It happened today

Abu Dhabi, a year on

13 Nov 2011

On 13th November 2011, Scuderia Ferrari finished second and fifth in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa respectively.

On the starting grid, the two 150° Italia were fifth and sixth, with Fernando ahead of Felipe. In the first few metres after the start, the Ferrari men maintained station, but at the first corner, Fernando attacked and passed Webber. Then came the dramatic moment when Vettel suffered a puncture which caused his retirement, after he had started from pole and kept the lead. Fernando then sat in Button’s slipstream and, at the end of the straight, overtook him to move up to second place. This signalled the start of a thrilling duel between him and Hamilton which would go on for practically the entire race: the gap between them stayed around the 2 to3 second mark, all made up by the McLaren man on the opening lap, up until lap 14. On lap 15, Fernando was less than 2 seconds behind, when Felipe made his first stop, while lying fifth, around 3 seconds off Webber. On the next lap, the two leaders came in as did Button, while the surviving Red Bull pitted on lap 17: in fact it was the Australian who paid the highest price for a less than perfect stop, losing a place to Felipe.

The ability of the McLaren to immediately make the most of its tyres, in contrast to the difficulties Ferrari had in bringing them quickly to operating temperature, allowed Hamilton to slightly increase his lead over Fernando. On lap 21, the Englishman led the Ferrari man by 3.6, while behind him came a break, with Button, Felipe and Webber close together but now almost 20 seconds off the leaders. The backmarkers were also beginning to make their presence felt, which saw the gap stretch and close between Hamilton and Fernando: on lap 30, it was 5 seconds, which came down to 3 on lap 39. On lap 40, Hamilton made his second stop, while Fernando tried to exploit the lesser degradation of his tyres, staying out on track to lap 43. Partly because of a rather slow pit stop, but mainly because of another confirmation of the speed of the McLaren for the first few laps on new rubber, the Spaniard was unable to get ahead of the Englishman.

The trio behind them were enjoying a hotly fought battle. Initially, Button seemed to be struggling with Felipe closing by almost a second,while even Webber, who had the quickest car, first quickly made up the gap which followed the pit stop before going on the attack. The Australian and the Brazilian passed and counter –passed in the space of the same lap (30) which saw them lose touch with the Englishman. Felipe was able to defend from Webber, but progressively lost ground to Button.

On lap 35, Red Bull called in Webber and sent him out again on the Soft tyres, risking a three stopper. Next time round, Button pitted, switching to the Medium, which is what Felipe did on lap 40. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s pace on the harder tyre, was not competitive, not just when compared to Webber, but also to Button. Felipe gradually lost ground and a spin at Turn 1 on lap 49, removed the last vestige of hope of being able to fight with the Australian for fourth place and in fact meant he had to think more about defending fifth place from Rosberg. Webber, who had passed Button on lap 42, stopped for his obligatory third stop at the end of the penultimate lap, rejoining ahead of Felipe.

the meantime, the two leaders were separated by a gap that wavered between 4 and 6 seconds: Fernando’s pace on the Medium was not as competitive as on the Soft, so that the Spaniard chose to manage the situation and bring home his first podium at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. There were many, in the team and also among the fans, who regarded this second place as something of a slap in the face. A great result, this second place, but a year too late: in 2011, the Yas Marina race had no influence on the fight for the championship, but twelve months earlier at the same track, Ferrari had to swallow one of the most bitter disappointments in sporting terms, of its entire history.