Abu Dhabi GP - Night fighters

Abu Dhabi GP – Night fighters

Yas Marina, 3 November – Fernando Alonso finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in fifth place, with Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa eighth. Both men fought very hard for this total of 14 points, producing some of the more exciting moments of the seventeenth round of the world championship. However, as Nico Rosberg celebrated for Mercedes from the third step of the podium, alongside the all-conquering Red Bull duo of winner Sebastian Vettel and runner-up Mark Webber, the gap in the Constructors’ championship between the Prancing Horse and the three pointed star, has grown to 11 points, as Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes also brought home 6 points today. Fernando stays second in the Drivers’ with Felipe eighth.

Felipe and Fernando started from seventh and tenth on the grid, inheriting a place because of a penalty for Raikkonen. The sun was beginning to lose some of its heat, on the hottest day of the weekend, with the temperature dropping to “only” 32 degrees, The majority of the field started on the Soft Pirelli as it would work better in the higher temperatures prevalent until night fell.

Vettel got the jump on pole sitter Webber as did Rosberg, whose Mercedes split the two Red Bulls. Grosjean went up to fourth in the Lotus, followed by Hamilton for Mercedes, Hulkenberg in Sauber, Felipe still seventh with Fernando up two places behind him in eighth, while Perez and Di Resta completed the top ten. At the back of the field, Raikkonen stopped on the opening lap out on track, with damaged suspension following a coming together with a Caterham.

By lap 5, Vettel had already pulled out a significant 4.7 gap over Rosberg, with the Mercedes man almost 2 seconds ahead of Webber. In seventh, Felipe was 1.5 behind Hulkenberg in the Sauber, while Fernando was a further 1.4 behind his team-mate.

On lap 7, Hamilton came down pit lane to start the run of pit stops, rejoining in eleventh, while from further back Ricciardo changed tyres on the Toro Rosso. Grosjean followed Webber into pit lane next time round, with Hulkenberg coming in on lap 9. Second placed Rosberg came in on lap 10, which meant that Felipe and Fernando were up to second and third respectively behind Vettel, followed by Di Resta in the Force India and Vergne in the Toro Rosso; these five were the only ones at the front not to have changed tyres yet. By lap 12, the champion elect for this year had a 25 second lead over the first of the two Ferrari men, with Fernando 3.4 behind Felipe.

The leader came in for Medium tyres on lap 14, with enough of an advantage to head back on track still in the number one position, with Felipe only 6.6 behind now, but obviously yet to change tyres. In fact, it was Fernando to stop first on lap 16, fitting the Medium Pirellis and dropping to fourteenth place. Two laps later and it was Felipe’s turn to come in for the Prime tyre and he now found himself in eighth place, between Hamilton and Hulkenberg. At this point the only front runners yet to pit were the Force Indias of Di Resta, in second and Sutil in sixth. The Scotsman finally changed tyres on lap 20, which meant it was now a Red Bull one-two with Vettel leading Webber, from Rosberg, Grosjean, Sutil and Hamilton with Felipe seventh.

Fernando passed Perez on lap 22 to move back into the top ten and Bottas in the Williams next time round to lie ninth. A great move from Felipe on Hamilton on lap 26 saw the Brazilian take his F138 up to sixth behind Sutil, who as one of the few to start on the harder tyre, had yet to make a pit stop. The Ferrari man also found a way past the German on the same lap so that he was fifth behind Grosjean, while Fernando was just on Hamilton’s gearbox in eighth, as the two champions closed on Sutil. The Englishman got past on lap 28, but the Spaniard had to wait a bit longer, so that by the time he’d dispensed with the Force India, Hamilton had managed to pull out a gap, but as the Mercedes came in for its second stop on lap 29, Fernando was sixth again behind Felipe.

On lap 33, Webber and Rosberg came in from second and third for their second visit to the pits, so that Grosjean was now second behind Vettel and it was round this time that Fernando began to up the pace and close on Felipe. Vettel made a second stop on lap 37, but his lead was so great that he was in no danger of losing it as he rejoined and he was followed in by Grosjean in the Lotus. The Frenchman rejoined in fourth just ahead of the duelling Ferraris. Felipe brought his F138 in for a final tyre change on lap 38, however it was not the quickest of stops in 3.8 seconds and he rejoined in ninth place.

Fernando made a second pit stop on lap 45 and came out just behind Vergne’s one-stopping Toro Rosso, but just swept past, at which point Felipe found himself right on the Frenchman’s tail. In the closing laps, Fernando was only half a second behind sixth placed Hamilton and closing on the Englishman fast. With four of the 55 laps remaining, he swung past the Mercedes, thanks to the DRS and set his sights on the much slower Di Resta. The Spaniard had the bit between his teeth and was all over the back of the Force India, making the move on lap 52 to secure fifth spot, which is where he stayed to flag. Separating the podium trio from the Spanish Ferrari driver was fourth placed Romain Grosjean for Lotus, with Di Resta sixth for Force India and Hamilton seventh in the Mercedes. Completing the points places behind Felipe were Sergio Perez for McLaren and Adrian Sutil in the Force India.

After this arduous India-Abu Dhabi back to back, the teams have a short respite before heading West for the final two races in the Americas, starting with US Grand Prix in Austin in a fortnight’s time.

Pat Fry

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