F1

Classic Abu Dhabi GP: The Iceman stays cool for comeback win

We go back 5 years to 2012 for a first win back in F1 for a much-loved champion and a monumental drive by one of that year’s title protagonists.

George Howson by George Howson

(Photo credit: Curt Smith)

While this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix won’t decide the Formula 1 World Championship, the Yas Marina Circuit played host to one of the most exciting races in one of the most thrilling F1 seasons ever in 2012. 

Background

Sebastian Vettel led the drivers’ standings by 13 points from Fernando Alonso after winning four grands prix in a row between Singapore and India. The title fight was increasingly looking like a two-horse race between the aforementioned pair but the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton couldn’t fully be counted out, such was the unpredictability of the season. 

Drama began before a wheel was turned in the race, as Vettel’s Red Bull was adjudged to have been too light on fuel after qualifying in third place. The reigning world champion was subsequently excluded from qualifying and started from the pit lane as a result. Hamilton started on pole with Vettel’s teammate Webber alongside the McLaren driver on the front row. Pastor Maldonado enjoyed another great qualifying session and started in third with Raikkonen fourth and Alonso in sixth. 

Frantic Opening Exchanges

Lewis Hamilton got a lightning getaway and held the lead into turn one while Mark Webber got another one his trademark slow starts and fell to fourth and was immediately under pressure from Fernando Alonso. Indeed, the Ferrari man powered past the Red Bull on the second straight to get by one of his biggest obstacles by the end of the first of 55 laps. 

Vettel had made up significant ground early on but a damaged front wing threatened to derail his charge before it had hardly begun. However, the German decided against pitting, choosing to stick it out with less downforce. Despite having sub-optimal levels of grip and being on the slower tyres, Vettel was making up heaps of time on the pack ahead, and by lap eight, he was into 13th after passing ten cars on-track.

On lap nine, Nico Rosberg was catching Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT, but perhaps a little too quickly. Rosberg was down the field after an early pit stop and he slammed into the back of the Indian’s car, launching his Mercedes into the air and bringing out the safety car. Bizarrely, though, Vettel collided with one of the polystyrene blocks and further damaged his wing, forcing him to pit on Lap 13. Some would say unlucky for some. 

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George Howson

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