F1 Winter Break
Sun sets on Vettel as Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi day/night race
McLaren Honda
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Nov 2011   |  4:31 pm GMT  |  230 comments

Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a close battle with Fernando Alonso, with Jenson Button in third place. It was Alonso’s 73rd podium and his first trophy from this event, so he now has a complete set of trophies from every track he’s raced on in F1.

It was Hamilton’s 17th career victory and his third of this season and although he said he felt “fantastic” he was also pretty humble in his post race statements, saying that one win hadn’t necessarily put him back on track, he felt above all “fortunate not to get into any trouble.”

It was a day when the Red Bull team was less than the flawless outfit we have seen all season; Sebastian Vettel had a puncture which led to a suspension breakage on the way back to the pits on the opening lap and Mark Webber’s first pit stop was very slow and took him out of contention of the battle with Jenson Button for the podium. But he lit up the second half of the race with some bold overtakes as he took on a very ambitious three stop strategy to successfully jump Felipe Massa.

But it was the first time in 20 races that a Red Bull driver has not stood on the podium.

In contrast to last year’s event where there were only 11 on track passes, this race featured plenty of spectacular overtaking throughout the field, although most of it down to DRS. The double DRS zone made things difficult for some drivers who passed their opponents in the first zone and were then repassed in the second.

That said there were a lot of problems with backmarkers costing the leaders time, the stewards looking into several examples with Pastor Maldonado being a leading culprit. He was given a penalty for blocking.

Leaders also lost time behind backmarkers on the way in and out of the pits. Fernando Alonso came into the pits for the second time right behind the HRT of Daniel Ricciardo, which cost him a chance to get close on the exit. Traffic for Hamilton meant that Alonso was around 20 seconds when he went for the pits, with a stop taking 22 seconds.

Paul di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado all started the on the medium compound tyre, a tactical gamble looking at trying to do a one stop race.

The track temperature was 31 degrees when the race started, similar to the start of qualifying.

At the start Sebastian Vettel, starting form pole, had a failure of the right rear tyre which pitched him into a spin, he returned to the pits but it wasn’t safe to continue.

“I saw immediately something happened to his tyre and I just made sure I didn’t collect him. This is one of my best races against one of the best drivers in the world (Alonso). I feel fantastic,” said Hamilton. “We were very quick and it would have been very close (with Vettel) but every now and then you need a but of bad luck to enjoy the good times. I don’t remember when he last had bad luck.”

Vettel’s retirement left Hamilton out front with Alonso moving impressively from 5th to 2nd on the opening lap, past Webber and Button, who also swapped places a couple of times.

Schumacher and Rosberg had a ferocious scrap on the opening lap, Rosberg getting ahead in the early stages.

Di Resta’s pace on the medium tyre was impressive in the first stint, lapping faster than team mate Sutil on soft tyres by lap 7.

By lap 13 Webber had got close enough to Button to activate the DRS and started attacking. Button was struggling with a KERS problem that meant not only did he lack the power boost it gives, but also his braking was affected.

On lap 17 the three leaders came in, Hamilton, Alonso and Button, while Mark Webber stayed out, but a slow stop spoiled his chances of jumping Button for third place and he fell behind Felipe Massa into 5th place.

Webber and Massa had a double DRS battle on lap 31, the Australian taking advantage of a mistake by Massa to pass in the first zone, but overshooting the braking zone as he tried to stay out of Massa’s way, Massa sailed back past him in the second zone.

The second stops came from lap 36 onwards, with Webber taking a third set of soft tyres, requiring another pit stop to run the medium.

Alonso came into the game when Hamilton lost time behind traffic, but Alonso found Ricciardo coming in ahead of him, it was close as the Spaniard exited the pits but Hamilton stayed in front.

Webber’s bold three stopper called for him to build a 22 second gap over Massa before a final stop at the end. He was helped in this by Massa picking up some debris from a Williams on lap 46 and a spin on lap 50. The Brazilian has yet to register a podium finish in 2011.

“When I was doing the in lap I was thinking this was one of my best wins,” said Hamilton. “With all the doubt that’s been around me. And it’s my Mum’s birthday so that makes it even better.

“This weekend I’ve been clearer in my mind, I’ve had less weighing on me. I was able to drive clearly. In the last race I had that mistake, but here I didn’t make a mistake. I feel fortunate to have finished and not get in any trouble.”

Alonso’s 9th podium of the season means that he is now 10 points behind Button and has a chance to finish second in the world championship.

Meanwhile the only dark cloud on Hamilton’s day is that the gap between him and Button is now down to 28 points, meaning that he will definitely finish behind a team mate for the first time in his F1 career, as there are a maximum 25 points available in the final race in Brazil.

Check out the UBS Strategy Report on Tuesday with a full analysis of how the strategies were decided in today’s race

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX, Yas Marina Circuit, 55 Laps
1. Hamilton McLaren 1h37:11.886
2. Alonso Ferrari + 8.457
3. Button McLaren + 25.881
4. Webber Red Bull + 35.784
5. Massa Ferrari + 50.578
6. Rosberg Mercedes + 52.317
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:15.900
8. Sutil Force India + 1:17.100
9. Di Resta Force India + 1:40.000
10. Kobayashi Sauber + 1 lap
11. Perez Sauber + 1 lap
12. Barrichello Williams + 1 lap
13. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
14. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
15. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 1 lap
16. Senna Renault + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Lotus + 1 lap
18. Trulli Lotus + 2 laps
19. Glock Virgin + 2 laps
20. Liuzzi HRT + 2 laps

Drivers Championship
1. Vettel 374pts
2. Button 255
3. Alonso 245
4. Webber 233
5. Hamilton 227
6. Massa 108
7. Rosberg 83
8. Schumacher 76
9. Petrov 36
10. Sutil 34

Constructors’ championship
1. Red Bull-Renault 607
2. McLaren-Mercedes 482
3. Ferrari 353
4. Mercedes 159
5. Renault 72
6. Force India-Mercedes 57
7. Sauber-Ferrari 42
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 41
9. Williams-Cosworth 5

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Great article James as always.

Was a decent race, but seeing Lewis that happy at the end was great.

I wish we could see Lewis in this mood all the time because that will invevitably will lead to great racing.

I wish Seb would've been in the race also.

Looking forward to the last race and a bit dissapointed that the season is almost over. There will be some long months until next year. Ufff!


stunning picture:


This guy is amazing, every picture is a masterpiece.


great race from hamilton. i was kind of surprised by alonsos kind words towards hamilton this weekend before the race, and to see him hug lewis before the podium. seems like he really felt sorry for hamilton and was happy to see him bounce back from all the negativity.

hamilton didn't seem to keen on talking to jenson though, maybe it was me, but it looked like there was a little tension going on.


I think you watched a different race because I saw Jenson and Lewis having a big hug before they went out onto the podium. There was definitely no body language that said there was a problem between them.

Great to see Alonso and Hamilton giving each other mutual respect. Perhaps it's because there's a new 'top dog' they've both got to beat.



spin to 2:28:00 and watch it again, there's no bad blood here - there's just a bit tired and lewis is clearly just pleased with himself! also, benson often wants a bit of banter after the races when in the pre-podium room but often the other drivers are not in the same mood. i've noticed this on several occasions


Well I saw the same race as vitaly here, and I saw Button and Hamilton, and Alonso and Hamilton having friendly hugs and gestures. Might be something you've missed here actually.


he gave him a hug, true. but button said something along the lines of "how was it mate, i couldn't see much", and lewis mumbled a short answer without even looking at button. maybe i'm reading too much into it, but it seemed strange.


AT the team photo after the race they were sat next to each other and they both looked chuffed. Say what you will about Jenson but he is far more at ease with the idea of being a team player. Being in the grey car at this stage of his career is a dream come true, no?


There's always been mutual respect. Alonso's problems in 2007 were with the team, not with Lewis. I really thought we all knew this by now.


I think it's selective memory for most people, their reluctance to acknowledge Alonso is quite nauseating.


Agreed. I doubt they are going to be playing golf together any time soon but when they look at each other they see their biggest threat in terms of talent.


Well, I guess it's reversal of fortune between VET and HAM from 2009. Over all, quite a boring race.

One more chance left for WEB to get a win and MAS to score a podium in 2011.


"Over all, quite a boring race."

That's an understatement, mate - it was a shocker!

Lovely circuit and setting but one of the worst races I've seen in years - the track needs a revamp for next year so that we can get some decent racing between the top teams.


Hope people who say Vettel wins because of his car can see that today Mclaren was the best car out there. But what was Mr. Withmarsh talking about when said they put Vettel under pressure? Why McLaren always have to talk so much rubbish?


The other point worth making is that people talk about the fastest car, but cars have differing characteristics. There is still no doubt that the Red Bull car is the best car on the grid because it is the most agile, while lacking a bit of power, on the other hand the McLaren has excellent straight line speed most of the time, but is not as agile as the Red Bull. What this means is that the Red Bull car car can be pushed further when required to extract a bit more speed, but the McLaren has a more finite performance. There is no doubt that Adrian Newey has come up with something very special in the RB7 with near perfect aerodynamics, low drag, high downforce capability. - Things are never simple and straightforward in such a highly technological sport.


No I think what Whitmarsh was refering to here was that Vettel was under pressure at the start to get clear of the McLarens which lead to his misfortune. Had he started more gently and allowed his tyres to reach working temperature then the deflation probably would not have happened. The tyre failed because of high torque and high lateral loads before optimum working pressure was reached.


I think the tyre failed due to RBR being under pressure as Whitmarsh stated. However, I think he may have been referring to the whole weekend in general, rather thann to SV at that moment. With McLaren so close, RBR may well have gone ultra marginal on tyre pressures (as they have done before) and this contributed to the deflation. Just a thought, not a fact!


I think you should forward this revelation to Pirelli.


ROFL. Great stuff Matthew.


Interesting that you know that and probably you have an answer to the question why that did not happen at any other races, that Vettel won the same way.


Well it's an assertion and no two starts are exactly the same, but this was a particularly aggressive one. A freak occurence maybe but factors combined to deflate the tyre. Sliding contact with the kerb perhaps broke the seal between the tyre and rim under those conditions. Remember also that Vettel would have had the biggest dip in pressure being at the front of the grid.


Not rubbish.

The pressure is in forcing Vettel to get away quickly (with a fully laden car) thereby not being caught in the one second zone when DRS becomes available. That's what Martin was talking about.


Glenn, the win had no real credibility because SV was not involved? If that is the yeardstick then every race that the RBR has won without Hamilton and Alonso finishing also has no credibility as they are, at the very least, both as good as Vettel. Priceless indeed.


I respect your view wayne,however I believe that Seb IS the yardstick at the moment. Doubleworld champ, prolific pole sitter/racewinner/fastest lap etc. None of the others are in the same league 'at the moment'. I still think that Lewis would have had an even bigger smile on his face had Seb been sitting next to him during the post race interview. At the end of the day, a wins, a win.


It was more like loss of tyre pressure


@coefficient unfortunately that's not a plausible explanation. The tyres are bonded to the rims


Well, it didn't seem like puncture to me. I think the tyre was under inflated and just peeled off the rim as a result. Once again Red Bull playing games with safety. Also, an indication that RB are feeling the need to go a bit marginal on setup in order to stay ahead.


The tyre deflated suddenly, that was the only pressure at play here!

Grayzee (Australia)

anyone considered that it may have been a suspension failure that popped the tyre, and not the other way round....?

Just a thought.......


Not necessarily, the tyre may well have deflated due to the low pressures that RBR in particular like to run and SV taking too much of the kerb. If the tyre pressures were 'dangerously' low then this suggests that RBR do indeed feel under pressure and therefore pushed the margins to the extreme. This would not be the first time this year would it?


Maybe. But Pirelli engineer told me he suspected a cut tyre, maybe a shard of something. They'll find out


Please James. Let the McLaren fans have something to take away from this. If some of them think that Seb was under any different pressure from McLaren this race, then let them think that. It must be hard enough on them that Seb wasn't in the race to give Lewis' win any real cred. The best remaining car/driver combo won the race and won it very well indeed. Simple.
Well done McLaren for pressuring Seb into a flat tyre. Priceless.


Or rather, lack of pressure! (Sorry)


He was the only driver than I could see that put two tyres on the outside of the kerb.

I think Whitmarsh's observation was that the Mclaren's were now quick enough to force Vettel to push to the maximum to build his buffer zone.


Why? Alonso had Hamilton pegged and Webber was as fast as Button. Why was the McLaren the best car out there on race pace?


The line about McLaren being the best car out there has been all over the internet this year. It is just a stick fans of a certain driver have made up to try and beat Lewis with.

English speaking F1 forums have seen plenty of posters on "Forum Raids" just spamming this same halfwitted line. The old lie about cars not being equal, justifying their Hero's loss gets trotted out too.


Webber was as fast as Button? Jenson had faulty KERS for most of the race and still finished in front of Webber.


You missed the ten seconds Webber lost in the bungled pitstop then? The one that lost him both time and track position?


I'm starting to lose my regard for the DRS, having now seen a number of tracks where cars have made overtakes just prior to the DRS zone only to be overtaken by the passed car in the following DRS zone.

Webber is a notable sufferer having lost taken positions in Korea and Abu Dhabi. He wasn't the only one tonight, however and this is something that needs to be looked at.

A car built for optimal cornering (or a driver jumping on another driver's mistake) gets ahead of an opponent through pure racecraft, only to lose the position on the following straight primarily to an artificially applied speed diferential (DRS). It doesn't seem fair to me.

It also seems to favour the cars with the higher top speeds as they will tend to be competitive on these longer straights already, while the cars with lower top speeds will only get the benefit of keeping up along these straights. Then when they do get ahead on the part of the track that does suit them, they end up losing it to a car that has an artificial bonus applied.

I realise that the teams are welcome to set up their cars however they feel they will benefit best, but this is creating a situation that benefits cars with high top speeds more than it benefits cars with high cornering speeds, which tends to provide the faster overall lap times.


Completely agree. This is not real overtaking. This is just a farce. DRS was supposed to be a technology to assist in overtaking by getting you into a slipstreaming position not gifting you a position by being 10 to 15 km/h faster than the car in front. Totally artificial. The driver in front has no chance to defend.

The circuit looks nice and all that kind of stuff, but Id rather spend a season of weekends at Spa, Silverstone and Montreal. The circuit needs a revamp for 2012!

Having said that tho' at all of these races we again saw artificial "overtaking" because of DRS. Remember Schumacher at the front in Canada - no chance of holding onto anything. At least with KERS it requires the skill of the driver to know where to use it and when to save it to enhance the chance of a pass.

If DRS is to stay, then it should be a variable system so at tracks like Albert Park where it was no strong enough we dial it up, but in places like those mentioned above as well as Abu Dhabi it gets dialled down to prevent this artificial "overtaking".


How about something like: to be allowed to open the DRS wing, the following driver must be behind in the previous sector (e.g. 4 corners prior to the DRS zone) as well as within 1 second at the detection zone?

If you like it we could start a campaign 🙂




There was very liittle of the fantastic overtaking that James mentions. There WAS a lot of swapping about in the DRS zones however which is an entirely different thing. This track is inherrently poor, so they overcompensated with massive DRS availability. The result, as Coulthard said during the race, was artifical overtaking.


At the first lap,Michael and Mass had a mighty scrap and I believe I saw them touch.Michael lost a bit of momentum and Nico was all over him.


The double DRS kind of ruined it for me. It simply meant that it was almost just as impossible to make your move stick as if there wasn't a DRS zone at all.

The only times that you could pass properly were if you pulled your move in the second DRS zone and not the first, or if the car you were trying to pass was struggling for grip or had some other issue.

I'm actually a little surprised that no driver really tried this. Just use the regular slip streaming in DRS 1, to get close enough to get a pass that can't be countered into DRS 2.

So if the DRS had been set properly, Webber would've been past Button and away. Even Massa might have passed! So yes, there was a bit of extra spectacle, but really it all just felt fake, rather than being fair and just.


I've been wondering this for a while - we've seen at other tracks with two DRS zones that the car that overtakes in the first zone can often be retaken in the second. It makes sense to wait for the second zone.


Yes, but it doesn't always work. It's not a precise science


I just found it surprising that they don't at least try and mix it up.

Between Alguersuari and Di Resta (I believe), and for 3 or 4 laps running the TR could not finish the pass until, I think, the tyres went away from the FI. Each lap was identical.

I think now that maybe it was good that it wasn't a simple "push to pass" yesterday, but am slightly disappointed that there wasn't the little bit of tactical thinking applied as to how to actually get the job done.


James, what is your take on Coulthard's assertion that track designers should pay more attention to the exit of the corner and widen that, rather than keep widening the entries?

Surely this track is inherrently poorly designed and that should be addressed rather than keep having the cars swapping positions in the DRS zones like clockwork? Even the so called 'chicanes' on this track have way too much tarmack between the entrance and exit meaning that the cars do not 'snap through' them together as they do on other track and, instead, one car gets on the power too quickly in relation to the chaser and the two are drawn apart as a fucntion of the corner design?


I think it has some merit, but we see double corners working well where a car can go down the outside into part one and then be on the inside for part two. These are great, I think. Yas Marina is the best circuit in the world as a facility, it's just a shame that Turns 11 onwards are so jammed in together to make them interact with the hotel as they do. THat area needs some work. From start/finish to Turn 11 it's fantastic. I know - I've driven it many times.


So happy to see Lewis have a good result at last. But respect to Jenson to hold 3rd whilst having to mess around with settings on the car through most of the race for KERS, while having Webber or Massa all over his back end. Very tough...kudos to him.


Spot on Karen, another superb drive by Jenson.


Jenson continues to impress me. It appears that even the qualifying gap to Lewis that has existed since he joined the team is beginning to diminish. What a pity that we were unable to see his true race pace due to the KERS problem. We could have had a great battle between three drivers instead of two at the front. The battle with Mark was quite entertaining, though.

Bad luck to Sebastian for the tyre and / or suspension failure which put him out. Still, he's been overdue some bad luck this year.

I'm glad to see Lewis back on form and on the top step of the podium. Hopefully, this bodes well for a competitive 2012 instead of a repeat of this year's Red Bull dominance.

Brazil is going to be fascinating, particularly between Sauber and Toro Rosso for 7th in the constructors' championship. Fernando still has an outside chance of finishing second in the championship, so Jenson will need to be on top form to hold his lead.

Finally, as a Nigel Mansell fan of old, I hope Lewis or Jenson keep Sebastian from beating Nigel's single season record of pole positions (though even if he gets the last pole, he can't beat Nigel's percentage of poles record)


It's a duff statistic anyway, he can't really beat Nige as you say, as there are now many more races which means many more opportunities to achieve either a race win or a pole.


Vettels surprise non finish and Lewis' win following his negative publicity will make the headlines, but I'm interested in your thought on Ferrari.

Ferrari have the third fastest car, semi hopeless in quali trim and weak on hard tyre compounds harming race strategy. But yet again he finishes ahead of a mclaren and red bull, vettel aside he would be driver of the season. Alonso's consistent brilliance, out driving and out scoring his car is making massa look increasingly weak.

How can a team like Ferrari continue to have a driver a second a lap slower every lap vs his team mate. Ferrari used to be more ruthless, but allowing massa to race another season sends out a message to other teams saying that we don't mean business nxt year.

With silly season there are always many unfounded rumours, but do you know if Ferrari made a concerted effort to sign button, Rosberg or anybody else for nxt season. What's even more galling is that massa is probably the third highest paid in F1, if he had any conscience i'd pay that back to Ferrari and be glad you've got a seat.

I was surprised by how many Ferrari fans were anti alonso, and pro massa. Country allegiances, and some anti Ferrari comments of years ago played a part - but alonso is a proven winner, and massa a proven loser - the sooner the folk at maranello do something the better. Rant over.


I'm Italian, living in the Uk and have Ferrari running through my blood.

I always wanted Senna to drive for Ferrari but sadly that dream never came to life.

I was happy when Schumacher and co joined Ferrari in the 90's because it was obvious he was the best of his generation and I loved the fact that "we" won so much, but Schumi never really was loved by Ferrari fans.

I hated Todt when he brought in Kimi, it was obvious all along we should have chased Alonso, he is a leader of men.

Brundle commented that he couldn't believe that Alonso is already more loved than Schumi, maybe as an Italian I don't get it, but Alonso is passion, Schumacher was just efficient.

IMO, I think to a degree, Todt was safe-guarding Schumi's legacy at Ferrari, Alonso coming in, would have won championships in 07 and 08 and carried on the winning team which would have made Schumacher's dominane seem ordinary.

Going for Kimi, Todt knew the team would move in a different direction, look at how Ferrari is performing currently, thereby underlining how good Ferrari and Schumi were.

If next year Ferrari provides a car that is on the same level as the best, then I predict an Alonso championship.

Massa? Did anyone seriously think he was a quality driver at any stage? He should never have been foisted on to Ferrari by the Todt's. I can't wait till he's gone.


I agree with this. I don't understand how Ferrari can stick with Massa. If nothing else it is costing them dear in the constructors championship. Looking at the top 3 teams, there are 5 drivers with a decent haul of points. OK Vettel has run away with the title, but after that, there are 4 drivers all with decent hauls of points. Then comes Massa (6th) 119 points behind Hamilton (5th). As a result Ferrari are 129 points behind McLaren in the constructors. Even if they don't expect Massa to beat Alonso, they should still expect him to be a lot less than 137 points behind him in the table.


As long as I can remember Ferrari has had one strong and one comparatively weak driver. I don't think it is a new thing. You have to go back to the days of Alesi and Berger in 1995 to a time when the had near equal drivers in terms of performance. This is excluding the two and a half years of Raikkonen and Massa. It is a roll over from the Todt-Brawn-Schumacher-Byrne era. Look at the team mate when two or more of them have been together. Barrichello, Irvine, Verstappen, Herbert, Lehto. None of these guys really stand out as equals do they?


3rd fastest car + 2nd best driver = finish in front of Jenson & Mark. Alonso is a phenom, make no mistake.


make that 3rd fastest car + best driver on the grid and I will agree with you!


Ferrari did things differently to others and at the moment it is costing them. When Schumacher was at his peak they were working off of his feedback in the design and build, When he left and Kimi replaced him, they were working with a totally different animal and were lost for direction. With all the rule changes and tyres you just cannot have a stab at something then fine tune it to become competitive, it has to be a totally designed and balanced system. The rule changes have shifted F1 to another place. A place where Newey is extremely comfortable and still has something left over for next season.


You have a good point! But the driver changes at Ferrari will happen when Alonso allows it. What went through your mind when you saw Massa driving a car with the front nose vibrating so much and almost rotating like a windmill? Maybe due to limited testing he might prove a useful driver to have as he wont complain considering how much he is getting paid.

Overall Massa can never compete with Alonso so far, Alonso is ruthless and this shows in how he can compute decisions in a race but also drives and squeezse performance of of the car. The Button and Lewis battle is an interesting one but also paying dividends for the constructors which is a good principle. I would still put my money on Lewis and think once he has his mojo back, we may see a good inter team battle. This season should have been a good lesson for him and hopefully he can grow from it and use the experience for the future.


Massa is not good enough


To be fair to Jenson, his car was significantly compromised. I think he would at least have been challenging Fernando for 2nd if his KERS was operational.

Good result for Fernando, though of course he's going to beat 'Numero Due'. Cue Geordie accent: 'Fernando is faster than you, Felipe. Do you understand?'. Felipe has been destroyed mentally by Ferrari. I suspect that any other driver joining this team will perform similarly.

This is why I laugh whenever I hear a rumour about a top driver considering a move to Ferrari. Why would anyone with title aspirations go to a team where they will be treated as a support driver?

Kudos to McLaren for letting their drivers race, and for giving them equal support through the season. This is why they're finishing over 100 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' championship.


Jensons Kers was working for the first 15 laps, but he was falling behing quite significantly by then. I dont think he had the pace to keep up with Alonso, but sometimes Jenson does come alive a little later in the race.


True, but we don't know how much he was husbanding the tyres at the start. F1 gets a bit 'hare and tortoise' with the new tyre-limited formula, and Jenson has the reputation of being a tyre-conservation specialist.

Also, if he was losing 0.5 second per lap on average due to the KERS, it would have taken only 32 laps to make up the difference to Fernando at the front, particularly once he got onto the hard tyres where the Ferrari slows down.


He is the best driver of the season, Vettel aside or not. Imagine what he would have done with a car 0.5 sec/lap faster...


The second best driver this season. Number one is still Vettel, but all round it is close between those two.


Agreed, SV is has been the best this year but it is a close run thing with FA. Pundits always take the easy way out and announce that the driver of the year is the guy who wins the WDC. JA himself gave it to SV last year, despite having never led the WDC, having made some serious mistakes and just about beating his much older teammate. At least this year SV will deserve the accolade. However, compare the RBR to the Ferrari and it does indeed become a close run thing.

Button fans will be upset with me but we will see a return to 'order' next year, I think, as LH returns to form. Consider that Hamilton has won 3 races this year (I happen to think he'l win the next one as well) and all but equalled JB during what is universally agreed upon to be his worst season in motor racing for some time.


Alosno is outstanding race in race out. He has developed as a human being since his season with McLaren also. If Hamilton can't win, there's no other driver I would rather see on the top stop. Well done Fernando, I've gone from totaly negativity towards to to total positivity in the last couple of seasons.


Agreed. They are head and shoulders above the rest really. Seb is amazing, no question, but he has a few years to go before he is in that kind of bracket.


Hi James,

I'm hoping you could shed some light on Massa. Looking at his lap times during today's race, on average he was a second slower than Alonso on every lap.

This is a common theme, and although I understand that Alonso is arguably the best driver out there at the moment, and is out performing the car, surely Ferrari can't risk this for another season? His excuse every year for the last 3 years, what's to say it will be any different next year.

I hope that it will be Massa's last year in 2012, but I'd love to know your thoughts on his replacement? With Jenson and Nico now committed to their teams and the situation more and more cloudy with Kubica, who do you see Ferrari targeting? Do you see a potential move for Lewis?

Would love to know your thoughts.


I can never see Lewis at Ferrari while Alonso is still there. They may be showing a lot more mutual admiration than before, but putting them together in the same team won't happen again.

Ferrari seem to operate much better when they have clear no.1 and 2 drivers.

If anything, I can see somebody like Webber ending up as Ferrari no.2 after his Red Bull contract is up next year.


I'm sorry to say this but he's very lucky his car has such a performance advantage over the Mercedes. Because it means he stays towards the front even as he is driving at the moment.

If he was in the midfield teams for example where the margins are tiny, he'd be 18th while Alonso was 12th and then everyone would be saying there's no way the team can keep him.

I'll analyse this in the Strategy Report on Tuesday


Hey hie James,

According to me Ferrari are waiting for Robert Kubica...whats your take on this ? Because he and Fernando are good friends and can work very well...Even though Ferrari gets a good car in 2012 i don`t think they would win the constructors championship and all thanks to Felipe Massa...


Why, RBR have easily won it this year easily and Webber hasn't done brilliantly either...


Yes, but I wonder if and when he will be ready



The Aussie has been very vocal about Team Orders and assigned #2 drivers but his demeanor has changed this year.

Alonso and Webber are as close as F1 drivers can be these days and have enormous respect for each other on the track (Eu Rouge).

In the interest of a Constructors championship what better combination.

Although, could he handle the italian temperment or more importantly could they handle his 'frankness' in interviews?



I agree, regretfully, with your assessment about Massa. Surely Mark Webber is also having a shockingly poor season (although only this season in his case and there is the prospect that future limitations on blown diffusers may help him close the gap to Seb Vettel).


Yes, Indeed. Massa seems like one of the most likeable drivers out there, but that's irrelevant in this sporting contest. I think it's quite an odd decision to keep him in the car for next year, but maybe they're filling the seat with a 'known quantity' because they already have their eye on someone who will be free in 2013. Perez?

... Raikkonen? ;-p


Nice, honest appraisal.


Good race by Lewis, he seemed in a better place today.

Just noticed his new teeth on the BBC Forum.


No one else is likely to give him credit for it, so I thought that I would. JB driving around a problem to come home third deserves a mention. The changes he had to make to the car throughout the race to manage the KERS problems, and then reset it every two laps can't have made it an easy run to the podium. Nice to see Hamilton back on form though, he drove the race we have seen so often from Vettel this year. 'Vettel-esque' even!!!


Hmm, 'maintaining the gap' is the new black it seems in terms of how to win a race these days... I don't like it personally - but then, I don't pick up the tab for tyres and engines.

Either way, it seems Lewis has embraced it; 'if you can't beat them, join them' - and needs must.

As for Abu Dhabi... Can I just say for the record "$$$$$$ZZzzzzzzzzz"; how can somewhere so obviously over-designed and over-funded lack any sporting excitement whatsoever!!? For all your chintz and glitz I spent more time scanning the circuit design features than watching the cars during the live TV race!

Ridiculous to spend so much and completely miss the single most important fun-factor.

(Does Sky want it? take it with pleasure)


It was rather Vettel-esque wasn't it. I thought that during the race.


{mod} Glad to see Hammy where he belongs, now that's more like it & what a fitting tribute to Aryton, 20 years since his last WDC!

This race, I got no complaints about the Mclaren team for they were on top of their game, hmm not sure if it was a result of Big Ron looking over everybody's shoulder or is it thanks to Sam Michael.


Right, my driver of the day is Alonso because not only did he have a another great start but he kept Hammy honest throughout the race.

Okay, am off to the bookies for 2012 looks very promising now for the winner of Abu-Dhabi has always gone on to win the WDC the next year.


that had to be one of the most dull races, and easily the most dull track on the calendar.

its fortunate that the season is finishing on a decent track with some sort of character, rather than on a parking lot with kerbs. the series of corners in the 3rd sector especially is just absurd. A local go kart track has more challenging corners and character.

this race is a celebration of wealth and nothing more.


I suppose Vettels good fortune had to break at some point, but it is difficult to know what would have happened otherwise. It's possible that tyres, DRS and superior straight line speed would have allowed Hamilton to get past, but it would not have been easy. Vettel I think was a bit greedy on the kerb causing high lateral force on the tyre, and that coupled with hard acceleration and slightly low tyre pressures caused the rapid deflation with the slide removing the tyre further. Alonso gave Hamilton a run for his money given that the Ferrari was easier on the soft tyres, but after the second pitstop it was obvious that the Ferrari was less good on the medium compound tyre with Alonso losing further ground to Hamilton in the last segment.


So true the Ferrari runs well on soft tyres, it seems the car is easier on tis tyres but can be a dog to handle in the rain. I guess with a former mclaren engineer at the helm in marnello we may see a fortune of changes. But I also see the Brawn and Costa link up as a positive move. Mcalrens new addition in Sam is also a good and refreshing move, it would take all top engineers to came up with a Newy design. Something needs to be done so the top teams can get closer so we see some real race craft. Otherwise the Redbull runs away to easily.


Yes, the Ferrari has had trouble with harder compound tyres all year.

I noted today that Pirelli have announced that they will be providing softer tyres for next season. Paul Hembery, motor sport director for Pirelli announced "the new ‘hard’ tyre for 2012, for instance, is almost as soft as the current ‘medium’."

Ferrari = Italian

Pirelli = Italian

Conspiracy theorists, have at!


Based on the performance of the top teams, however, it may have helped Ferrari the most this year.

Of course, next year may be different.


Yes, but the harder compounds have been too hard this year. It will help Ferrari, but it will also help other teams


Hammy did a great job, but was lucky..Button a bit unlucky to lose his drs ...

Why was Maldonado not penalised again for repeating the same offence, or did I miss something?


he lost KERS, not DRS


Button lost his KERS not his DRS which meant that his lap times were staggering! I was delighted to see LH get another win & Alonso push him hard in the Ferrari...but Button has to be my driver of the day for fending off Webber & Massa in an inconsistant slower car whilst effectively trying to programme his VCR in the heat of combat. Awesome!


Will be investigated after the race. I think he may take a grid penalty at Brazil for repeat offending.


30 second penalty for the race, which keeps him in the same position, so no penalty, really.


James, I am really sorry to say it on your blog...but I cannot stay silent any longer. How many more races Ferrari is going to destroy for Alonso? They have really mastered Abu Dhabi...I cannot even think, how can a driver be motivated to put every lap of the race in a qualifying trip, gain time consistently put put himself in a position to win only to see that 2 out of 2 pitstops are destroyed by his team. Really, he drove a phenomenal race...phenomenal...but the team let him down, again!

..........I will say nothing..........but Ferrari is mot going to win utill Domenicali is there. Mark my words....


I agree Domenicali has to go, he's a nice guy and all but that's not what Ferrari needs, after he said he almost quit after last year's race at Abu Dhabi I lost all respect as team boss. Pit stops need to be faster, they have the potential but that last stop was very slow - maybe the guys need some time at the gym. Hope Ferrari get's it better next year.


Any change now would be a pointless PR stunt. They should only relieve him if they are confident there is someone better out there to replace him.


Pat Symonds is already working for Virgin.


I think you have to give him next year, with his new technical director Pat Fry in place.

I agree they need to shape up by 0.5s at least per stop to match the best. Alonso can do the rest.

If it's like this again next year, it will be hard for Stefano. But the only thing is - who would replace him?


+1 on ronmon. Same thoughts here.

Flav is the one who took Alonso to double WDC 05-06 =)


Flavio - good grief! I have nothing against Domenicalli either, but when will Pat Symonds be available and what will he do then?


James, this is a very live, educated and honest discussion. We all understand that you cannot go and find a phenomenal team leader just like that. After Todt, Ferrari won with Kimi and I think it was because the structure, the discipline and the car was designed by the old team. The new Ferrari is lacking the magic everybody keeps referring to.

Where would Ferrari be without Alonso this year and even last year? Would they be fighting for the championship last year? Would they even had a distant chance to finish 2nd in WDC?

It really looks like Alonso is doing all the job for the team. I know that I am probably wrong in many points because I do not know how the team operates from within, but based on what I heard from Domenicali about next year - they will not win. He doesn't sound like a winner. He doesn't sound and act like a person who knows how to connect all dot's.

There is a reason for everything. There is a reason why mechanics are not that efficient with pit stops, there is a reason why the wind tunnel is not giving right data, there is a reason why the team is not producing the top result.

Why do you think Button signed up with McLaren and Rosberg with Merc? I think they all sense that the future of Ferrari is not very certain now. I am sure that Alonso himself is scratching his head...but has no choice, but to try again next year. After the next year...if Alonso will not win, I am not sure he will be as at home at Ferrari as he is today.

It is not a problem per se that they are not winning. The problem is that they do not know how to win...


Won't Flavio be eligible to come back in 2013? I know a lot of people don't like him, but he is a very good manager.


I think that's a bit strong. They thought they had enough time to make the second stop, he got held up by an HRT on the way in, the stops weren't super sharp, but he would never have been able to keep Hamilton behind him on medium tyres anyway, as he himself said. But for sure they need to improve their pit stops. They are 5th in pit stop league table, 0.5s on average behind Red Bull and Mercedes.


James, he is right though. At the start of the season I kept complaining about how poor Ferraris pit stops were. Toward mid season they seemed to correct it. Alonso's last stop today had a stationary pitstop time of 5.2 secs on the telecast... Mercedes, RB and Mclaren are averaging 3.5 secs. Its pathetic that Ferrari cannot even be consistent on a key stop in the race. Is it so hard? Stefano should hire someone who can get them to consistent timed stops, or fire himself. Race pace aside, they might as well pull a tiny car into the garage and have the pit crew charge out in clown outfits, at least they wouldn't be pretenders then.


I've just been through this with the team and they showed me the telemetry overlay of Alonso's first and second stops. He has to brake and loses about a second to a second and a half coming in behind Ricciardo.

His first stop was 3.6 seconds stationery time, his second 4.8 with a slight delay on one wheel. And that's it really. Enough to cost him the chance to lead, but Hamilton would have passed him within a lap on warmed up medium tyres to Alonso's new ones. As saw the same thing in Germany.

So yes he's right up to a point, but it's rather academic, as the real problem is the Ferrari's lack of pace on harder compounds


James, what has happened to Renault? I know this track plays to their weakness (slow corners), but after 11 races they were on 66 points (34 to Heidfeld) and since then they've scored only 6 more (2 to Senna) in 7 races.

Were they wrong to drop "Quick" Nick?


There was a lot of rumors they where massively struggling for money and couldn't develop the car after the first races where they scored all the points.

Apparently there line up next year is Petrov and Grosjean after waiting and still having no idea when Kubica can comeback. I think they are two good number 2 drivers but they badly need a star driver of the talent of Kubica.


If Kubica doesn't make it back, they could still get Glock, who would do a better job than either of these two.


If you ask me, I'd say the wrong lays with the "Bully" Boullier".

Making the wrong and demotivating comments, destablising the team, I believe there are thousand more things he's done that set the team off path to it's current form.

Dropping Nick certainly wasn't a good idea. God knows what his real reason was behind this.


Yes, I agree. Boullier is a terrible manager.

I have cringed many times listening to him. His language and people skills [mod] certainly do not bring the team together to inspire them to achieve more.



I think so, though Quick Nick was not so quick in qualifying, you could count on him to have a consistent race and bring in the points. But, the Brazilian sponsorship probably had a say in Senna getting the nod over him


Maybe, certainly they've slipped back a lot. They are also racing quite strangely at the moment, look out for my USB Strategy Report on Tuesday and I'll do something on this


What a great race, a great win for Lewis. Hopefully another win in Brazil will give out a statement of intent of what he'll do in 2012, given McLaren gives him and Jenson a fast good car straight out of the box.


It's a pity Vettel went out so early. He had a very good start and was already building a good gap. His tyre failure made some other drivers look like heroes today.

I don’t think DRS was that effective. The double DRS was not a success. What’s the point if you overtake a driver only to be overtaken on the second zone?

Overall it was not a thrilling race. Hamilton was not challenged by anyone at all. The cars were spread out evenly on the track with hardly any challenges.

I wonder what happened to Massa. He was in front of Webber who made an extra pit stop. At the end of the race, Massa was miles behind Webber. He just can’t do a full race distance anymore.


"I don’t think DRS was that effective. The double DRS was not a success. What’s the point if you overtake a driver only to be overtaken on the second zone?"

The original idea of DRS is to "aid" overtaking, not to guarantee a complete overtake. The drivers still have to do the work.


Agreed with Rob, for me Lewis been gifted the win and its less valuable as not racing against the best - The flying Seb


With about 20 laps to go, Webber pitted for the soft tyres. Massa went for hard tyres. Ferrari is weak on the hard tyres, and the normal delta between hard and soft compunds was significant at Yas Marina, meaning that Webber found it relatively easy to gain over 1 second per lap to cancel out the 20 second pitlane delta.

It would have been much closer if Massa hadn't muffed it and spun out trying to keep within the 20 second window. He's lucky Nico didn't get him. On initial review, it looks like Mercedes got their tactics wrong today (not a common occurrence with Ross Brawn's leadership). Had Nico pitted about 10 laps earlier than he did to take on his last set of tyres, he would have beaten Massa by some margin.

James - did Nico run hard / hard / soft, and pit to meet the two compound rule, or did he start on soft tyres and pit the last time because of problems? It didn't look like he ran long enough to maximise the last set of tyres.


The softs are faster than the mediums, so you want to be on them as much as possible. The optimum race time comes when the slowest (fuel-corrected) the tyre gets is the same in each stint. The Mercedes have had very good wear on the softs recently, and so were able to maintain the pace on the softs for longer.

Rosberg made two stops (to clarify James' comment) with just the last one on the mediums (so he had to stop - if it was a third stop I would agree with you). The lateness of the second stop is actually a strength as it means that they thought they were still as fast at that point than on 10 lap old mediums. Hope this makes sense.

Great drive by Rosberg. Has the high ground in the team again.


I must have had a bit of colour blindness when I saw the video feed with about 15 laps to go, because it looked like he had silver tyres on before his final stop. The last stop doesn't make sense otherwise.


He ran Soft used, soft new, medium new, with a short stint on mediums


Thanks James.

If I remember correctly, there was less than 10 laps to go when he pitted the last time.

Was there really so little left on his medium tyres that they thought he would lose 2 seconds per lap compared to fresh medium tyres?

It seems like a strange tactical decision to come in with so little time left. If he pitted because of another problem, why didn't they put soft tyres on to maximise the speed in the last stint? What am I missing here?


Hi James,

Great to see Lewis win again. However, couldn't help but notice that Martin Whitmarsh was hardly ecstatic to see Lewis win. Is there tension between these two?


Hi James. I've been reading your site for years and it's excellent and one of the first places I turn to for F1 insight, but for some reason, I've never posted.

I have to reply to this though. I didn't see that in Martin Whitmarsh AT ALL. He actually seemed to be rather moved as heard in his vocal tone on the BBC Forum and was happy for Lewis. I think people are trying to read things into situations that aren't there.

I reckon McLaren and Martin Whitmarsh individually are very happy with their two excellent drivers, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.


Not really. I agree some of the team people looked underwhelmed, but a win's a win and in a season like this they are all special


I think McLaren managed Lewis and the race from lap 1 when he took the lead. Lewis did a nice clean job and then won the race. team pleased but not ecstatic. But if through some clever strategy combined with a hot drive from Lewis and they overtook Vettel on the last corner to win the race they would have been jumping for joy and letting everyone know how pleased they were.

Therefore I see nothing in their "muted" support, Martin Whitmarsh seemed pretty pleased when speaking to Ted Kravitz on the BBC post race.


It was just a bitter sweet scenario. On paper they looked good for a one two finish but all the head scratching on the pitwall to try and help JB set his sky plus box to record the race would have been frustrating. It's bound to take the edge of it for a team that is pretty used to winning grand prix.


I imagine most of the paddock (with the exception of Red Bull) are exhausted and wishing that this was the last race of the season. It's been a long one.

How do they find the time to get some really decent Christmas shopping done this year?


Duty Free shops, I expect..


Maybe they do it while on the move lol =) Pretty cool if u ask me, u get to buy stuff elsewhere in the world where you don't find in their local countries.


Wish I had this sort of Christmas shopping problem! I'm already starting to get withdrawal symptoms. Good race today, great to see Lewis win and happy, Jenson did a great job with his problematic Kers. Will be watching half the races on RTL next year, so not happy, but watching the races even without sound is better than not seeing them, but will listen to Radio 5 live commentary. Noticed the Beeb team have gone very quiet on the subject!


Well that's diplomatic James, but there more afoot at McLaren than is visible. I think Jenson has become favourite there, and a few were not that happy at seeing him beaten today by Lewis. I also get the feeling there was something disadvatageous about Lewis's second Q3 qualifying run like being released into traffic. Whitmarsh has said a couple of slightly negative things about Lewis which would have been best left unsaid in the curent climate. I hope Lewis also wins in Brazil!


Seems like McLaren have found their new golden boy =)

McLaren: Speed? Pfff forget it, we just want a nice jolly driver to team up with us 😀


Great drive by Hamilton, helped in no small part by Vettel's mis-fortune.

Webber on the other hand, although let down by his pitstop had another underwhelming day. In a better car he still couldn't make an impression on Button despite the latter's Kers problems.

Time for the Aussie to call it a day, I think.


I am quietly a Webber fan, but this has to be one of the main stories from this race. Webber struggled to get past JB on softs, with KERS and DRS, never mind pull a convincing gap. He's just not been at the same races this season as his team mate. And that feels like a bit of a shame, as he drove some incredible races last season.


I'm a Webber fan and that about sums up his season nicely. Definately doing it tough is our Mark.


I think the Red Bull's use the short gearing primarily to secure decent grid positions in qualifying. Webber didn't even manage that!


Rarely one to come to Mark's defence, but in this case he was short geared and you could clearly hear him on the limiter when he was using DRS so there was nothing left for him. His problem is that he cannot make use of the speed the gearing allows him in the cornering, unlike Sebs, not that he cannot overtake even with the DRS.


yes. The damning thing for both Mark & Massa is that they're giving it their very best shot. It's not a matter of going off the boil or being too bored to try, etc. I'm not expecting to see either in place at the end of next year regardless what the contracts say. F1 is a brutal business with no charitable status.


Is the Mark you refer to the same one that kept peeling off fastest lap times in the race last night?


Yes, that Mark which set the fastest times on soft tyres while everybody else was on medium..

Seriously, I have nothing against Mark, but your comment is not going to do Mark any favour. He needs to understand these tyres and up his game.


Yes, although Mark was on the option tyre while everyone else in top ten was on the prime so this is expected!


That's right, the very same Mark that was on the option tyres when every other front-runner was on the primes. In a Red Bull. On low fuel.


There's going to be a lot of good seats going for 2013, aren't there ? Massa's, Schumacher's, probably Mark's. Kubica, if he can come back, would be a cert for one of them, but who else is the pick of the rest ? Perez ? di Resta ? Alguersuari ? Kobayashi ? Have I missed anyone ? All to play for in 2012.


Yes, I missed the Hulk.


Great drive by Alonso, continues to out perform his car. Vettel was unlucky to go out at the start, but Hamilton drove a clean, consistent race and was kept honest by Alonso.


Nice to see Lewis back on form, but can't help thinking it would have meant more if Seb was still in the race and he'd won on merit instead of a DNF. Alonso did a great job to keep Lewis on his toes.


Let's face it, Lewis came second today. Because but fr a rapid tyre deflation Vettel would have won. Sure, we can all speculate and hypothesise, but it's 99.99% sure the outcome would have been as it's been for 14 or so races this year. So rather than Lewis beaming at his 'win' he should be thanking Lady Luck that someone else's misfortune gifted him the lead.

That is meant with no element of nastiness by the way, merely realism. If I was a track runner and I won a race solely as a result of the champion having flu that week and dropping out after 30 metres, I'd know full well as I stood receiving my gold medal that I hadn't really 'won' it.


Let's face it, this opinion is a bit silly isn't it? LH came first, FA came second and JB came third. These are the facts. If you apply your flawed logic on down the field and into past races the whole thing would turn into an utter fiasco.


This opinion is neither flawed nor silly. Two factors make my appraisal different from any other time someone wins as a result of an incident further up the track.

1) Virtually every other time a leading driving crashed out and the 2nd placed guy on the track wins, it's still a truism to say 'oh well, he might have won anyway, there's no way of knowing if would have eventually overtaken or not'. But in this case it's pretty much impossible to say that Lewis would have won regardless of Vettel's puncture, since the very definition of the 2011 season has been the record-breaking, metronomic consistency with which the Red Bull driver has sprinted off into an unassailable lead and retained it effortlessly, despite the efforts of those behind (with the sole exception of Jenson's win during a weekend where the Red Bull didn't enjoy much of a speed advantage, unlike in Abu Dhabi.

Therefore do we think it's likely or even remotely possible that Lewis would have hauled Sebastian in and won on speed and merit? No we do not.

2) Lewis didn't win because any other driver / car combination happened to be eliminated ahead of him on the track. He crossed the line first because the virtually guaranteed favourite was eliminated ahead of him on the track. Just as someone else has used the anology of Usain Bolt - Vettel and his car are this year's Usain Bolt. They just are. So if Mr Number 2 Runner in the World turns up to race the 100 metre, and Bolt trips over his shoelace and falls by the track after 15 metres, and the Number 2 Runner guy crosses the line first, he's deluding himself if he runs about high-fiving everyone claiming that he 'won'. Last year Lewis would have been entitled to rejoice in such a win. Who knows, maybe Vettel and his car may not enjoy quite the dominance in 2012 and Lewis will be entitled to again in similar circumstances. But this year, at this race, no - he lucked into a win and that's that.


Nope that is not that, not even close. Your[mod] logic does not take into account all the other factors that can and do contribute to winning in sport whether it is a championship or an individual event.

Let us also not forget that many people were saying that LH was the man to beat this weekend. Let us further not forget that you have absolutely no idea, none, zipola (despite what you claim) that SV would have won this race even if he had stayed on the track.

Your bolt analogy is just as flawed. If Bolt trips and falls over his shoelace it is because he was not concentrating when he tied his shoes, i.e. his preparation stuffed up his race. And the guy who crossed the line first did indeed win (without the inverted commas).



just look at it as payback for 2009 then maybe it will be more bearable for you. eh


Well Vettel has his own luck to thank to be in RBR + have a genius of a designer to make him look more outstanding than he should be.

As it's been said throughout the entire season, put any of the current top 4 or 5 drivers in the same car and see if Vettel is so special? Not necessarily saying he'll be crap but it's almost a guarantee that Vettel will be matched neck to neck.


So by that merit vettel should be thanking lady lucky that his car is designed by newey otherwise he'd be lucky to be on the podium? A win's a win end of.


Luck is a part of sport, all the front runners have had their share of bad luck. A victory is worth its weight in gold.


I'm sure that what all the top 100meters runners say when a very “fast” competitor (say for example, Usain Bolt) is eliminated for a false start.


Sour grapes! LOL Everybody touts Vettels 1st win in the TR, but he only won that race cause he got lucky with a wet qualy, and a wet race. ANd then he got lucky that he got the best car in the field, by far!

Man! Some people have to rain in everybodys parade, sad...


I'm sorry, but no-one in F1 - and I mean real experts - thinks Vettel got "lucky" in Monza in the Toro Rosso.


Wasn't he at least abit lucky before the race started though, as the various other teams, by degrees, made a hash of qualy? There was no luck involved after the lights went out but before....?

I Suppose it's irrelevant really anyway, they all get good luck and bad luck it's what they do with it that counts. He was 'given' an opportunity and he took it, not possible to do any more than that.


I recall that Mclaren stuffed up Hamilton's qualofying (sound fammiliar?) by sending him out on the wrong tires when the track was at its best, dropping out in Q2 with Raikkonen.

Kovaleinen was nowhere all season, and Massa struggled in that cat of a Ferrari (poor in wet for those still sleepy).

Had Hamilton been where he should have, I doubt Vettel would have one. That constitutes as lucky to me.


LOL a win is still a win though


Hamilton should really be careful y'know. This whole 'where is Lewis' head at' has long since turned into a soap opera, and it's doing him no favours. It seems like every race now every interviewer and commentator fusses around trying to analyse his mood, and the causes, and whether he's in a better mood this weekend, and when his mood might lift, and just as Kimi eventually gained an unshakeable reputation and image as a less-than-committed driver who only turned it on when he could be bothered (despite the hard evidence arguably suggesting otherwise) so too Lewis has now firmly depicted himself as an erratic character who can no longer be relied upon to deliver 100% during a season if various factors aren't in place.

This is a very bad development for him. All his talk of how Jenson can currently perform better because he has his dad, friends, girlfriend, manager etc around him is only sending the signal to the rest of the piranha club that this guy now apparently needs to be mollycoddled in order to drive at his best.

We don't see Alonso needing a 'happy place'. We didn't see Schumacher (who raced and won on the morning his mother died for god's sake while Ralf came 4th!) Senna didn't need an entourage, nor Alan Jones or any of the other hard b*stards who ever dominated F1.

Rather than keep his head down and get on with it Lewis has turned his 2011 dip in form into a media circus, with every speculating on what his next smile or frown might mean, and he's fed it with constant self-depracating references and endless alluding to how badly he's performing, how his head's not in the right place, how he's having a nightmare season etc etc. This will stay in peoples' memories long after next year's racing begins, and it will only hurt him in years to come when he attempts to move teams.

Mark my words, I think he's going to bitterly regret being so open about his feelings (as David Coulthard remarked upon today with surprise)


For Lewis to have to deal with the death of two friends, a relationship breakup that hurt (we’re not talking an already dead or dying relationship) and snide nasty back swipes from BBC/Jackie Stewart and others – post a race win but still get criticised for being open about his emotional upheavals is ridiculous.

It is time you lot, Brundle and Co accept that Lewis was brought up in a different culture to your "acceptable behaviour" one. Yes I accept some of the comments about the life experiences of racing drivers but that applies to ALL the racing drivers.

If you and the BBC can ignore Vettel’s reference to male genitalia on live TV then begin to pick on Lewis for being open and honest about his emotional tribulations then i'll take Lewis’ life values over yours anytime of the day!


what 2 friends?


+1 We don’t see Alonso needing a ‘happy place’. We didn’t see Schumacher (who raced and won on the morning his mother died for god’s sake while Ralf came 4th!) Senna didn’t need an entourage, nor Alan Jones or any of the other hard b*stards who ever dominated F1.

You don't see it in MotoGP either. Rossi lost one of his closest friends, Simoncelli, and the media was saying he'd retire, yet there he was 2 weeks later racing in honour.

I have no doubt that all these guys have feelings and emotions, but wasn't it Senna who famously said, when that visor comes down, you block everything out.

I often wonder if Lewis is being advised by people who look at the image and what they can sell through it.

Everyone goes through difficult times, whether it's a partner or under-performing but for the majority of us, problems exist because of house hold bills, job security etc etc. I really find this quite nauseating.


He was in a dark place in late 2007, that's for sure. He has his little gang at races, manager, wife and a mate of hers sometimes. His Dad is less visible these days. But he's very self contained, Fernando, like Vettel


James, I just want to ask, is Fernando and Ferrari a happier working enviroment than Schumacher and Ferrari?

Does the fact that Fernando speaks Italian fluently make a difference to the team dynamic?

I know you have written The Edge of Greatness but I am curious if Fernando brings a different feel to the team, or is the difference because of Domenicalli and Todt's differences?


No doubt, but my point was more that other drivers who hit raw patches manage to grind on without it turning into some kind of therapy session every time a micrphone gets shoved under their noses... I'm not a particular fan of Webber for example, and he's obviously not the driver Lewis is, but the idea of him moaning and talking about the kind of emotional babble we've heard from Hamilton would be unthinkable really...



Could you ever be persuaded to write a book on the goings on in McLaren during that 2007 season ? I know some people there still have a great deal of respect for Fernando.

I really enjoyed that throwback to the Senna/Prost days.I have always maintained amongst my F1 fan friends that despite not being best friends both Hamilton and Alonso shared a mutual respect. I m glad those comments came out this week. Hopefully their respective teams can give them a car to challenge next year !

Lastly, a close friend of mine met Eddie Jordan in TCD last week. Eddie told him that he does not rate Alonso very highly ! Eddie's top 3 of all time in order were Senna, Mansell, Schumacher. I d be interested to hear your thoughts on that !

Keep up the great work, looking forward to the yearbook.


Excellent summary of Lewis Howard Hughes, I share your sentiments 100%. You will see Vettel and Alonso also don't have high profile entourages.

Being no.1 is about being willing to work harder than anybody else and sheer bloody minded determination. Traits we see in Schumi still, and I see more and more in Vettel all the time.

When he got back to the pits he looked at the data trying to analyse what went wrong, he then spent the race on the pitwall trying to learn more there. Vettel's appetite for learning is voracious, and why I can see him being World Champ for many years to come.

Theres also the story about him being the only driver to visit Pirelli in the winter to find out what kind of tyres they were looking to produce for 2011.

In my opinion, he's mentally way ahead of almost everyone else with his attitude and willingness to work.


haven't been here in a while. In part as the season hasn't been so riveting. Interesting contribution. I would add though it isn't just Lewis fault though. Crucially, the whole speculation circus F1 like so much fans the flames to a quite annoying degree. Folk will say all kinds of things on forums but I have to say at times I've found Brundle (who I thought really would know a lot better) and Coulthard guilty of overstepping the mark. It's all just a bit bloody tabloid, if you ask me - it goes in hand with those magazine style features they do - like hang-gliding with the Mclaren guys, or Vettel makes a curry for Jake (whatever).

I didn't see a "different Lewis" today or the "real Hamilton" today. It was the same driver who has been mostly easily outqaulifying his team-mate only to find he is unable to translate that pace into the race. It's more about technique, driving style, than head space. He can go a fair bit quicker than Jenson only to find then his tyres are shot. Tyre deg is so important this season it's reduced Lewis as a driver. He's still fast and providing he doesn't find himself behind Massa etc he still has the pace to beat Button. But nothing like the kind of margin he should have - something like 30 seconds. If you look at Lewis' quali pace he should have even been up there in the mix with Vettel. When was the last great over take he did? That early one on Vettel when Mclaren went for the extra stop...I can't wait personally to see the tyre regulations change and see Lewis really where he belongs, fighting with Vettel. This season, in spite of the drs, kers etc has been a season as bad as the one Mansell walked away with.


+1. Well said, its becoming a bit of tired subject already. As you mentioned, there is many drivers, past and present, who wouldnt be seen going on like this. For me its a question of maturity, which will come with more time.


I kinda feel bad for saying it given his accident 2 years ago but has Massa's eyesight been checked recently? I'm guessing it has as it's a vital component of what he does but he's been hitting a lot of things recently. Kerbs, bollards, bits of wing, McLarens.

He's looking a but dangerous out there.


Are you joking right?

When did Massa hit anyone?

1. The kerbs he hit because he was cutting the turn short and I am pretty sure he saw the kerbs.

2. The bollard was hit because when you're in a race you look for the apex and not for bollards and other things on the track. Racing drivers don't expect to find debris on the track, therefore they're not looking for it in every corner.

3. Bits of wings..see #2 above.

4. McLarens? I understand that you refer to the incidents between Massa and Lewis, but please open your eyes and see who hit who first.

I find it ridiculous to take Lewis's defence when Lewis himself said he could not see Kobayashi(Spa) or Massa(Japan) in his mirrors.


Not joking, just asking a question. However in response to your points.

1. If he saw the kerbs he should have avoided them as they broke the car twice.

2. and 3. Plausible but I'm sure given the damage they can cause he'd rather avoid them

4. Massa is as guilty as Lewis over the season of these shunts. Lewis has stuck his hand up and admitted his transgressions but Ferarri's number two seems not to be able to see where he could have done better


i agree to an extent with your comments, but as i posted earlier i really think that massa is having a slightly below average season but it appears so much worse because alonso is outdriving that poor attempt of a ferrari week in week out, he is getting that car in the top three when it isn't good enough to be there, a sign of an awesome world champion!


I was watching Kovi on the live timing. He's doing a brilliant season.


Not brilliant enough worthy of a seat at McLaren or any front-running team.


I agree. Kobi was running very competitive times to the Williams, and Renault's when on similar tire wear. And that was without KERS!


I've noticed that Kovi does well on the first stint on new tyres, but starts to struggle a bit relatively when on used tyres in the middle stint.

They're about 3s off the pace in the race - but still over 1s from the pace to get a point. Last few races have been good.


Great performance by Hamilton, thoroughly deserved.

I have to make a comment on Alonso's performances this season. In my opinion he's been nothing short of sensational. In a car which is the third fastest and regularly half a second off the ultimate pace, he's managed 1 win, 10 podiums, and one fastest lap. He has 245 points and if he gets 10 points in the next race he will have scored more points than 2010 when his car was much more competitive. Great driver.


Good post. I agree 100%.

Becoming a clear No 1 is obviously the magic ingredient for Fernando; since that happened he has kept the toys in the pram, made friends with everyone, and really just let his driving make the statements this year.

I used to dislike him intensely but I am now a big fan! Who wouldn't be on his present form!?!

Lost count of how many races he has just quietly stayed off-camera and got on with the task of dragging his car onto the podium!

He's a strong natural leader; arguably stronger than Stefano if we're being honest!

He's also turning the once laid-back and affable Massa into an insecure paranoid madman.

Vamos Fernando!


loving the madman quote, totally agree on Alonso.



It would be a bold call to give driver of the season to anyone but SV but if you factor in relative car performance, I think he's been outstanding.

I think it's unfair to say anyone has been better than him anyway.


Great win, and well controlled race by Lewis.

He couldn't have given his mom a better birthday present, and good to see that smile on his face again today.


After viewing nearly the full season, I have come to the conclusion (my opinion so not necessarily everyone else's) VET is phenomenal, I think he has outdriven that RB all season to a "T" until today, which is giving everyone the false impression that it is a better car than it really is. People are saying WEB is having a howler of season, I would say more just an average one, I think the RB car is as good as WEB drives it but somehow VET manages to get so much more out of it, just like ALO in the ferrari. Let's be honest it's a dog but the way he drove it this season shows his class, just like HAM today and BUT in previous races they have all at some point pulled out a performance that is way above par for the car they driving. All in all 4 worthy world champions all showing us this season why they are world champions!


I'm not feeling your comment.

Vettel was faltless this season and has taken the oportunity the team and car gave him..and run away with the championship. Good for him.

But to say that the RB7 is not as good as it is..please!


just re-read my comment and probably not the best of wording, of course it's a great car, all I'm saying is because Vettel was so good this season that he flattered the car slightly the same as Alonso has did with Ferrari. It is still the best car on the grid but he made it look even better, you only have to compare the quali's this season, he was spanking webber by tenths who was in the same car. To me that is outdriving the car. My comment was meant to just be a compliment to the several drivers who are outperforming their cars, not slagging the cars.



From what I watched the race, the commentators were almost using the word "pathetic" in describing him. He went off on first lap, when he came back in the way BE, CH and others comforted him made him look like a baby, something which the commentators thought it's a huge joke. It's a man's sport, not a kid's.

The way he went off is how I feel for him.


18 races, he's had 11 wins and 4 2nd place, one 3rd, one 4th and 1 DNF. If he is just a kid in the sport what does it say for the men??? I'm sure he's looking at his 2 world championship thinking "pathetic"???!!!! BTW I am anti-Vettel, never liked him since turkey last season but I feel I have defend his record against that daft comment you made!


I think Sebastian has matured beyond the "kid" stage. After such a drastic failure, he stuck around, checking telemetry and even joining the pitwall. I've seen some other drivers storm off and sulk, some even going home early.

Seb needs to be given some credit. Please, no more, he can't overtake. The guy has won 11 GPs and has 14 poles. What more does he have to do, start from the back?

Mark in the same car, is looking extremely mediocre. Sebastian is a very quick and intelligent driver. His formula simple: 1. Stick it on pole. 2. Get a good start and lead into the first corner. 3. Build a gap (~10 seconds) 4. Maintain that gap 5. Control the race (cruise so you don't wear out the tyres) - giving you the option to push if the guy behind pushes, thus demoralising him 6. Pit a lap behind driver behind you. 7. Win the race.

Yes it's simple. But he still needs to get pole position and make a good start. Something not many drivers have done this year.

A team principal comforting his driver is not a new thing. Bernie coming over to say hello... well let's just say Seb has some powerful friends. I don't think BE does that to many drivers. Seb has all areas covered.


As for the dark cloud of Lewis being beaten in the championship by a team mate for the first time, he just needs to think that he has the same amount of wins as Button when he has had a poor season by his standards and Button has had a good season. I think the McLaren car is being designed to suit Jenson's style - more understeery than oversteery.


McLaren will be making mistake if they do that, look Jenson is a nice guy, but I seriously doubt he can go up against Alonso in a fully fit Ferrari. If Jenson is now no1 at Mclaren then I think its more to do with Whitmarsh's inclination towards Button than Mclaren's making the most of the most talented driver in F1. How foolish would that be?

So what Lewis has had a bad season, Mclaren have not done their part either by not giving him a car to challenge for for the championship since 2008! The Pirelli tyre hasn't helped neither.


If that's true (and I'm not sure it is) surely it's a measure of the fantastic professional job Jenson has done these last two years. Lewis can deny it all he likes, but one of his problems is surely that he never imagined it would be like this.


I thought the same thing, then remembered that Button would have had a lot more points had it not been the technical problems that he's had this year.


i think most cars are going that way with set up tho and its too pretect the delicate year tyres this year. of course i may be completly wrong but thats my opinion and its deffo favouring button over lewis. but lewis is much more adaptable than button and will overcome it sooner or later.



1) Double DRS zone like Abu Dhabi is 'useless'. We have seen many re-passes.

2) What are you readers and James think about the DRS usage during lapping a backmarker? I would not allow to use because it is not a battle for position and the lapped driver must let by the faster car anyway.

The real time difference is not <1s between a backmarker and a frontrunner so this is like a non deserved advantage.


You are a hard man ti please.

I bet if everyone were pulling off passes with 1 DRS then you among many others would cry out load for passing too easy.

Not to mention the original idea behind the DRS was to "aid" overtaking, not to help you 100% completely to do the job.


When Mark finally got by Jenson yesterday, he did it without DRS.


Not forgetting a lapped driver can use DRS if he's within 1-second on the activation point. Brundle seemed to be saying that anything else was too complex in commentary.

This is F1 can it really be that hard to design a system that doesn't activate DRS for a passed driver for a minimum of one zone after the pass, and can't be used when lapping?

Seems like a few lines of programming code.


2) As they're going to get past easily anyway, does it matter ? And it's simpler like this - one of the leaders after a stop early in the race could easily be confused about who was a lap down and who wasn't. Let the stewards get on with more imoortant things.


Great drive by LH today.Sorry to have to put a negative into it but.....Martin Brundle cannot say a good word about LH.When asked how he thought the race had gone he changed the subject.As for MW, he has to go! I would not let him run a bath let alone a F1 team!!He seams unable to get the best out of LH who is clearly faster than JB.Considering what Lewis has been thro these past races I am astounded that he is only a hand ful of points in front, bring on next season.P.S. Red Bull racing push the boundries of everything and today got caught out.Reckon they know what they did wrong but we will never know!!!


If it hadn't been for his two non-fault non-finishes this season JB would have been more than a handful of points ahead.

I know Lewis has had a few issues in his private life but we all have those. If I was to do my job poorly because I'd split up with my girlfriend I'd still have to take the flack for it regardless. Why should it be any different for LH?


Something which is confusing about this circuit is that the F1 races are usually poor yet other races which take place there are usually very good.

We saw 2 brilliant GP2 races this weekend & the previous GP2 races at Abu Dhabi have also been good. They have always featured a fair bit of passing & some great wheel to wheel racing.

Kinda highlights that the track is a decent track in terms of overtaking & that its the F1 cars which create additional difficulty in passing.


DRS was a complete failure this weekend.

The double DRS zone was a complete joke, Watching one car sail by in zone 1 only for the car he'd just got by to breeze back past in DRS zone 2 was ridiculously artificial.

Even the BBC crew who have done everything possible to not critisise DRS this season (Including never reading out any Anti-DRS views sent in by fans) actually admitted that DRS is an artificial gimmick.

The sooner DRS gets removed the better, I want to see real & exciting overtaking again & not artificial DRS driven dull passing.


Nah, they just didn't know how to use it - as shown by Weber with Button. The idea was to use the frist DRS to get close and the second to overtake... Button referred to this indirectly in an interview.


I might also add that other drivers were using the DRS zones to decrease their lap times and so catch other drivers. Typically, these were back markers being overtaken.


I do not know whether I agreed with this "In contrast to last year’s event where there were only 11 on track passes, this race featured plenty of spectacular overtaking throughout the field, although most of it down to DRS".

-For me the race was dull.

-Ferrari got it all wrong.

-Vettel leading start to finish or Vettel DNFs doesn't make any difference. I hoped he would charged from the back, but...I guess we are yet to see a Senna-style drive from him.

- Webber traditionally screws the start and charges at the end.

- Massa...what he is even doing these days?

- Schumacher outclassed Rosberg. It looks like on new track he is really behind.

- Spectacular infrastructure, but boring race...again.


There is something brewing behind the scenes at Mclaren... not many took the Lewis Victory as ecstatically as they took Button's Victory in Japan.

Yes, I would like to see Lewis in a Ferrari... Mclaren is fit for ice-like Scandinavian drivers like Hakkinen and Raikkonen... Ferrari is fit Flamboyant drivers like Hamilton... Maybe the new found respect between Alonso and Hamilton might make that possible... Remember Ferrari makes statements like "Fernando is faster than you" while Mclaren makes statements like "We are not racing Kimi, we are racing Alonso"... Two very different worlds... one orders you straight while the other back-stabs you... and it was rather evident today who Mclaren prefers... So, now we have to see which one does Hamilton prefer? a straight shooter or a backstabber? But, we could be over reading the situation at Mclaren... Ah' and of course there is Redbull... But then out there... there is Vettel... The most clinical performer.

If Lewis is unappreciated at Mclaren or under-favoured... then its time for Lewis to move on... But where is the question.

On the other aspects of the race today... What the hell was Alonso doing in the Ferrari challenging Lewis for the win? He was not suppose to be there... Ferrari is not designed to be there... Wow... a brilliant performance... no wonder he is tagged as the most complete driver in F1.. and rightly so.

Schuey's race was ordinary... I don't think Schuey is a fan of these long Mickey Mouse like circuits... Singapore and Abu Dhabi are prime examples of which... but put the man in Monza, Spa, Suzuka or India... he becomes a different animal.

Can't wait for Kimi to sign for Williams.. the Suspense is killing me 🙂


I am not taking anything away from Lewis's drive, but it was possible made a little more inevitable by Vettel's retirement (Alonso's attempt notwithstanding).

In Japan, McLaren managed to win with the season's dominant car and driver combination being beaten down to third place. That would be something to cheer about regardless of whether it was Jenson or Lewis driving.


Interesting to see Raikkonen's managers David and Steve Robertson in the Abu Dhabi paddock at the weekend...


James -- did you see the Robertsons in the paddock or is this hearsay? There's just too much Raikkonen chatter in the web. Will be great if credible journalists like you can provide some insight into where these discussions really are at. Thanks much.


I saw them, shook hands with them. I think it was Saturday afternoon


I was very glad to see Hamilton win.

I agree some of the McLaren team didn't look as ecstastic as usual but I think it's all tempered by the fact that they've been well and truly beaten again this season plus the main danger wasn't in the race and probably would have won it.

Hopefully Lewis can keep his head in the game and we can not hear about "What's up with Lewis?" every race weekend next year.

It's also surprising how close Alonso is to McLaren's pace for a car that they apparently haven't been developing but rather experimenting with.


James - Didn't Vettel have a similar puncture last year at Silverstone? I know at the time the consensus was that Hamilton had clipped Vettels rear wheel, but when I examined that incident in slow-motion you could see that the tyre's sidewall was warping very strangely, and it was far from clear if there actually was any contact with Hamilton (although it was extremely close) - essentially it looked like the bead popped off the wheel, which is exactly how today's deflation appeared. Is there any possibility that Vettel is using such low pressures that it's marginal at the start of the race when the pressures are lower? I also noted that the grid seemed to be very slow to form-up, so presumably the tyres would be that-much cooler, and so the pressure that much less. (can't remember if the Silverstone '10 grid was slow form-up).


I think the tyre probably got cut, the tyre pressure were probably a bit low anyway and as the sidewall buckled, the bead came off the rim - game over


Cut on what? A kerb? unlikely isn't it? The Mclarens were nowhere near Vettel off the line, watching Lewis's onboard of the incident he had the pleasure of viewing the whole thing as it happened because he was so far back so I don't think a front wing endplate cut be the culprit.

I think it's more likely that the tyre was under pressured and cold, the high speed and high lateral load of the corner in which the incident took place simply made the tyre pop off the rim, which is why we see the tyre move in board, damaging the floor and suspension.

Its no great surprise to see Red Bull going beyond the pale on setup, it's a hallmark of Neweys's approach to using racing cars. Benefit outweighs risk mentality and it can be quite dangerous.


Also it would be stupid for them not to put low pressures. Red Bull is very good in the corners; and loads its tyres quite a bit in terms of downforce and traction and braking. This heats the tyres quite a bit. As heat goes up pressure will too. It's almost a case of the more downforce you generate, the more you must decrease your tyre pressures at the start of the race.

Otherwise, if you end up with over pressured tyres, it would be even more dangerous as there would be less grip


Cut on debris on the kerb from a support race most likely. The tyre would not be cold by the time it reached Turn 2; it would have already had wheel slip off the line; braking for turn 1, lateral loading for turn 1, and slip angles from the traction phase of turn 1


I think the retirement of Vettel from the race the way that it happened could be the symbolic sign of the beginning of the end of the dominance of Red Bull and Vettel.

The Yas Marina Circuit may be a futuristic looking circuit, but it can also tell us about the future. The winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has gone on to win the championship the following year.

2009 ADGPW: S. Vettel

2010 WC: S. Vettel

2010 ADGPW: S. Vettel

2011 WC: S. Vettel

2011 ADGPW: L. Hamilton

2012 WC: L. Hamilton???


I'm sorry to shoot you down; but 2 samples is hardly conclusive...


I have some tea leaves to help with that!!


I see a lot of negative arguments against the double DRS zone this past race, but I think it had it's merit simply because it wasn't just a push to pass zone, but it was also a tactical tool to use in the race. Were as we hear a lot of complaining that slower cars couldn't defend like we have seen in races were a single DRS zone was used, but here we had the faster car come up and pass, but the second zone served as a possibility to re-take that position, evening out the playing field somewhat. We got to see some very nice wheel to wheel racing in the corners following the DRS zones because of it. After last years bore fest we demanded more overtaking and we got it. So let's stop complaining ok. 🙂

I enjoyed this race, I enjoyed the tussle between Nico and Schumi at the beginning. And also kudos to Alonso, he did exceptionally well. I went from hater to fan in this season. Also nice to see Lewis smiling again... Although I would have liked to see him beat Vettel on the track, but we can't always have everything can we...

Thank you James for a good article yet again and also thank you for some very honest answers in the comments section.


Hey guys!

Did you check what Lewis said after the race in press conference.

"I am able to hold off one of the best drivers in the world throughout the race is something that is very, very tough to do."

Nowadays these guys just started to respect each other very much.

What's going on?


Gamesmanship trying to make his win worth more than it was because Vettel retired.

In reality the Ferrari shouldn't be within 10 secs of the mclaren

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