Well, there is simply no other word to describe today’ race, than classic. From start to finish, action was just around the corner, and the risky strategic maneuvers left everyone on the edge of their seat. Kimi Raikkonen profited from McLaren unreliability to claim a well deserved, first win of the season, ahead of a late charging, Fernando Alonso. After starting from the pit-lane, Sebastian Vettel managed an unbelievable driver through the field to claim third place. His race alone was filled with as much incident as any GP under the lights of the Yas Marina.
The Enstone team have finally done it. After showing promise all season, Raikkonen completed his mission; obtaining a victory in his comeback season. Ironically, the win comes just a week after team principal, Eric Boullier, had written his team off, stating that a win would be out of reach in the E20. He has most certainly been proved wrong.
Raikkonen was flawless from start to finish. A great launch saw him jump straight into second, and with his early pace he was able to stay with Hamilton. In the closing stages, Alonso began to close in on Kimi, who managed the gap well, keeping the Ferrari man at bay. A sign of his focus, came during the second safety car period. The highlight of team radio this season. Mark Slade informed Kimi that his tyre temperatures were falling, and the response; “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing”. A classic Kimi statement, but he clearly was very accurate with what he stated. An infallible performance, and one worthy of a victory.
However, Raikkonen himself has downplayed the performance, saying that it is ‘nothing to jump around about’ When asked about his emotions on the podium, the Lotus driver said: “Not much really”. Pushed to say something, Raikkonen said how “last time you guys were giving me sh*t because I didn’t smile enough, but I’m happy for the team. Hopefully this will give everyone belief and turn the tables so we can win more races, if not this year then next year.”
It has to be noted, that Raikkonen was aided by yet more McLaren reliability issues. Lewis Hamilton controlled the early stages of the race, and ha the win in the bag, until electrical issues forced him to retire at half distance. However, the new, relaxed Lewis, tried to take a positive look on the weekend, which had seen him dominate. He had performed as well as he could have done. “I hadn’t been faultless in this race because I did have a very wide moment at one stage but after that it was going really well and the car was a dream to drive,” he said.
“I was cruising and pulling away so it was a shame the engine just died. It was some kind of fuel problem but it was an incredible race, good to watch. We hadn’t brought any upgrades and hopefully we’ll have some for the next race. I hope the car performs over the next two races to finish up the front for the last time. I’m happy with the job I did, I couldn’t have done any more.”
Driver of the day has to be only one man. Sebastian Vettel started from the pit lane, after the well documented disqualification from qualifying. His team had modified his car well, and the new gear ratios allowed him to utilize the DRS, carving his way through the field. Red Bull may opt to use this gearing for the remainder of the season, as Vettel was comfortably able to post the fastest lap of the race.
Vettel has been accused of being lucky, by many people, including Martin Whitmarsh, and the two safety cars did play into the Germans hands. Yet having to make an extra pit-stop meant that second was out of reach. A collision with Bruno Senna, initially damaged the wing, while a later incident behind Ricciardo finished the wing off. Red Bull had no choice but to stop early, a development which eventually played into Red Bull’s hands. To finish on the podium is an amazing achievement, and to still lead the championship by 10 points, is even greater. Damage limitation defined.
“I believed I could get the podium,” Vettel said after the race. “After a couple of laps that changed a little and I had a messy start to the race but I damaged my front wing and I had a big mistake with Daniel who was stopping his car on the straight and I was surprised. If it was 50m earlier or later I wouldn’t have damaged my wing. It was full attack or nothing and that’s what we did. It was a fantastic race and in the end it was a nice fight with Jenson [Button] and I just squeezed my way past. It was a thrilling race – up and down all the time.”
“If we’d started third it would have been a different race. We can be proud and we only lost a little but the car is quick and so we’re looking forward to the next two race and we believe.”
Heading to America, the new circuit at Austin certainly has a difficult task. Topping this race is going to be difficult. Who would have predicted that the best three races this season would come courtesy of Shanghi, Valencia, and Yas Marina? Raikkonen has become the eighth different winner this season, and it will certainly give the Enstone team a boost heading into 2013. The Iceman is back!