6 November 2013
David Tremayne: Another GP, another RBR demonstration
Three time Guild of Motoring Writers Journalist of the Year Award winner David Tremayne casts his eye back over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...
In his latest exclusive feature on Crash.net, David Tremayne - three time Guild of Motoring Writers Journalist of the Year Award winner and multi-award winning F1 author - takes a look back over the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...
Adrian Newey's RB9s were in a league of their own in Yas Marina, and Sebastian Vettel was another notch up from Mark Webber as he checked out the moment he snatched the lead from his team-mate at the start.
After that, nobody saw which way he went, though Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean were able to keep the Australian honest. Webber had an initial problem with his KERS overheating and was stuck behind Rosberg in what he described as a weak first stint. But, thereafter, he got by the Mercedes under DRS and was able to defend second place to the finish.
Vettel, however, was half a minute ahead by the flag, taking an easy eleventh season victory and his seventh in a row. On current form, it's inconceivable that he won't win in Texas and Sao Paulo to equal Alberto Ascari's record of nine in a row from F1's 'F2' days back in 1952 and '53.
Rosberg's was another fast and noble drive, but it was hampered by oversteer on Pirelli's medium tyres during his second stint, which left him easy prey to Webber. His third stint was much better, however, and, by the flag, he was still within an honourable three seconds of the second Red Bull.
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton had another torrid time and took a deeply disappointing seventh, once again unable at times to muster the straightline grunt to deal with a Sauber (Esteban Gutierrez's this time) or the Force Indias. He'd had a rear brake problem which the Mercedes crew fixed during the grid formation laps after his broken right lower rear wishbone from qualifying had been replaced in parc ferme, but his race problems stemmed more from a shortage of traction on to the main straights. He lost a place to Felipe Massa while fighting Adrian Sutil, then simply couldn't hold off a charging Fernando Alonso at the end or get by Paul di Resta for sixth. He says he needs to work harder to match Rosberg, but it's more a case of getting the best from the car rather than from himself.
Grosjean drove another great race for the troubled Lotus team, though he was outqualified by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who had switched back to the short-wheelbase E21 because it understeered less and thus suited him better. Amid an ongoing argument over late salary payments and the fall-out from Alan Permane's acerbic message to him to get out of Grosjean's way in India last week, there was much tension around the Finn, and that got worse when he was thrown out of fifth place on the grid when the left front section of his car's floor failed a post-qualifying deflection test. He'd damaged it over a kerb but, as Grosjean had been let off a similar thing in Hungary, the stewards took the view that Lotus should have come up with a fix to avoid a repeat and showed no leniency this time.
Last year's winner never got beyond the third corner after hitting the back of Giedo van der Garde's Caterham and damaging his own right front suspension, but Grosjean got the jump on Hamilton at the start and looked strong until he got trapped behind Sutil's long-stinting Force India. That ruined his hopes of a fourth consecutive podium but he was only 1.1s off Rosberg by the finish.
There was good news for Lotus after the race, however, when it was confirmed that the long-awaited, budget-saving deal with Quantum Racing had finally been concluded. This will allow the team to pay off significant debt and to hire its prime choice of 2014 partner for Grosjean: Nico Hulkenberg.
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