A dramatic 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi finally delivered the long-awaited maiden win for Lotus F1, when Kimi Raikkonen
put himself in the perfect position to benefit from another case of heartbreak for Lewis Hamilton
and the McLaren
But the attention was also on the championship battle, with Fernando Alonso
doing everything he possibly could to take advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself overnight with Sebastian Vettel's relegation to the back of the field for the start of the race following a fuel irregularity with the Red Bull.
Vettel's task had got slightly easier even before the start of the race, after the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa
failed to get away for the warm-up lap and had to start the race from the pit lane behind Vettel. Both men had to watch and wait as the lights went out and the leaders got underway at Yas Marina.
After all the pre-race focus on Lewis Hamilton's clutch problems at the start of recent GPs, the McLaren
actually got a terrific launch off the grid and it was Red Bull's Mark Webber
who got bogged down instead from second place. That left him vulnerable to a pincer movement by Kimi Raikkonen
on one side and Pastor Maldonado
on the other, and Webber was quickly demoted to fourth place before the first corner.
It was about to get worse for Webber: Fernando Alonso
now had him lined up in the crosshairs, and just as we saw in last weekend's race in India the Ferrari's straight line speed was blisteringly fast, making mincemeat of the Red Bull
and demoting Webber another spot to fifth place on the very first lap.
Hamilton wasn't quite having it all his own way at the front. The McLaren
still appeared to be struggling to get heat into the tyres in the opening minutes and as a result Hamilton locked up on lap 2 and ran wide. That gave Raikkonen a major opportunity to try for the lead, but Hamilton was able to fend him off and after that the tyres started to work better for the McLaren
and he was soon pulling away, comfortably out of DRS range of the pacey Lotus.
Meanwhile, Vettel had started his run from the pit lane exit and was soon cutting through the rear of the field with all the ease you would expect against such backmarker competition. Better yet, his progress was helped by a succession of minor incidents on the opening laps that left many of the midfield cars with damage that required pit lane attention.
The most serious incident was at the start into turn 1, when a four-wide battle ended up causing Nico Hulkenberg
to crash out after contact with Bruno Senna; Paul di Resta also sustained a puncture and dropped down to 20th position, while Sergio Perez slipped through the incident to pick up ninth place. In a separate incident, Romain Grosjean
was once again in the thick of things, this time clashing with Nico Rosberg: Grosjean suffered a front right puncture while Rosberg needed to pit for a new front wing.
As a result of all this, Vettel found himself up to 14th place by lap 5 - but he wasn't having it all his own way, a clumsy move on Bruno Senna causing some minor damage to the Red Bull's front wing endplate. While the team decided that a pit stop wasn't necessary, it took a slight edge off the car's performance and made Vettel's damage limitation mission just that little bit harder. That said, Vettel was soon able to breeze past the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen