Kimi Raikkonen lived up to his ‘ice man’ sobriquet by claiming his first win for three years as Sebastian Vettel clung on to his championship lead in a drama-laden Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday.
Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who returned to Formula One this season after a two-year absence, grabbed his triumph after early leader Lewis Hamilton was forced into retirement after 20 laps by a power failure on his McLaren car.
The Finn won convincingly ahead of Fernando Alonso of Ferrari who pushed hard for victory in the closing laps of an extraordinary contest that included two prolonged safety car periods and a rash of major accidents.
Defending champion and current leader Vettel started from the pit lane in his Red Bull car and produced one of the greatest drives of his career to finish third. Vettel’s phenomenal drive, including clocking fastest lap, kept him 10 points ahead of Alonso in the title race with two races remaining.
Vettel leads on 255 points with Alonso on 245 and Raikkonen on 198.
This was Raikkonen’s first win since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix and his 19th career win. He is the eighth different victor of the season and gave the Lotus name a victory for the first time since Ayrton Senna won for the original Lotus team in the United States in 1987.
The 33-year-old was his usual calm place after the race and betrayed few emotions.
Asked how he felt, he said: “Last time you guys were giving me grief because I didn’t smile enough, but I’m happy for the team. It’s been a hard season and not easy times lately.
“Hopefully this will give everyone belief and turn the tables so we can win more races, if not this year then next year.”
Alonso, who cut Vettel’s lead from 13 points to 10, said: “I’m very happy as I think we were not super competitive this weekend. We had to fight throughout the race, but we had a very good strategy and wanted victory.”
Vettel’s performance justified his confidence in claiming before the race that he could deliver a strong points finish despite starting at the back of the field. “I told you guys, don’t stop believing,” he said over the team radio. “Never lift!”
Vettel’s biggest previous improvement from the grid was 14 places from 19th to fifth at the 2008 Monaco GP.
Red Bull were unable to confirm their third straight constructors championship, but with a lead of 82 points ahead of Ferrari, look certain to do that at the United States Grand Prix at Austin next month.
Among the retirements were Nico Rosberg, who had a spectacular airborne crash in the ninth lap in his Mercedes following a collision with Indian Narain Karthikeyan’s Hispania car. He walked away unscathed.
Mark Webber in the second Red Bull and Frenchman Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus were involved in multiple collisions, the final of which ended both of their races after 39 laps.
1: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus),
2: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 3: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 4: Jenson Button (McLaren), 5: Pastor Maldonado (Williams),
6: Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), 7: Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 8: Bruno Senna (Williams), 9: Paul di Resta (Force India),
10: Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)
1: Sebastian Vettel (255 pts),
2: Fernando Alonso (245), 3: Kimi Raikkonen (198),
4: Mark Webber (167),
5:Lewis Hamilton (165)
Di Resta earns two points for Force India
Paul di Resta earned two points for Sahara Force India while teammate Nico Hulkenberg crashed out in the first lap of the race. Di Resta finished ninth after starting 12th from the grid. Hulkenberg’s race lasted less than a lap as he damaged his car due to an accident at the start. — Agencies