Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen (C) of Finland celebrates,
between Fernando Alonso (L, 2nd) of Spain and third-placed
Sebastian Vettel of Germany, after winning the Abu Dhabi F1
Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Yas Island.
Kimi Raikkonen has won an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix thriller
for Lotus, while Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel defended his
Formula One championship lead by fighting sensationally through
the field from last place to third.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished runner-up, just 0.8
seconds behind the Finn after reeling him in with a string of
fastest laps, to close the gap with Vettel to 10 points with
two races remaining.
On an evening with a huge crash, two safety car interludes
and a string of retirements including McLaren's Lewis
Hamilton while leading from pole position, the floodlit Yas
Marina circuit hosted one of the sport's great races and kept
the stewards busy.
The victory was Raikkonen's first since 2009 when the 2007
world champion won in Belgium, the 19th of his career, and
made him the eighth different driver to triumph in 18 races
so far this season. He stopped just once.
Vettel, who had to start from the pit lane due to a fuel
irregularity and finally set the fastest lap of what he
called a 'crazy race', now has 255 points to Alonso's 245 and
can clinch a third successive title in Austin, Texas, in two
weeks if results go his way.
"I went to see Sebastian before the race and he said 'I'll
see you on the podium'," said Red Bull team principal
Christian Horner of a race in which Vettel's run of four
successive wins come to an end but added considerably to his
reputation as a true champion.
"I think it's one of the best of his career. He really went
for it. To go from pit lane to podium is phenomenal."
Red Bull could have clinched the constructors' championship
for the third year in a row on Sunday but were made to wait
after Australian Mark Webber crashed out. They now have 422
points to Ferrari's 340 with 86 remaining to be won.
Vettel, who had led every lap of the last three races, and
Alonso are the only drivers still in contention for the title
with Raikkonen third overall but 57 behind Red Bull's
Raikkonen, a man who has always done his talking on the
track, swigged from his bottle of fizzy non-alcoholic rose
water on the podium as the other two sprayed theirs at him.
Asked in front of the crowd by retired McLaren team mate
David Coulthard what it was like to win again, the
33-year-old Finn replied in the deadpan fashion his myriad
fans have come to love: "Not much really.
"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," he added. "Hopefully this
will give everyone belief and turn the tables so we can win
more races, if not this year then next year."
Raikkonen, who had signed a contract extension before
arriving in Abu Dhabi, had seized second place at the start
and inherited the lead after Hamilton slowed and pulled over
after 20 of the 55 laps.
McLaren said a mechanical fuel pump had failed.
When the team advised Raikkonen of the gap between him and
his rivals, the Finn was typically blunt: "Leave me alone, I
know what to do," he told his engineer.
"Yes, yes, yes, I do it all the time," he added later on when
they reminded him to warm the tyres.
The win was the first since 1987 by a car racing under the
Lotus name, although the new Lotus is effectively the old
championship-winning Renault outfit that Alonso took his two
Vettel's performance matched Raikkonen's for emotion, with
Red Bull changing the 25-year-old's gearbox and suspension to
more aggressive settings before the race.
His was a roller-coaster evening, forced to pit for a new
front wing after he hit a trackside marker board while
weaving behind Toro Rosso's Australian Daniel Ricciardo with
the first safety car on track.
The safety car was deployed on the ninth lap following a
dramatic flying smash when Germany's Nico Rosberg piled into
the back of Indian Narain Karthikeyan's HRT that had suddenly
lost hydraulic pressure.
Rosberg's Mercedes was pitched into the air and over the
Indian before plunging backwards into the safety barriers.
Both drivers walked away unhurt with debris strewn across the
The second safety car period, which set up Vettel's final
chase, followed a multi-car collision that ended Webber's
race along with that of Raikkonen's unfortunate French team
mate Romain Grosjean.
McLaren's Jenson Button was fourth, sealing the team's record
56th successive race in the points, ahead of Venezuelan
Pastor Maldonado for Williams. Japan's Kamui Kobayashi took
sixth for Sauber with Brazilian Felipe Massa seventh for
Ferrari and Bruno Senna eighth for Williams.
Britain's Paul Di Resta took ninth for Force India, despite
colliding with team mate Nico Hulkenberg and Senna on the
first lap, while Ricciardo bagged the final point.