WEBBER FINISHES FOURTH FOR RED BULL RACING-RENAULT IN ABU DHABI
Red Bull Racing-Renault’s Mark Webber finished today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in fourth position behind race winner Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
Mark’s team-mate and world champion, Sebastian Vettel, retired on the first lap when a tyre deflated suddenly after the first corner. He brought the RB7 back to the pits but the debris had caused too much damage to the car and his pit crew was unable to fit a new wheel. Lotus Renault GP’s Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna finished in 13th and 16th respectively, while Team Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli came home in 17th and 18th.
KEY RACE WEEKEND POINTS:
Red Bull Racing
Sebastian Vettel equalled the all-time record of pole positions in one season in Saturday’s qualifying, with his 14th pole of the year. The German made a good start off the line and was leading the field into the first series of corners, but his right rear tyre appeared to deflate. He was pitched into a spin and, despite making it back to the pits on three wheels, could not rejoin the race. It was his first retirement this season and his first since Korea 2010. Hamilton inherited the lead from Sebastian, with Alonso second after taking Mark Webber off the line and then moving ahead of Button. Mark found himself battling with Button in the early stages when the latter lost some time with a KERS issue.
Mark stayed out a lap longer when the top three pitted, but any advantage was lost with a stubborn wheel change that dropped him back down to fifth behind Massa. The team changed strategy to try to regain track position, with Mark making a last lap stop for hard tyres to try to get ahead of Button – Massa having spun with six laps to go and fallen back. Some qualifying-style laps in the final stint got Mark close but he eventually finished in fourth, ten seconds adrift of Button.
Lotus Renault GP
After a tough qualifying, Vitaly Petrov started in 12th position and Bruno Senna in 14th. Bruno pitted on the first lap for new soft tyres to try a creative tyre strategy, but his race was hampered with blue flags and only intermittent use of KERS. He was also handed a drivethrough penalty for not respecting the blue flags on lap 20, which further impeded his progress, and he eventually came home in 16th. Vitaly battled with Paul di Resta and Sebastien Buemi for ninth position in the opening stages of the race, but with the DRS failing, it was hard to make up positions. Being unable to overtake anyone else, Vitaly tried to do a one stop race but the hard tyre couldn’t last long enough and he had to stop again. He crossed the line in P13.
Heikki Kovalainen again made an impressive start and was able to run in the top 13 for his first stint. Jarno Trulli lost a couple of positions at the start with a clutch slip but soon regained position. The team used the same pit stop strategy on both cars, running the first two stints on the soft tyres and switching to the mediums for the final part of the race. The pair hunted down the LRGP of Bruno Senna, but blue flags meant they could not find a way past and Heikki finished in 17th, just ahead of Jarno.
Rémi Taffin, head of Renault Sport F1 track operations, gives his views on the race weekend:
The Yas Marina circuit sits in the middle of the table for the demands it places on the RS27 engine. With only 55% of the lap spent at full throttle and a low average speed, the main challenges are the change in temperature and grip levels during the race. We introduced new units this weekend across all drivers, which gives us a bit more flexibility and, hopefully, greater reliability at this late stage in the season. Additionally our partners should have an advantage at the final race in Brazil where power is reduced due to the high altitude.
The main challenges are the change in temperature and grip levels
Nevertheless, it’s not the ideal result we hoped for here and not representative of the performance of the teams. Sebastian was very unfortunate to score his first DNF of the year, due to no fault of his own. Mark had a good race and a gamble on the strategy with the last lap stop was worth a go, although he ultimately finished where he started, in fourth position.
LRGP’s qualifying positions were always going to compromise race performance on this hard to overtake track, and the problems on both cars made it even harder. All the same there’s still one race left and it would be good to achieve a strong result to book-end the season. Team Lotus’ race pace continues to improve with another good showing from both drivers that gets the team closer to that all important tenth position, which we’ll try our best to secure at the final race in Brazil.