FIA F1 - Raikkonen Wins For Lotus In Abu Dhabi Thriller


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Abu Dahbi, Nov. 4, 2012: Kimi Raikkonen held Ferrari's Fernando Alonso at bay in a super-dramatic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Marina on Sunday evening, to score Lotus's long overdue first 2012 victory in great style. But a blend of great driving, superb strategic work and pure luck with safety-car interventions saw Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel retain his championship lead with a strong third place after starting on medium tyres from the pit lane.

For the first 19 laps it seemed like Lewis Hamilton's race, even after an early safety car between Laps Nine and 14 after Mercedes' Nico Rosberg flew spectacularly over the rear of Narain Karthikeyan's slowing HRT on Lap Nine. Hamilton soon pulled away again at the restart, and was 3.4s ahead of fast-starting Raikkonen when his McLaren lost power and he pulled off at Turn 14 on the 20th lap. The stewards investigated the collision between Rosberg and Karthikeyan but decided to take no further action.

The first safety car helped Vettel to recover from his pit-lane start and a brush with Williams' Bruno Senna which damaged his front wing. There was an unusual moment when Daniel Ricciardo seemed to brake suddenly whilst behind the safety car and in avoiding his Red Bull stable mate, Vettel further damaged his wing on a DRS marker board by the side of the track. A subsequent early pit stop for used soft tyres and a new nose and wing on the 13th lap dropped him back again.

At that stage the focus was on the way Raikkonen pulled away as Alonso put increasing pressure on Williams' Pastor Maldonado for second place as Red Bull's Mark Webber and McLaren's Jenson Button gave chase. Vettel was 12th.

Maldonado succumbed to Alonso on Lap 21, but on the 23rd lap Webber was involved in an incident when trying to pass Maldonado which saw the Red Bull half spin and lose places to Button, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Sauber's Sergio Perez. Three laps later Webber had an incident with Massa, which saw the Brazilian spin.

By the time the pit stops had been made, from the 27th to the 31st laps, Raikkonen was only 1.4s clear of Vettel, and it had now became a matter of whether he could get through the remaining 23 laps on the same rubber as Alonso and Button battled in his wake.

The answer was that he couldn't, but a superbly timed stop on the 37th lap saw him take a set of fresh softs and drop only to fourth, crucially keeping ahead of a frenetic battle between Grosjean (who had been hit early on by Rosberg), Paul di Resta (who had been involved in a first-corner collision with Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg and Senna), a recovering Perez and Webber.

Di Resta and Grosjean had both had to pit on the first lap, and now the Scot found a way by the Frenchman on the 38th lap, but as Perez attempted to pass both of them he hit Grosjean and spun, and Webber was left with nowhere to go. The safety car was deployed again from Laps 38 to 42 as the wreckage of Grosjean's and Webber's cars was cleared away, and Perez was subsequently given a 10s stop and go penalty.

In the closing laps Raikkonen controlled things perfectly, as Alonso launched a massive challenge for the victory with a flurry of fastest laps which reduced the gap from 3.2s on the 46th lap to 0.8s by the finish. Vettel went from being 29.8s down on Raikkonen to just 3.3s thanks to the second safety car deployment, after which he hounded Button until he was able to slip by on the 52nd lap before slashing the deficit to his two title rivals.

Button took a lonely fourth, with Maldonado surviving all his dramas to bring home 10 crucial points for Williams as Kamui Kobayashi made the best of a relatively quiet race to take sixth for Sauber. Massa was seventh, chased hard by Senna and Di Resta, as Ricciardo took the final point for Toro Rosso after overhauling team mate Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman was also overtaken by Mercedes' Michael Schumacher, whose chance of points was ended late on by a right-rear puncture.

Heikki Kovalainen had a strong run for Caterham to 13th ahead of Marussia's Timo Glock, who just fended off Perez by two-tenths of a second by the flag, with Vitaly Petrov taking 16th for Caterham ahead of HRT survivor Pedro de la Rosa.

The result leaves Vettel 10 points ahead of Alonso, 255 to 245, with Raikkonen retaining third with 198. In the constructors' stakes, Red Bull have 422 points from Ferrari on 340, McLaren on 318 and Lotus on 288.

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