While still technically in the middle east, and despite having a very similar track layout, the snore-fest that was the Indian GP was a stark contrast to the absolutely crazy weekend that was the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi yesterday. The weekend started very well for Lewis Hamilton. Despite announcing his departure from McLaren and being on the verge of mathematical elimination from the championship, Lewis and his crew showed that they will continue pushing hard until the season is over. He was one of, if not the fastest car during practice and he put on a dominant performance during qualifying.
Speaking of qualifying, that was the point which the weekend got interesting. Sebastian Vettel, fighting downforce and braking issues managed to earn a P3 qualifying spot but once Q3 was over his team immediately ordered him to stop the car. Doing as he was told, Vettel pulled his Red Bull car over to the side of the front straight and hitched a ride in the safety car back to his pit. It is still unclear why his team asked him to shut the car down but it is against FIA regulation to not return a car to the pit under its own power after qualifying unless it has a certain amount of fuel left in its tank for independent analysis purposes. Vettel’s car was 150ml (or approximately 10 tablespoons) short of that required amount. As such officials disqualified him from the session and he woudl have to start the race on Sunday dead last, from the pit lane.
This was obviously horrible news for Red Bull Racing but awesome news for Ferrari. With Fernando Alonso qualifying 6th, he had a pretty good chance to take back the championship lead and maybe even build a points cushion for the last three races of 2012. However, things did not quite work out that way for Alonso. Despite starting in dead last, Sebastian Vettel clawed his way through the accident prone mid-field and fought his way to the front pack. For the most part that did not mean squat to Lewis Hamilton who was running away from the entire field; Until lap 20 when his car suffered some type of electrical malfunction and gave out, completely voiding his awesome performance all weekend up to that point.
From there it was Kimi Raikkonen who took over the lead in his Renault-powered Lotus. Great news for Kimi. Horrible news for Lewis, and completely indifferent to Fernando Alonso who just wanted to make sure he stayed in front of Vettel and that Vettel did not get any closer to him. Unfortunately for Alonso, Vettel who passed just about everyone else on the track after starting from pit lane was right behind him sitting in third place. Fernando’s only hope to leave the race ahead of Sebastian in the points was to win but the Spaniard could not catch Kimi “The Iceman” Raikkonen.
Lotus, not used to being in a winning position for quite sometime could not help but constantly remind Kimi what was at stake. A seasoned driver and former champion Kimi responded on the radio “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!” (true story!). The iceman knew what he was doing indeed as he kept both Fernando and Sebastian at bay to take his first win of the season and Lotus’ first win ever (in their current incarnation anyway).
Finishing in second place was Fernando Alonso who is still well in the fight for the championship, and rounding out the podium in third was Sebastian Vettel who would leave Abu Dhabi 10 points ahead of Fernando.
There are only two races left now: the return of F1 to the United States at the Circuit Of the America’s, and the final race in Brazil. Can Fernando come back in just two races and win his third career championship? Or will Sebastian stay on top to get his third consecutive title? The fight continues two weeks from now when Formula One finally returns to America at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
For a full post-race report check out the SPEED results show video.
[Photo: Tom Gandolfini/AFP/Getty Images]