Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi today in his McLaren-Mercedes, with Fernando Alonso second for Ferrari and Jenson Button third, also for McLaren.
Pole-sitter Sebastien Vettel suffered a flat tire on the second corner of the race and, although he made it back to the pits, the wheel assembly was too damaged and the world champion was eliminated.
Mark Webber finished fourth for Red Bull-Renault, Felipe Massa fifth for Ferrari, Nico Roseberg sixth for Merceders, Michael Schumacher seventh for Mercedes, Adrien Sutil eight for Force India, Paul Di Resta ninth for Force India and Kobayashi tenth for Sauber.
"Way to go, boys," an elated Hamilton said over the team radio on the cooldown lap. "I'm glad I could do it for you. I want to dedicate this victory to my mom - happy birthday, and thanks for coming."
It was the first time Vettel had dropped out of a race since Korea last year when his car suffered engine trouble.
Most of the excitement was on the first lap, with Vettel spinning off track at the second corner because of the puncture and Alonso storming through from his fifth-place starting position to be second at the end of the first lap.
After that, although there was some excitement during some of the pits stops, the race was a pretty routine affair.
Hamilton said it was tremendous to be back on the top step of the podium.
"I feel fantastic," he said. "After Sebastien went off and I got the lead (he'd been second off the line behind Vettel), it was just a matter of managing the tires and managing the gap (back to Alonso). The team did a great job on pit stops and I'm just very, very happy to be back up here."
Alonso agreed that he nearly caught Hamilton just before the second round of pit stops but that there had been bad luck when Ferrari called him in.
"The last pit stop, we were two seconds slower than the McLaren," he said. "We had some traffic coming into the pits, there was an HRT in front of us, but then at the end of the day it was a good fight and a good day for us. It was quite enjoyable."
Button explained that he'd had problems with his KERS system throughout, losing it and then getting it back - but that created anxiety every time he went to put on the brakes.
"Any time I went into a corner, I didn't know what I was going to get. Would the KERS help with the braking, or not? At the end of the day, though, I'm fairly happy."
The F1 circuit now moves to Brazil in two weeks for the final race of the season. With NASCAR wrapping up it's season next weekend in Florida, the Grand Prix of Brazil will bring down the curtain on the 2011 racing season.
Earlier . . .
- Sebastien Vettel tied Nigel Mansell's one-season record for pole positions at the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi today (Saturday) when he just slipped past Lewis Hamilton at the very last second of qualifying. Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes teammate Jenson Button will start Sunday's race third (TSN, 7:55 a.m.) with Vettel's Red Bull-Renault teammate Mark Webber fourth. The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will go off fifth and sixth. It was Vettel's 14th pole of the season and he now has a chance to set a new record at the final race of the season in Brazil.
– Kyle Busch will be on his best behaviour at Phoenix this weekend and at Homestead next. But don’t kid yourself: he’ll be tested. There are drivers who don’t like him and would like nothing more than to see him out of NASCAR and will be egging him on, that’s for sure. A little tap here, a sideswipe there, a brake test here, a little tradin’ paint there. Anything to brown him off. You watch – it’ll happen. Can you say Kevin Harvick, for starters? By the way, Matt Kenseth if on pole for Sunday's Cup race. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, who are fighting for the championship, will go off eighth and ninth. That race can be seen on TSN2 at 3 p.m.
– You can tell the 2012 presidential election campaign is starting in the United States. The wife of the president and the wife of the vice-president – Michelle Obama and Jill Biden – will serve as Grand Marshals of the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
– NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas will be aboard Randy McDonald’s NASCAR Nationwide Series car for today’s race at Phoenix. He’s also entered in a NASCAR regional series race that’s also being run at Phoenix today. The Canadian champion is being sponsored by Alberta’s North Provincial Pipelines. The Nationwide race can be seen at 3 p.m. on TSN.
– Lewis Hamilton says that Jenson Button out-psyched him at McLaren this year and that’s why Button is second in the world championship and he – Lewis – isn’t.
He didn’t actually say it quite like that but we’ll review what he did say and you can read between the lines.
Now, Lewis says he’s been distracted this season and that why he’s had such a lousy year. He says McLaren teammate Button has been able to relax and race better because he has his dad around, and his management team around, and his girlfriend around, and his friend friends around, and . . . he - Lewis - doesn’t.
Lewis had the bad luck of falling in love with Pussycat Doll singer Nicole Scherzinger, who was around most of the time when he needed her because pop starts have a relatively short shelf life – usually – and even when they’re working, the time spent in the studio is never terribly long and tours might look long on calednars but there are frequent interruptions.
However, Nicole then went and won Dancing with the Stars (which saw him flying back and forth to L.A. from wherever) and then her notoriety from that success has led to all sorts of other opportunities for her.
Welcome to the world of the classic, long-distance, two-career romances - which usually don’t work. And this one didn't, because they've broken up. For good this time, apparently.
So Lewis has to find another sweetie (which actually can be kind of tough, particularly if you’ve really been in love), make up with his father (who used to be his manager and Lewis’s career has more-or-less gone downhill since he showed his dad the door) and get all his other ducks in a row, a la Jenson B.
Then he’ll be on an equal footing with his teammate. Maybe.
This is just a thought, but maybe Lewis should find another team. McLaren is Jenson’s team now and it will be incredibly tough for Hamilton to work his way back into any sort of prominence there.