• Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Hamilton wins as Vettel retires in Abu Dhabi

ESPNF1 Staff
November 13, 2011

Lewis Hamilton put some of his demons to rest with his third victory of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel, who started from pole position, retired at the second corner with a puncture.

A strong drive from Fernando Alonso secured a well-deserved second place ahead of Jenson Button, who had a KERS problem, and Mark Webber, who bucked the trend on a three-stop strategy. Felipe Massa survived a late spin to hold off Nico Rosberg for fifth, ahead of Michael Schumacher, Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi.

Vettel made a brilliant getaway from pole but his right rear tyre appeared to come off its rim in turn two, pitching him into a spin. After the race the team was still at a loss to explain the failure, with Vettel saying the tyre simply lost pressure between turns one and two. He managed to get back to the pits but the flailing tyre carcass caused irreparable damage to the suspension and he was forced to retire.

Meanwhile, Hamilton set about opening a lead over the fast-starting Alonso, who muscled his way past Webber in the first corner and then overtook Button on the back straight. The Ferrari couldn't get close to Hamilton on the track, but Alonso eked a few more laps out of his second set of soft tyres to put Hamilton under a little extra pressure at the final stops. However, traffic in the pit entry and a slow tyre change put Alonso out of contention for good and he had to settle for second place.

Button eventually finished 17.4s behind the Ferrari but struggled with a KERS problem from the 12th lap onwards. To start with his KERS failed completely, handing the advantage to Webber and Massa behind him, but eventually he found a way to reset the power boost system and eased clear of his rivals. Webber should have put Button under more pressure but a slow pit stop and a three-stop strategy put him out of contention for a podium finish. He fought back valiantly, using his fresh soft tyres to pass Button and Rosberg before his final stop at the end of the penultimate lap. Fourth place was his reward after Massa, who was on a more conventional two-stop strategy, spun towards the end of the race at turn one.

Rosberg got within 1.7s of Massa at the chequered flag with a very strong drive in the Mercedes. In the end he finished 23.6s ahead of his team-mate Schumacher, but was engaged in a very tight wheel-to-wheel battle with the seven-time world champion at the start. Sutil took up the mantle of putting Schumacher under pressure towards the end of the race and finished just 1.1s off the Mercedes with one of his strongest performances of the year.

Di Resta in the second Force India was the highest-placed one-stopping car after he starting the race on the medium tyres and made them last 29 laps. Eventually it proved to be a much slower strategy with a 23.9s gap to Sutil in front, but it was enough to hold off Kobayashi in tenth, who finished a lap down.