2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Hamilton Wins As Vettel Retires

Lewis Hamilton won his 3rd race of the 2011 Formula1 season when he registered his first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix win today. His win came after a near-miss for pole position in yesterday’s qualifying session (Read post: 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying) and was followed to the chequered flag by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button.

Here are my thoughts on the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:

–          Being the only day/night race on the calendar, track temperatures were expected to drop by approx. 10 degrees celcius during the race distance. This would have an effect on tyre degradation and hence tyre strategies during the race.

–          Sebastian Vettel, the 2011 Formula1 World Champion, and pole-sitter from yesterday’s session suffered from a right rear puncture that ended his race on the first lap itself. Vettel’s retirement was his first of the season and ended his streak of finishing in the points for 19 races on the trot. Schumacher holds the record for finishing maximum no. of consecutive races in the points and Vettel’s attempt comes only second.

–          Post-retirement it was good to see Vettel sit on the pit-wall and monitor Webber’s race. Must have been an interesting and different perspective for him as well.

–          Jenson Button, the driver best poised to clinch 2nd place in the driver’s championship, suffered from a KERS malfunction early in the race that affected his fight with Alonso and then Webber. The team managed to restart his KERS system and get it to work, but this was only much later in the race. Button eventually finished 3rd and is now 10 points clear of Fernando Alonso, who is also in the fight for 2nd place.

–          Fernando Alonso’s podium finish was unexpected and was only possible due to his first lap overtaking move on Jenson Button and consistent race pace. This podium finish means that Alonso has been on the podium at all the current racing venues on the calendar.

–          The other Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa, had a race to forget. He equaled his best place finish of the season (5th) yet again, but that was not before he blew his chances of a 4th place finish, while in a battle with Mark Webber. A late race half spin saw him losing vital seconds in this battle that ultimately granted the Australian driver P4. Should Massa still get a Ferrari seat in 2012?

–          And Felipe Massa could well go down as the only Ferrari driver in history to have gone one full season without finishing on the podium! His last attempt is his home race in Brazil.

–          Mark Webber’s P4 came after a radical, but an unnecessary tyre strategy in the last stint of the race. His attempt can be considered as bold, but should have come earlier in the race to reap benefits. In my opinion, Webber would still have finished in P4 and behind Button with or without the strategy. However, it did provide for some entertainment in an otherwise boring race!

–          While Mark Webber was the only driver on track to stop 3 times, Paul di Resta was the only front runner to stop once in the race. His strategy saw him finish P9, a place behind his team-mate Sutil. The Sahara Force India cars were the ‘best of the rest’ yet again and finished only behind the manufacturer teams. They earned 6 valuable points to cement 6th place in the constructor’s championship.

–          Going back to Webber, he clinched his 6th fastest lap of the race for this season. I wonder if this is a record of sorts?

–          Notable performance by Team Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen, who ran as high as 13th place in the opening stages of the races. He ultimately finished 17th and only 3.3 seconds behind Lotus Renault’s Bruno Senna (who had a drive through penalty in the race for ignoring blue flags). His team-mate Trulli finished more than a minute and a lap behind in 18th place. Has Trulli reached an end to his F1 career?

–          Talking of blue flags, several drivers were penalized with drive through penalties for ignoring blue flags. Pastor Maldonado was one of them.

–          Lotus Renault GP had yet another points less weekend after Petrov suffered from DRS issues and Senna had a KERS problem. The team has finished outside the points in the last 3 races and has scored only 7 points in the last 9 races.

–          The other mid-field team, Toro Rosso suffered from a retirement with Buemi and a goofed up pit-stop with Alguersuari that saw him lose close to 20 seconds in his first tyre stop. Alguersuari ultimately finished 15th.

–          The WilliamsF1 team had one of the worst weekends in Formula1 after Barrichello was unable to participate in qualifying yesterday and Maldonado had a 10 place grid penalty for using his 9th engine of the season. Both their cars started from the last row of the grid, another low point for the former championship winning team. The only solace was that both drivers made 29 overtaking moves to finish 12th and 14th in the race. These statistics were released by the team post-race.

–          The last and final championship point was scored by Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, who finished 13.3 seconds ahead of his rookie team-mate.

Before the Formula1 circus moves to Brazil, the teams will conduct a young driver’s test in Abu Dhabi starting tomorrow. Stay tuned for more…!

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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