The 2012 F1 Abu Dhabi GP will go down as the game-changer of an electrifying season. Three years after he won his last GP, ‘Iceman’ Kimi Raikkonen powered the Renault-powered Lotus F1 team to their first official win since 1988. Technically, this was the same team that helped Alonso seal his place in history with the 2005 and 2006 Championship victories (formerly known as Renault F1)- but this was their first victory under the name ‘Lotus’.
Back in Business
While the focus at the stunningly-lit Yas Marina Circuit at Abu Dhabi was slightly lower down the order on the 2012 Championship contenders, it was Kimi that walked away with a deserved victory after being the most consistent driver this season. It was only a matter of time before Lotus converted their podiums into an outright win, and though it took 17 races in the 2012 F1 season, the timing was impeccable. A bit of luck was always on the plate for the fast-improving outfit, which came in the form of a single frustrated frontrunning McLaren Mercedes driver- for the 5th time in the last 7 races- where one of the two cars failed to reach home. Lewis Hamilton was left twiddling his thumbs after leading for 20 laps, with his car failing him once again- an incident that propelled the Finn into the lead.
The race will most definitely be remembered more so because of a young double World Champion’s s best drive of his career, and a storming gritty underperforming Ferrari piling up the pressure at the top. But the most enduring moment at Abu Dhabi last night- Kimi getting irritated with constant updates from his race engineer (about Alonso behind him) and ending the conversation with, ‘Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.’ Many a hat tip must have occurred an hour later, because the determined Finn lived up to his words and then betrayed every inch of emotion with a ‘Doesn’t feel too different. But good for our team.’ With such colorless colorful characters in the fray, the 2013 F1 season promises to be the most entertaining in years- with 8 different drivers winning races this season.
While his win pretty much cements 3rd place in the drivers standings, the story of the weekend will be two contrasting battles on Sunday night- where the crowd was treated to a driving masterclass by the two current best drivers of a generation. Sebastian Vettel did not have the best of qualifying sessions, and was relegated to a pitlane start after fuel irregularities in his Red Bull. After starting dead last, and having to pit in the 10th lap once again after damaging his front wing, there was not a hope in hell for the young German to salvage a race that looked far beyond him.
Fortune did its very best to side with him though, with Narain Karthikeyan and Rosberg providing for a spectacular crash to bring out the first safety-car within 4 laps. Vettel stormed his way up 4 places, only to find himself back again by the 10th lap- by now, living on a wing and a prayer- hoping for Alonso to make a mistake instead. But Vettel’s confidence is remarkable, and once the safety car made an appearance again after another Grosjean-involved 3-way crash (that took out Webber once and for all), the stage was set for one of the most alarming come-from-behind podium finishes in recent F1 history.
That Alonso did his job and almost pipped Kimi to top spot became a footnote on a night that belonged the, in all probability, the youngest triple-world champion in F1 history. Vettel carved his way expertly through the field to park himself behind a struggling Button in third- before overtaking the Brit and finishing 3 seconds behind the Ferrari. In the longer run, this could be the race that defined an entire season and a Championship race for the ages- a final nail in the coffin for a luckless brave Alonso, after he could only cut Vettel’s lead to 10 points with the final two races to go.
If Vettel had acted mortal and stuck to survival instincts last night, Alonso would have probably taken the lead in the drivers standings. But that was not to be, and even the Spaniard might well acknowledge that the miracle he needed flashed before his eyes for 30 laps- before Vettel summoned the Gods of Senna and Schumacher.
‘You spray, I drink’
Not for the first time in the 2012 F1 Championship season, the viewers have been left enthralled with this fascinating race to the finish- which could only culminate at Brazil in the final race. And once again, three World Champions stood on the podium- marking the 2012 season with their prints, a final hurrah to a year that has balanced car-superiority with driving-skills favorably, while rescuing a sport that was on the verge of single-domination madness last year.
Onto Austin, Texas for an inaugural race- and what a first impact it could be!