F1 Winter Break
Vettel Sets The Pace In Abu Dhabi, as Mercedes and Lotus offer challenge
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By:   |  01 Nov 2013   |  4:30 pm GMT  |  77 comments

A week on from clinching his fourth World Championship and Sebastian Vettel has maintained his impressive momentum by setting the fastest time in Free Practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ahead of Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.

The Red Bull pair of Vettel and Webber have frequently found themselves at the top of the timesheets in FP2, which sends another alarming message to their competitors. Vettel’s advantage of 35/100ths of a second over Hamilton could once again elude to a lack of excitement for the race win, but some indicators today pointed to a closer challenge from Lotus and Mercedes.

They are more in touch than has been seen in recent races, putting themselves as contenders in both single-lap and race trim. The Lotus and Red Bull appear suited to the long middle sector that focuses on traction, whilst Hamilton was able to hustle his Mercedes through the street circuit-esque final sector.

This ought to make for an exciting Grand Prix, with strategy looking particularly interesting. One stop is manageable for most teams, but they must now work out if it’s the fastest way for them. The medium tyre, which will cover much of the race, offered consistency with only a small drop-off of around 1/10th per lap.

The soft tyre was used more heavily today as the teams evaluated how long they can go in to the race, a stint that is likely to last around eleven laps.

Kimi Raikkonen turned up at the Yas Marina Circuit shortly before FP1 this morning and took fourth place in this afternoon’s session on a mixed day for Lotus. Their pace is very strong, illustrated by Romain Grosjean topping FP1 and Raikkonen’s performance on the race simulation on the soft tyre late in the session which looked very fast. If he can qualify well, it will be very interesting to see where last year’s Abu Dhabi GP winner ends up. Raikkonen ran the short wheelbase car, while Grosjean stuck with the long wheelbase.

“Lotus is exceptionally quick, especially come Sunday, and may be able to pull off strong pace later on in the stint so we will have to keep an eye on them, ” said Vettel after the session.

“Mercedes are strong on one lap for tomorrow.”

But an issue with a broken brake disc on Grosjean’s car halted his chances of a serious soft tyre run this afternoon, leaving him in twelfth place.

With Mercedes and Lotus in good shape here, the pressure heaped upon Ferrari is increasing by the day. They currently sit between the aforementioned pair in the Constructors’ Championship, with a 24-point advantage over Lotus.

Eighth and tenth places for Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will see them out of touch of the teams ahead, and a one-stop race will take away Alonso’s opportunity to strategically climb through the field.

A surprise to the session was the pace of McLaren, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button taking sixth and seventh places respectively. Their middle sector is on par with that of Red Bull and they also have a notably high fastest speed. If they can maintain their performance over the rest of the weekend they will certainly be a nuisance to Ferrari.

The McLarens looked to be in reasonable shape once again, with Sergio Perez particularly quick in Sector 1, ending up in sixth place, one position lower than he finished last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix.

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX, Abu Dhabi, Practice

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m41.335s 33
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m41.490s +0.155s 32
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m41.690s +0.355s 37
4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m41.726s +0.391s 40
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.758s +0.423s 39
6. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m42.006s +0.671s 35
7. Jenson Button McLaren 1m42.010s +0.675s 30
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m42.171s +0.836s 30
9. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m42.324s +0.989s 40
10. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m42.440s +1.105s 35
11. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m42.509s +1.174s 37
12. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m42.607s +1.272s 18
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m42.806s +1.471s 26
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m42.952s +1.617s 35
15. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m42.998s +1.663s 25
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m43.152s +1.817s 28
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m43.271s +1.936s 35
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m43.565s +2.230s 34
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m44.138s +2.803s 34
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m44.459s +3.124s 34
21. Charles Pic Caterham 1m44.525s +3.190s 37
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m45.565s +4.230s 26

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Kimi did 1.47.xxx for 29 laps on medium tyres...

Also on softs he was doing 1.45/1.44 that's promising.

James, is it true that Lotus have returned to Short Wheel Base version for Kimi?

He looked very fast over one Lap, posting his best time on second lap of Softs!

It looks very promising from Lotus perspective, hopefully, they have trouble free race.


Lotus taking a lot of flak recently.

But let's give credit where it's due.

Running two cars with different wheelbases - impressive.

This really does underline the point that the teams work very hard to build and tune the cars to the driver's needs.



Yes, running two different specs of car here


Kimi Raikkonen came alive after returning to short wheel base car.

It showed that the LWB is tailor made upgrade for Romain and nothing more.


Changing wheelbase by 5cm or 50mm is huge change! even average Joe like us can feel the difference. Like when you park the car, the longer wheelbase takes more effort! LOL


It shows how sensitive drivers are to even fairly small changes in car setup. There's only a 5 cm difference in wheelbase between the "long" and "short" wheelbase Lotus, yet one clearly favors Romain and the other Kimi, and by a significant margin.

I guess the moral of the story is that a smart team tries to get two drivers with similar driving styles, so that car development can benefit both at the same time rather than one over the other.


It's a spacial awareness thing. RoGro knows when the LWB car nose is in the gap he has ROW.


That is a lot of money to spend "tailoring" a car for a specific driver.

I think more likely, one driver, Romain found the longer wheel base car more to his liking.

It's Engineering one of the few disciplines where science,mathematics, practicality and "feel" all become components that are fiddled with for the optimum result.

There is rarely a silver bullet.


This x1000. Not just about Kimi, about every car/driver combo on the grid.

Good comment sir.


"This ought to make for an exciting Grand Prix"

If your excitement comes from watching midfield battles.


I thought we are all F1 fans here.

Support the sport. Yes there is nothing wrong in supporting your favorite driver. But if you trully love the sport.. you're happy when Grosjean takes a win when Force India does well...you'll see intriguing strategy. How can all this be boring???


We all want to see more battles like the old days, don't we? Well I don't think so. In my opinion we tend to ideaize and to transform our memories. It's human nature. If you have the time, try searching the You Tube for full versions of old classic races (there are some from the 70's and 80's available), but watch only the full feature ones ok?, and you'll see that there were almost as many battles, if not fewer, as there are today.

We keep watching those great clips of the all time great battles and are influenced to think that every single lap in the old days was full of excitement, things were differet, but perhaps as interesting as today.


Exciting, especially those races when all four wheels were off the ground going over a hump, or sliding through corners. Could todays drivers control their cars like the "oldies" did.




Excellent point. We like to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. But like you said - most of the time Clark dominated. Stewart dominated. Senna and Prost dominated. Lord knows, Schumacher dominated. If you follow the sport long enough you can't help but admire the those talents, no matter how far they leave the competition behind.


What do you expect James to say: "don't bother watching, this track has no exciting racing, Vettel will get pole and win as usual, go mow your lawn instead"?


I wasn't attacking James as a person.

The statement just seemed like a blatant denial of reality.

What's the likelyhood of Merc or Lotus (who've finished half a minute behind in the last few GP's) suddenly being as competitive as the Redbull.

Being realistic does not mean being negative.

Painting a fake picture of what's actually happening though is something else.


"Of course we would all prefer it to be wide open for the win"

Now there's some truth/honesty....

There are no children on this forum, so there's no need to push a 'make believe' story (that just has disingenuous written all over it).

Let's just keep it positive, simple and truthful.


I really try to look at some glimpse of excitement. And your input on whos looking good on longruns are truly valuable to me. Its like, "is this the day someone can put on a good fight"? Im just sad that Vettel trash my hopes every race weekend:)

Anyway, keep up the very good work you do on this website.


James please.

"If you only watch for who wins then fine but there’s a bit more to racing than that…"

Thats a lot of [mod] to say about this season. The redbull domination doesn't provide an exciting show.
When you put on the TV and you see red bull dominating freepractice 1, 2 and 3, the qualifying and the race. Then you dont get very exited if for about 5 min in the race it looks like another racer looks like he gets a shot....... But ohhhh look Vettel sets some stunning laps 15 secs faster than everyone else.

But its like what you say Vettel is truly a much greater racer than the rest of the field.


No, that's not what I'm saying

I'm saying that Lotus and Merc are closely matched and there will be some good racing

I find that exciting. Of course we would all prefer it to be wide open for the win

Remember one of the most exciting races ever Dijon 1979 Villeneuve vs Arnoux?

They were fighting for second place -Jabouille was up the road winning.


It's not fake. Lotus and Merc are quick and closely matched

I think they will have a great race. If its not for the win so what? Doesn't mean their race can't be exciting.

If you only watch for who wins then fine but there's a bit more to racing than that...


LOL....Epic reply




I think the point is that there are some intriguing possibilities here. Yes Vettel is in the form of his life in a very good car and these days he rarely takes less than the maximum from the car in quail and race, but if Merc and Lotus drivers do the same, it should be a good race between them and Webber and maybe, if Vettel has any kind of hold up or problem, Kimi can challenge for the win as his long run pace is very fast


To put in other words the fight for leftovers is interesting rather than for the win itself. That is what commentators say on TV too. Nothing wrong about it, just stating the obvious in more straightforward terms.


I agree, still lots to look forward to each race.

I am a bit surprised by so many people all over internet saying how the races are boring and not worth watching while a lot is still going on.


Looks like a 2 stopper to me. I just can't see a 1 stopper being terribly quick. I know the track gets better at night but still, it's a long way to tickle Mary 😉

The cars / drivers that are 1 stop borderline would probably be better running a 2 stop S/M/S.

Webber would more likely go for S/M/M. Might be another opportunity for the adventurous to qualify on the Medium tyre again.


Yes this weekend will be interesting in more ways than one particularly because for the first time in his career, Vettel will challenge his father's records as he tries to go for 7 wins in succession but as we all know, challenging your old man is not a wise move for it usually ends up bad for the baby as the ears get pulled.

So yeah, am hopeful for a good race considering the fact pole hasn't been too kind to it's occupants as only 1/4 have been victorious and seeing as the soft tyre may throw the dice in the air, am thinking Lotus look the strongest as they surely will go for one less pitstop.

Speaking of Lotus, it will be a fascinating political race to watch as Kimi takes on his bosses both strategically and mentally.

If Grosjean ends up ahead of Kimi on Sunday, I bet the iceman won't be best pleased as the number 2 driver gives him the worst send off a driver could ever ask for.

Right, according to Mclaren, this weekend will indicate the progress the team has made and hence the good showing by Perez and Jenson.

As for Ferrari, things look a bit tricky for their future for it's not easy for a team to make up a second in qualifying from one season to the next.

And from the looks of it, the team hasn't taken advantage of the practice sessions to evaluate new parts for 2014 so not quite sure what's going on at Maranelo.

Last but not least, Sauber and Force India are once again posed to go toe to toe and with Sauber's good traction out of corners, it's not a good idea to qualify behind the Sauber cars.


What's going on in Maranelo? We're busy building a new F1 team factory...for when Vettel arrives to finally win us a WDC. 🙂

Yes...I agree strongly goferet. I don't see how they bridge this gap even with the reg change. I'm betting on an RBR and Mercedes show in 2014 too.


Papa Schumi?


@ Sebee

Lol... Nope!


@ Sebee

Actually that is Kaiser Schumi


No relation to Keyser Söze I hope.


Where is Ferrari?


Sometimes - one has to take one step back before making three steps forward. Let's hope that's the case.

Arguably both Merc and McLaren have gone through it. Merc last year, and McLaren 1st half this year.

Let's hope Ferrari build a competitive 2014 car. It'll be more fun to watch an Alonso Kimi battle at the front than in the mid-pack. And the drama when toys are thrown out of the pram.


The horse is broken.


Busy, upgrading Ferrari Aerodome adjacent to the track.


Kimi was doing low 1m46s and even 1m45s late in the stint of 27 laps when others were doing at least a second slower. Will Lotus aim for a single stop? If Kimi qualifies well and is P4 then he will may be only get a podium.


I used "less than symbol" and "greater than symbol" and the text between that got deleted. So here is the full sentence: "If Kimi qualifies well and is less than P4 after the first lap, then he can challenge for win, if he is greater than P4, then he will may be only get a podium.


Yep anything between a left and right angle bracket will be treated as a HTML tag (so you can set bold and italics etc.) but if it's not recognised it will be ignored altogether.


Newey is once again unstoppable. Ferrari are a pathetic joke, and do not deserve Alonso. He should leave and let them sink to 1992 levels which is where they really have been since 2011.


Why do Ferrari not run longer in practice sessions? They sit out most of the time while others do lot of running. Gary Anderson also said the same in his article a few weeks ago. It is amazing that when you are struggling, you don't even make an attempt to get over it somehow. Look at Kimi, he was first on the track all sessions to make sure he got over his quali issues. I don't see FA doing that running - may be he has gone into the pre-season testing mode: relax while others do the work.


Who's running the show? Domenicalli or Allison?


Look, you are confusing some things I fear. If a driver is struggling, for sure he wants to do more laps, and it would help massively. That is why Kimi was doing that. If Fernando was struggling as well, he would do more laps too. The thing is he is not, and it would be pointless for him to do what Kimi did. Look at Massa as an example, he almost always does more laps than Alonso.

Regarding the car aerodinamics, a few runs at constant speed are enough. But the thing is they are not bringing almost anything new.

Gary Anderson can say what he wants, and some times he makes really interesting points. But this thing of Ferrari not doing more laps is a bit silly. As an example, you have one set of option tyres. You put the tyres and have only one or two runs to see how the car behaves in quali conditions and realize if you have to do setup changes. You can not change something and go to try a quali lap again and compare, because of the degradation of the tyres the car is going to behave differently, and the times are going to be much worse making it almost impossible to compare.

If you are struggling with race peace, you probably would want to do more laps, as Mercedes were doing the first half of the season. But Ferrari are not struggling with race peace. They actually are getting the maximum from their car. The problem is that the car is slow. You could argue they are not making the most of the tyres at one lap, but if that was the case, that is not something you can adress with more running, due to a limited number of sets of tyres available.

And then, the perception can be misleading. Almost all drivers did two flying laps on the softs today, with the exception of Alonso. This kind of things could lead to people thinking he and Ferrari are a bunch of slackers. You could think, if they are struggling with qualifying why do they not try again? But the thing is drivers were not getting the maximum in their first lap. Alonso on the other hand did get the maximum, he tried again and by sector 2 it was clear he was doing worse times than in the first run, due to degradation. So he went straight to the garage. Some other drivers did improve their time, but that only means their first lap was not good, and that final time was far from the full potential of the car.

If doing more laps could solve their problems, or at least help, be sure they would do it. After all it would be a really easy solution! As I said, I find it a bit silly...



What is simplistic is thinking you are smarter than one of the bestt teams in F1, and sugest they have management problems because they are not doing many laps during practice. That is something really silly, and if things were as simple as going out to do more laps, even a child would realize.


hahaha...thats a very one-sided and far too simplistic view of the situation, isnt it? Far too many assumptions presented as facts. Whatever mate


Hi James. Lotus seem to have found some performance post-Singapore; does this have anything to do with engine mappings? Red Bull certainly found some performance using the Renault engine by closing off certain cylinders, yet I haven't heard of Lotus doing something similar despite them using the same engine...Any thoughts?


All the F1 engine makers (except possibly Cosworth) are using cylinder deactivation.


Yes but we know renault are doing it to a different extent than merc and particularly Ferrari, hence why they now sound so different compared to how they did back in January.

unF1nnished business

James does a shorter wheelbase help alleviate understeer?


I would imagine so (i you compare something like a Lotus to something like a limo) but I guess it would depend on the specific geometry that they're using.


All else being equal - I believe a short wheel base car turns into corners more sharply.

A longer wheelbase car is more stable in high speed corners, and under braking.

But I know there are racers and engineers on this forum - who can explain much better.


Hope you dont mind me answering but I imagine so. A l/wb is more suited to fast sweepers and s/wb to the slower/tighter sections, partly due to the fact that you can get the nose in easier.

Another factor is that with s/wb you can get temp into the tyres quicker. And this will help Kimi in qualifying!

He faced similar issues at Ferrari. Came alive in the race as there was ample time and laps to get heat into the rubber.

Hope that makes sense. I'm sure someone may be able to offer a better technical explanation though.

unF1nnished business

Thank you.



With all this debate about how good Vettel really is could you pen an article about all the things that him so good that we don't see or hear about? The late hours at the track, the visits to Pirelli and Renault, his relationship with Bernie, would make a very interesting read!


Yes, will add that to the list


Another boooriiing weekend!!!! Bring on 2014!


That's what I spoke about. Lotus seem to found their form. Thank God Kimi also came alive!! Expect big things this weekend!!


Hi James, any substance to the rumour about this being Webbers last GP? Mischievous gossip or Helmut at work again?


I don't see why RB shouldn't bring Ricciardo in early.

Webber himself would want to see Ricciardo to get off to a competitive start in 2014.


No. He's targeting a win in Brazil


Will Alonso bring his record breaking helmet again? It is still valid isn't it?


Haha brilliant


Nope, he is back to using his regular blue helmet.


Yes, and still completely meaningless, but I think it's basically the only thing he can celebrate right now:

No I can't win a championship, no I can't win a race, no I can't even qualify well...but look how many points I got! 😀


James, after watching the practice two session I was surprised that not much has been mentioned about the rather rough Kerbs causing parts to come off some of the cars. At first the NBC Sports guys thought it was a tire failure and I believe it was on one of the Force India cars, but it was later found to be a suspension part causing the tire to rupture. Several teams had some issues going over a few of the Kerbs, one I think was one of the Mercedes and another Grosjean's Lotus. On the Mercedes it looked like its front wing on the left side had made a lot of contact coming of the Kerb? Any comments that you've heard about this situation and do you think that the FIA will issue some type do advisement to the teams on certain Kerbs?


Okay, interesting, besides the continuing likelihood, that it will end up being a Red Bull, 1-2, unless there are some kind of failures, or low probability events that disproportionately constrain them.

That aside, it's back to a similar situation for this season, Mercedes and Lotus are close, Lotus closer on the race sim, Mercedes seems their typically better comparative with single lap.

But the situation at Lotus, is very interesting:

1. The fall out from last week's 'incident(s)' is coming down, is it going more towards thunderstorms or a desert sprinkle?

2. Two different spec cars, both racers very close, very nice to the softs, and ery close on a single lap (relatively speaking); note, Grosjean was the fastest in FP1, and his best time in FP2, on Mediums, at: 1:42.607 1.272secs. behind pace setter (again) Vettel.

Though track conditions continued to evolve, it seemed to me, that the delta between mediums and softs, on average, in the top ten, was greater than 1.2 secs!!!

I expect Grosjean to qualify in the top three.

I am expecting Kimi to qualify in the top five, but he looks really a lot more comfortable in the shorter wheel base car, and is driving, punctuating his real issue with Lotus, the complete lack of their keeping up their part of the bargain, in their contract, since apparently he hasn't been paid! Not just an installment, or two, if my reading of PF1 is straight, he hasn't been paid at all, this year.

Now for a guy in the elite top for of F1, carrying this team at a ratio of two-to-one or better, up the constructors championship table, working without pay, having it suggested that he lacks motivation seems utterly absurd; and this is the context of the 'incident' last week in India.

It's pretty bad taste; it's pretty bad.

Furthermore, he is currently significantly contributing to overhauling the team he is going to next year, in the constructors, representing huge chunk of his outstanding salary, at the expense of his team next year!

I think he's got as much wealth in credibility, and is due respect, second to none!

So keep that in mind, when I point out, even in accounting for everything e has said, he's living up to his nickname; e's been pretty cool under these circumstances, and I hope he wins this weekend.

Speaking of the Red team, just how bad can it get?

It seems McLaren have traded places with Ferrari in terms of comparative machinery.

There must be much more 'wrong' at Ferrari than is generally known; they are trending down in a tailspin, and the ground is way too close. At this rate, they'll be fighting it out with Force I, and Sauber (Ferrari!) for every point, if not Toro Rosso (Ferrari!)!!! Ugh!!!

But on the other side of that flip flop, McLaren are trending most consistently upwards, and at this rate, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see them pass Mercedes, consistently by the end of the first quarter of races in 2014!!! Go Jensy (just... don't talk to the media, you could really learn from Checko's English language media example).

Boh McLaren drivers could surprise; I'll be less surprised to see Checko close, continuing (finally) his eclipsing of Jenson, though on balance, they're now looking pretty close across the entire season.


Pole time prediction: 1:39.878 Vettel

Intrigued by how McLaren and Mercedes have swapped places, compared to past years, in relation to setting up for top speed. Hope it doesn't cost Merc.


Can someone tell me why Lotus send Kimi out in Q3 with 4 minutes to go while all the other drivers go out at the very end?! Feels like they are treating him like a Marussia driver. Meanwhile Grosjean roles out with the big kids with 2 minutes to go to time it perfectly.

I know Grosjean has qualied better of late, but sending Kimi out super early seems silly.


more brake issues for lotus. what's going on ?


"could once again elude to a lack of excitement for the race win"

Hrm. That sentence alludes to the fact that the distinction between allude and elude eludes you.


Off topic,

Just had to say, That's a beautiful photo at the top of the page.

I'm guessing Darren Heath?



That one is XPB.cc actually


Great time of day to shoot F1 cars.


...Top of the home page.


Another race and another article telling us about how much closer the cars will be this weekend... and then the Red Bull wins... again...

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