Those hoping for a scintillating Abu Dhabi Grand Prix were left disappointed as Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel cruised to his seventh victory in a row and his eleventh of the 2013 season.[Not a valid template]
Despite being beaten to pole position by Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, the four-time world champion – recently crowned at the previous event in India – made a strong start to the event, scything down the inside into turn one and taking a lead he would never lose (the deficit would be more than thirty seconds at the flag). Mirroring his post-race celebrations in India, Sebastian Vettel completed a dominant performance with another set of donuts in front of the South Grandstand, much to the delight of the crowd and no doubt the ire of the FIA.
Second place ultimately went to Mark Webber, though the Australian – who next year will race with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship – gave best to the fast-starting Nico Rosberg at the beginning of the race. Shadowing his German rival throughout the opening stages, a key pass for position on Estaban Guttierez’s late stopping Sauber – plus some stellar laps during the middle stages on fresh medium compound rubber – allowed the Aussie to get the jump on Nico Rosberg, and open up a near-three second gap at the finish.
Following a strong performance from Rosberg in qualifying (in which he posted the third fastest time), the Mercedes driver was able to hold onto the final podium step, despite a strong run from Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and a late race surge by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, having spent the majority of the event battling to pass Scuderia teammate Felipe Massa (and having escaped a near-miss with Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric Vergne at the long sweeping turn three after his second pitstop), passed both Lewis Hamilton’s struggling Mercedes and Paul Di Resta’s Force India to take fifth at the flag, some thirty seconds behind fourth-placed Grosjean.
Di Resta, after a quiet but impressive run, took sixth ahead of Hamilton, while Massa, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and McLaren’s Sergio Perez completed the top ten. Though looking good for a top ten finish early doors, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg was handed a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release at his second stop, dropping him to 14th as a result.
The major (and indeed only) DNF of the event was Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, who failed to complete even a single lap after making contact with one of the Catherham duo at the first corner. Visible damage to the front right suspension called time on a bad weekend for the Finn, who started from the back of the grid following a penalty in qualifying for a broken floor on his Lotus E21.