Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a commanding fashion, taking the lead from teammate and pole sitter Mark Webber on the start and never looked back. The German regularly pulled out a thirty or forty second lead, leaving him time for both pit stops without relinquishing the race lead. Webber followed Vettel home to finish second, with Vettel performing donuts on the cool-down lap. Nico Rosberg finished where he started, in third. Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top five, with the latter posting a hard charging drive and the race fast lap. Still, he and Jean-Eric Vergne were under investigation for the Spaniard’s return to the track on his second pit stop. Paul di Resta took his Force India to sixth on a on-stop strategy.
Though the race at the as Marina Circuit is often processional, there were some furious scraps in the latter half of the points positions, particularly including Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, who finished seventh and eighth. Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil rounded out the top ten. Only Kimi Raikkonen did not finish the race, after breaking his front suspension in contact with a Caterham on the start. He had started from the rear of the field.
Webber (1:39.957) won his thirteenth career pole during Saturday’s qualifying sessions in superb fashion, posting a fast lap after the flag in Q3 that no one, not even Vettel could beat. The German qualified to start alongside his teammate for Sunday’s race, with Rosberg and Hamilton on row two. Hamilton might have moved up the order, but a broken rear wishbone ended his final lap just six turns from start/finish, and the Briton spun out and brought out yellow flags, slowing those behind him.
Though Raikkonen qualified fifth fastest, his Lotus failed a flex test. That failure resulted in the exclusion of his time from qualifying. The Finn then had the choice of starting from the rear of the grid or pit lane, as Vettel did last season in Abu Dhabi after running out of fuel after qualifying. Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Massa, Perez, Ricciardo, and Alonso then made up the top ten starters. Button managed only thirteenth (starting twelfth). Bianchi also suffered a penalty, after Marussia changed his gearbox before qualifying. He qualified only twentieth.
Vettel looked fairly masterful through the practice sessions, leading FP2 and FP3. Grosjean took the first honors in the earlier Friday session, with the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers joining him in the fastest five then. They would all prove to be quick as the weekend progressed, with Red Bull, Mercedes, and a Lotus always in the top five for the practice sessions. The second session saw the most action, with a brake failure for Grosjean, punctures for Button and di Resta, and spins for others. Bianchi damaged his Marussia enough to force a gearbox change after hitting the barrier out of T1 on the final practice.
On his way to the grid, Hamilton felt a vibration. The Mercedes crew had the car partially torn apart, replacing the rear brake calipers, to fix the issue on the grid. They replaced his rear discs. Soon enough, the crew cleared off for the formation lap and Hamilton trundled off. Button, Bottas, Raikkonen, Sutil, and Gutierrez all started on the medium compound, the only drivers to do so.
On the start, Webber got away cleanly enough, but Vettel came across. Rosberg looked to have made the best start, weaving behind the Red Bulls. Vettel took the lead from his teammate, leaving Webber vulnerable to attack form Rosberg. Hamilton moved right, then left, looking to pass both Bulls, but instead Rosberg came around the outside. He passed Webber, while Hamilton fell afoul of Grosjean and lost position. Further back, Alonso looked to pass Massa, but would not make the move stick.
At the end of the first lap, Vettel, Rosberg, Webber, Grosjean, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Massa, Alonso, Perez, and di Resta were the top ten. Raikkonen had come to a stop on the outside of T1, with contact with a Caterham breaking his suspension and ending his race. Button also radioed to tell McLaren of his front wing damage. Button pitted as Vettel began L3, stopping from fifteenth for a new nose and fresh tyres. He rejoined last. Yellow flags continued to wave as marshals cleared Raikkonen’s car. The track went fully green again on L4.
Pit Stops Begin (L5 of 55):
Maldonado pitted on L6, while Webber radioed of trouble with his KERS. Red Bull responded that they would charge back up. Binachi also pitted that lap. Ricciardo looked to move around Gutierrez, as Sutil had done the lap before, but could not gain thirteenth. Meanwhile, Perez and Chilton pitted on L7. back on the track, Grosjean had caught up Webber. Hamilton, three seconds back from them, pitted on L8. So, too, did Ricciardo and van der Garde. Both Webber and Grosjean went in on L9. They rejoined in the same order they entered the pits, with Grosjean a bit closer to the back of Webber. Pic also pitted on that lap. Webber rejoined just behind Gutierrez, sliding by the younger Mexican through the DRS. Grosjean followed him through on the next lap, going under at the chicane.
End L10 of 55:
Hulkenberg pitted on L10, while Rosberg first said his tyres could do two more laps, then recanted and indicated that his rear were going off. At the end of L10, Vettel had more than eleven seconds on Rosberg in second, but for the latter’s first pit stop that dropped him down to rejoin in sixth. Teammate Hamilton was stuck behind Gutierrez, with Mercedes telling him to drop back to save his tyres. Vettel, Massa, Alonso, di Resta, and Vergne all had yet to stop, composing the top five at the end of L11. Massa was far enough behind Vettel to allow the German to pit without losing the lead. Rosberg was the first man to have pitted, with Sutil (no stop), Webber, Grosjean, Gutierrez (no stop), Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Perez, and Maldonado the top fifteen.
Button made his second stop on L12. Vettel’s lead over Massa had increased to just over twenty-six seconds by the end of L13. Down the order, only Webber seven tenths behind Sutil and Hamilton four tenths behind Gutierrez were within the DRS detection zone of each other, fighting over seventh and tenth. Webber went under Sutil to make the pass just before Vettel made his first stop.
At about this time, video showed Raikkonen getting into a car to leave the circuit, wearing his seatbelt. Back on the track, The drivers were processing around as usual, with Grosjean having also caught up Sutil. He passed to take eighth while further ahead Webber passed Vergne for sixth. Sutil used the second DRS zone to get back around Webber, but the Australian would gain the position again. Hamilton had a look on Gutierrez, locking up the left front and remaining behind as Gutierrez defended.
Alonso pitted on L17, dropping from fourth to fifteenth behind Perez. Vergne stopped on the next lap. Meanwhile, Sutil defended aggressively from Grosjean. The latter passed Sutil into the chicane, but it allowed Sutil to sweep back and attempt to get back around. Instead, Grosjean managed to stay ahead.
In another battle, Gutierrez continued to defend from Hamilton, with the latter radioing Mercedes to tell Race Director Charlie Whiting. As Hulkenberg joined their fight, Sauber pitted Gutierrez to release his teammate. Massa pitted on L19, rejoining just behind Hamilton and ahead of Hulkenberg.
End L20 of 55:
Vettel had another gap back to di Resta that would allow him to pit again by the end of L20. The Scot had yet to stop, with Rosberg and Webber within DRS detection behind him. Webber passed Rosberg to take third on L20, then moved into second as di Resta made his first stop of the race on L21. He rejoined just behind Alonso, who was looking for any way through on Perez. He had a look at the chicane, then made his way through and stayed ahead at the second chicane. He next passed Bottas for ninth.
A bit further back, Pic and Caterham were arguing over his giving way to van der Garde, with Pic refusing to do so, despite van der Garde setting faster lap times. He soon gave way. Bottas made his first stop, leaving only Sutil yet to stop, on L25.
Meanwhile, Sutil had gathered a train of cars behind him. Sutil sat fifth, with Hamilton, massa, Hulkenberg, and Alonso all within the DRS detection zone of the man ahead. Hamilton made his way around Sutil through the first DRS zone, only to have Sutil come back at him. Massa took advantage, diving up the inside to take position from Hamilton. They both remained behind Sutil. A bit further back, Alonso went through on Hulkenberg, only for the latter to attack again and gain the position back. Alonso managed to take the position and keep it on the second move. At the same time, Massa moved through on Sutil. Hamilton managed to go back around Sutil through the first DRS zone and kept the position even as Mercedes told him to cool the right side. Hulkenberg and Perez pitted from the train, each for his second stop. Hulkenberg, who required a front wing adjustment, just barely joined pit lane still ahead of Perez, in a possibly unsafe release. The stewards would investigate. Alonso was the next to pass Sutil.
Halfway (End L28 of 55):
Vettel led Webber by nearly twenty-nine seconds at halfway, with Rosberg, Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton, Alonso, Sutil (who pitted on L29), di Resta, and Vergne the top ten. Gutierrez, Ricciardo (who pitted on L29), Bottas, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Perez, Button, van der Garde, Pic, Bianchi, and Chilton were the twenty-one drivers still running.
Second Pit Stops Begin (L29 of 55):
Hamilton stopped on L30. Meanwhile, Sutil had Maldonado coming up the inside, pushing him wide. Maldonado went slightly off track, rejoining nearly at the back of Perez. Sutil went well wide at the turn, scooting off down the track to rejoin ahead of Perez and Maldonado. It would come under investigation. Gutierrez made his second stop on L31.
Vettel continued to lead by a healthy margin, with his race engineer continuing to encourage a slower pace to maintain the tyres, “don’t abuse the tyres”.” Bianchi pitted from twentieth on L33, as did Pic. Webber and Rosberg pitted on L34, as did Chilton. They left Grosjean in second. Around that time, the stewards announced a drive through penalty for an unsafe release for Hulkenberg and Sauber. He served his penalty speedily. As Vettel continued to hear messages about a slower pace, Alonso had caught up Massa. He was lapping about a second faster, only for Massa to pick up the pace as his teammate approached.
20 Laps Remaining of 55:
At the end of L35, Vettel led Grosjean by nearly forty seconds. Webber, Rosberg, Massa, Alonso, di Resta, Vergne, Hamilton, and Bottas then completed the top ten. Alonso continued to close on Massa, while Rosberg posted a race fast lap in fourth on L36. Vettel pitted as he began L38, with the Red Bull crew changing tyres in 2.7s. Soon thereafter, the stewards announced that there would be no further action taken on the Sutil/Maldonado incident.
Meanwhile, Grosjean pitted and rejoined just barely ahead of Massa. He dove across the track to join in fifth. Alonso looked to take advantage of Massa’s distraction, had a look, and was unable to pass immediately. Massa pitted on L39, releasing Alonso to have a look at Grosjean. A pass seemed unlikely with Grosjean’s fresher tyres. Ferrari managed only a slow stop for Massa, taking 3.8s to change his tyres. He rejoined in front of Hamilton.
Ahead, Vettel set a race fast lap. As team principal Christian Horner spoke on television, and learned Vettel had done so, he said, “I wish he wouldn’t do that,” as it is important to not stress the tyres. Back with Hamilton and Massa, the former was looking for a way to close up the gap to Vergne ahead in seventh. Hamilton had a moment, allowing Massa to close behind. Hamilton soon caught back up to Vergne, sliding on through in the first DRS zone.
Massa looked to follow him through on the second DRS zone, but did not do so. Alonso pitted from fifth on L45, putting the soft tyres on and rejoining with Vergne. Vergne came across to hold Alonso off, pushing the Ferrari over the track limit and nearly into a bollard. Alonso went heavily over the kerb and had a moment in the air. As Massa came upon them, he had to go straight across the chicane to escape running into the back of Vergne. Alonso and Vergne would come under investigation.
10 Laps Remaining of 55:
Bottas pitted with ten to go from twelfth/ Vettel led Webber by thirty-three seconds, with Rosberg, Grosjean, di Resta, Hamilton, Alonso, Vergne, Massa, and Sutil the top ten with ten to go. Massa passed Vergne for eighth on L47. Alonso soon set a race fast lap on his soft tyres, looking to catch Hamilton for sixth in the few laps remaining.
“Be patient, Sebastian,” Vettel heard as the final laps wound down. Di Resta was not so lucky, as he had to fend of the charging Hamilton and Alonso on impossibly old tyres. Only he, Sutil, and Vergne would attempt a one-stop strategy. Alonso passed Hamilton for sixth through the second DRS zone, putting him behind di Resta.
Vettel remained aware of the scrapping behind him as his race engineer warned him that no one was closing. Vettel responded with a race fast lap. Alonso soon passed Sutil, with the stewards announcing his earlier incident with Vergne to be investigated after the race. Vergne pitted with three laps to go. At that point, no one was closer on track than Hamilton, a half second behind di Resta for sixth. Massa was catching them, but it seemed unlikely that he would have the laps to catch and pass either. Vettel led safely as the final lap began, with a typical exchange with his engineer, “Mate, you’re plus 31 Webber, so you can just sit back and watch the show.” Vettel responded, “Too late now.” He ended with donuts on the cool-down lap, driving back around to parc ferme.
Final Positions, 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
Driver Team Gap Stops 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 2 2. Mark Webber Red Bull 30.8 2 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 33.6 2 4. Romain Grosjean Lotus 34.8 2 5. Fernando Alonso* Ferrari 67.1 2 6. Paul di Resta Force India 78.1 1 7. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 79.2 2 8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 82.8 2 9. Sergio Perez McLaren 91.1 2 10. Adrian Sutil Force India 93.2 1 11. Pastor Maldonado Williams 95.9 2 12. Jenson Button McLaren 2 13. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 2 14. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1 Lap 3 15. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1 Lap 2 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1 Lap 2 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1 Lap 2 18. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1 Lap 2 19. Charles Pic Caterham 1 Lap 2 20. Jules Bianchi Marussia 2 Laps 2 21. Max Chilton Marussia 2 Laps 2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus
*incident of passing outside the limits of the track to be investigated after the race