Ferrari secured its tenth podium finish of the season thanks to a fantastic second place finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from Fernando Alonso. His team-mate Felipe Massa added to the points total, by coming home fifth in the other 150º Italia. Next to Fernando on the podium were the two McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton taking his third win of the season, with Jenson Button third. Before the weekend, Fernando revealed he had a podium trophy from all the races on the calendar with the exception of this one, so in what has been a tough season, at least one personal goal has been achieved!
Shortly after the start, pole man Vettel picked up a puncture on his right rear, sending him spinning over a kerb, which damaged his Red Bull to the extent he had to retire in the pits, leaving Hamilton leading from Button and Fernando, the Ferrari man having got ahead of Webber at the start, then, still on the opening lap the Spaniard had moved up to second muscling past Button at the end of the back straight, with Webber fourth and Felipe fifth. Perez pitted the Sauber for a new nose on lap 2 and the order on lap 3 was Hamilton, 2.8 ahead of Fernando, who had Button 2.3 behind him, then came Webber in the remaining Red Bull, 0.6 ahead of Felipe in fifth. Next came the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher.
The gaps at the front gradually extended, so that on lap 8, Hamilton was 2.7 in front of Alonso, who led Button by 3.3, while the Englishman was now 1.4 ahead of Webber, who had 2.0 in hand over Felipe. The Brazilian was having a solitary race as sixth placed Rosberg was 3.6 down. One lap later, the Button-Webber battle hotted up as twice they traded places, with the Englishman getting the better of the Australian after a couple of corners.
Felipe was the first of the front runners to change tyres on lap 15. Then on 16, the two leaders came in together, with no change to the order as Hamilton led Fernando back out onto the track. McLaren did a double pit stop bringing Button in immediately behind his team-mate. Sutil and Schumacher also pitted on this lap. Temporary leader Webber had a slow stop on lap 17, with Rosberg also changing tyres on this lap. With all the leaders having stopped once, the order was Hamilton, 3.6 ahead of Fernando, who now had Button 13 behind him, with Felipe fourth, thanks to the Red Bull’s slow tyre change, 1.4 behind the McLaren and 5.0 ahead of Webber.
The sun set as the race reached half distance and on lap 27, the lead positions remained unchanged, with Fernando 3.3 behind leader Hamilton, while Button had drifted to 15 seconds off the Spaniard. In fourth, Massa was now slightly closer to the McLaren, 1.2 behind, but the Brazilian now had Webber just 0.9 behind him. The two men continued to battle it out, with some hot moments as they fought their way past backmarkers. Webber then made his second stop on lap 35, followed one lap later by third placed Button, so that Felipe was now third, albeit 26 seconds behind his team-mate, while Rosberg was now fourth ahead of Button and Webber. On lap 40 of 55, Hamilton made his final tyre change, with Felipe also coming in at this point, slowed on his way out of the underground pit lane exit by a Lotus.
Fernando now led but needed to make one more pit stop, with Hamilton, running to the finish, almost 20 seconds down. After his final stop, Felipe was struggling slightly on the harder tyres and was now sixth behind the duel of the race between Button and Webber, which saw the Red Bull again get ahead of the McLaren on lap 42. Rosberg at this point was third. Alonso came in on lap 43, unfortunately behind a slower car and emerged in second spot, 4.4 behind Hamilton. Lap 45 and Webber took Rosberg for third, the Mercedes driver still showing no signs of making a second stop.
In the final ten laps, Webber was the fastest man on track and he was reducing the gap to Fernando in big chunks. On lap 47 it was down to 14.3, while behind him, Rosberg finally made his second stop, which meant Felipe, who had just survived a giant slide, moved up to fifth. However, the Australian was no real threat to Fernando, because Red Bull had switched him to a three stopper to give him more pace for longer on the softer tyres, which meant he had to come in on the very last of the 55 laps to conform to the rules, by running both types of tyre so that he ended the race fourth behind the podium trio and ahead of Felipe.
The remaining points went to the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher, sixth and seventh and then came Sutil and Di Resta for Force India with the final point going to Kobayashi in the Sauber. The season ends in two weeks time in Felipe’s home town of Sao Paolo at the Brazilian GP. He will want to finish on a high while Fernando will have one last chance to take second in the Drivers’ classification: he is currently third, ten points behind second placed Button.
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