in qualifying and in the race. When strategy does not allow for many variables it’s always difficult to make up places but this evening and eight days ago in India, he showed what he’s made of. These two second places are worth much more than the 36 points they have brought him. Felipe had a more difficult race than his team-mate, losting precious time because of the spin, as it left him in a lot of traffic. However, his six points are valuable for the Constructors’ classification. Once again in this Grand Prix, our race pace was better than in qualifying: we have to make a step forward in this area to try and be in with a chance in the last two Grands Prix of the season. We had various updates at this race which, to some extent, did not work as we had expected. We must understand why and do something quickly because we no longer have much time. Furthermore, these ten days prior to the final double header will be crucial to prepare for a Grand Prix that takes place on a track that is new for everyone. Whoever is quickest at adapting their car to it could have an advantage. None of us wants to give up and everything is still possible.”
Weather: air 30°C, track 35 °C. Clear skies. Chassis: Alonso 295, Massa 294.
Abu Dhabi GP – 55 laps for 3 points
Abu Dhabi, 4 November – Two great drivers, two double world champions, both fighting tooth and nail to secure a third title this year: Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel both produced stunning performances this afternoon, the Spaniard finishing second in a car that definitely was not the class of the field and the German, making the most of the superiority of the Red Bull to come from last to third at the flag. It means that having trailed Vettel by 13 points after India, Alonso leaves the Gulf just ten points down. Before this race, Kimi Raikkonen was an outside chance to be World Champion and today’s result means he is out of the running. However, the Finn took his and the Lotus team’s first win of the season. In the second F2012, Felipe Massa’s race was compromised after a spin following contact with Mark Webber and the Brazilian eventually finished seventh.
Late on Saturday night, the Stewards ruled that, having stopped on track through Force Majeure at the end of qualifying, Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull did not comply with the fuel sampling rules and the Red Bull moved from third on the grid to the back. The team opted to make changes on his car and the German started the race from pit lane. This promoted those behind him by one place, so that Fernando watched the lights go out from sixth place and Felipe from eighth. The two Ferrari men immediately made up a place at the start and then the Spaniard also got past Webber to take fourth after some nerve wracking wheel to wheel action. Rosberg pitted the Mercedes with damage and continued, while Hulkenberg retired the Force India having gone off at Turn 1.
At the front, pole man Hamilton had a slender lead over Raikkonen, who had got ahead of Webber when the lights went out, with Maldonaldo third, 0.7 ahead of Fernando. Then came Webber, Button and Felipe seventh ahead of Kobayashi. Coming from the back, the championship leader Vettel was up to eighteenth by lap 2 and fourteenth on lap 4 and he was one of the few drivers to have started on the harder tyre.
By lap 6, Hamilton’s McLaren had a 3 second advantage over Raikkonen in the Lotus, with Maldonaldo a further 1.8 behind, holding up Fernando who was right up with the Williams. Then came Webber in the Red Bull, with Button still sixth in the second McLaren, 1.2 seconds ahead of Felipe’s F2012. The Brazilian had a one second cushion to Perez’s Sauber. At this point, the top ten was completed by Kobayashi in the Sauber and Schumacher in the Mercedes. Vettel? He was now thirteenth.
Lap eight saw the Safety Car appear after a huge crash involving Karthikeyan in the HRT and Rosberg in the Mercedes: it looked as though the Indian driver slowed for Turn 16 earlier than expected and the German launched his car over the HRT and into the barrier. Vergne was the first to make a stop under the safety car, coming in on lap 9 from thirteenth to take on Prime tyres. Grosjean did the same in the Lotus. While still behind the Safety Car Vettel appeared to damage the front wing on the Red Bull on Senna’s Williams and pitted for a new nose on lap 13.
At the restart on lap 14, Webber mounted a vigorous attack on Fernando, but the Spaniard held him off, although this cost the Ferrari a bit of time to third placed Maldonaldo, while Vettel’s visit to the pits had dropped him to 21st, but he was soon up to seventeenth, in a serious dog fight with Grosjean’s Lotus. Webber was still dangerously within the one second gap required to activate DRS as he chased Fernando, while Felipe was having a relatively quiet race in seventh. With Webber on his tail, Fernando was pushing hard, which meant the gap to Maldonaldo was beginning to come down although it was still around 3.5 seconds.
The lead now passed to Raikkonen on lap 20, as Hamilton had to park his car at the side of the track with a mechanical problem. It promoted Fernando to third, just 0.6 behind Maldonaldo, while Webber was still a threatening half second behind the Ferrari. That all changed on lap 21, as Fernando passed the Williams with a straightforward move to go second. Felipe was up to sixth. The threat from Webber diminished as he spun trying to take third place off Maldonaldo, which dropped him to seventh, so that Felipe now found himself fifth, still between Button on fourth and Perez in sixth.
On lap 24, Button got his McLaren ahead of Maldonaldo to take third, but it was at this point that Perez managed to squeeze past Felipe, thus relegating the Ferrari man back to sixth. Felipe was clearly struggling as Webber was now right on his tail. Lap 25 and Kobayashi pitted, with most of the front runners apparently planning to make just one tyre change all race. Lap 26 and Webber tried to go round the outside of Felipe, the two men collided and as the Australian came back on the track in front of the Ferrari, Felipe spun and the team immediately called him for his pit stop, which he took at the same time as Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso. Schumacher came in from eighth on lap 27, as Vettel put in a race fastest lap to run seventh behind his team-mate. Felipe was down in fifteenth.
Fernando changed to the Medium Pirelli on lap 29 and Button and Maldonaldo also came in for fresh rubber. Perez and Webber came in from second and fourth on lap 30. Race leader Raikkonen finally pitted on lap 31, so that all the front runners apart from seventh placed Senna had made at least one pit stop. On lap 32 of 55, the order was Raikkonen, 1.4 ahead of Vettel, who was 5.9 in front of Fernando, who had Button now breathing down his neck. The question was now how well everyone could get to the flag, given that Vettel, having had an early stop because of that nose damage, would be on much older tyres than Fernando. Vergne, who had pitted under the safety car had got up to sixth, but made a stop in the Toro Rosso on lap 33. Massa’s earlier problems meant he was down in 13th place.
With 20 laps remaining, Button was putting Fernando under serious pressure which was actually pushing the Ferrari closer to second placed Vettel who was called into the pits for a second stop on lap 37. A thrilling battle for fourth led to the Safety Car making its second appearance, as Perez tried to pass Di Resta, with Grosjean and Webber also getting involved in the multi car pile-up that signalled the end of the race for the Australian and the Frenchman. Behind the SC, the order on lap 40 was Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Vettel, Maldonaldo, Kobayashi, Schumacher, with Felipe eighth, which then became seventh as Schumacher changed tyres.
Lap 42 and Fernando was 1.9 behind the leader Raikkonen and had Button 0.8 behind him and in terms of the championship, Vettel was right up with the Englishman in the sole remaining McLaren. With ten laps remaining, Raikkonen extended his lead to 3 seconds over Fernando, but it was the battle behind that held everyone’s attention, with Button drifting to 1.2 off the Spaniard has he put all his effort into fending off Vettel. Felipe was seventh, just under a second behind Kobayashi with fellow countryman Senna closing on him as his tyres began to fade. Fernando really put the hammer down in the final laps, the gap to the Finn in front dropping to 2.2 with six laps to go. Three laps from the end, Vettel despatched Button and from then on the podium order remained unchanged. This had probably been the most exciting race we had seen in the short history of the Abu Dhabi circuit. In terms of the title race, Fernando has edged three points closer to Vettel so that the gap between them is now ten points, with a further fifty up for grabs as we tackle the final pair of back to back races in Austin and Sao Paolo, starting in a fortnight’s time in Texas. Felipe moves up two places to seventh in the Drivers’ standings. In the Constructors’ classification, the Scuderia is still second – it cannot aspire to first place – extending its lead over the third team.
Abu Dhabi GP – Alonso on the podium
Abu Dhabi, 4 November – It’s been a thrilling Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit tonight, with plenty of drama, overtaking and even two Safety Car periods. Kimi Raikkonen took his first win of the season, to stand on the top step of the podium. Behind the Finn in the Lotus, Fernando Alonso delivered another unbelievable performance to take second in the Ferrari ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who took his Red Bull from a pit lane start to third. Felipe Massa finished seventh in the other F2012.
The timing of the Safety Car did not do Ferrari any favours, but thanks to this result, Alonso reduces the gap just slightly, now only 10 points behind the leader in the Drivers’ classification.