Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday as Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel fought his way up to third position to keep his lead in the drivers’ standings.
Vettel had to start from the pit lane after incurring a penalty in qualifying. He surged from the rear of the field, and survived damage to his car, to keep his championship quest on target after the 55-lap day-night race at the Yas Marina circuit. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was second in a crash- littered race.
Vettel, who was aiming for a fifth straight race win, now has a 10-point advantage over Alonso. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who started on pole, retired while in the lead when his car lost power.
“There are still two races to go,” Vettel said at the post-race ceremony when asked if he could clinch a third straight world title. “We saw how things can change,” he added, referring to the penalty he’d suffered. The German said he’d always believed he could get a podium finish even after starting down the field.
“Yes, I did,” he said. “We had a messy start and damaged the front wing. I said to myself either we go full attack or nothing and that’s what we did.”
It was Raikkonen’s first Formula One win since the Belgian Grand Prix in August 2009. The Finn won the world title in 2007 and didn’t compete in 2010 and 2011. He started from fourth on the grid yesterday.
“I’m very happy for the team and myself, mainly for the team,” Raikkonen, 32, said after his 19th career win. “It’s been a hard season, not an easy time, but hopefully this gives us more belief. I hope this can turn the tables and give us many more wins, if not this year then for next year.”
It was a first win for the Lotus name since 1987, although the brand has gone though changes of ownerships and restructurings in the intervening years.
Vettel, who qualified in third place, was demoted as his car infringed rules by containing less than the required level of fuel after qualifying ended.
He sustained damage on his wing early in the race when he made contact with Bruno Senna’s Williams yet still was able to move up 10 places in the first eight laps. He sustained more damage on touching a polystyrene barrier when moving to avoid a slowing car in front during the first of two safety-car periods. That necessitated a pit stop that dropped him back to 21st.
Nico Rosberg of Mercedes and HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan exited the race after a spectacular collision that sent the German’s Mercedes airborne. Both men walked away unscathed as the safety car entered the race while damage was cleared away.
On the 20th lap, Hamilton seemed in control of the race before pulling on to the grass as his engine lost power, allowing Raikkonen to take over the lead. Alonso then got past Williams’s Pastor Maldonado to take second spot.
Meanwhile Vettel was on a charge and moved up to seventh spot. A round of pit stops by other drivers then enabled him to move up to second behind Raikkonen, followed by Alonso and Button, before the German dropped back after his own pit stop.
Raikkonen managed to stave off Alonso for the rest of the race to get his first win of his comeback year. The Spaniard moved to within a second of Raikkonen, but couldn’t get past him.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was involved in collisions with Maldonado and Felipe Massa of Ferrari before he was finally put out of the race after an incident involving Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Jenson Button of McLaren was fourth, followed by Maldonado, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, Massa and Senna. Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso were the other points- scorers.
Vettel’s points advantage was reduced to 10 from 13 after yesterday’s race. He has 255, followed by Alonso (245), Raikkonen (198), Webber (167) and Hamilton (165).
Red Bull leads the constructors’ competition with 422 points, while Ferrari has 340 and McLaren has 318. Lotus has 288.
The next event, the 19th on the 20-race calendar, is the U.S. Grand Prix at Austin on Nov. 18.
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