F1: Top 5 Races Of All-time at the Abu Dhabi GP

The 2012 race was stunning, but does it top our list?
The 2012 race was stunning, but does it top our list?

To say that the Yas Marina Circuit is a controversial track on the F1 calendar would be an understatement. The venue has hosted the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ever since it joined the Formula 1 schedule back in 2009 but attracted immediate criticism for its seemingly endless tarmac run-offs which failed to punish driver errors and its potentially dangerous pit-lane exit.

However, despite this, there have been some action-packed and historic races in the United Arab Emirates over the years. From nail-biting title deciders to stunning drives through the field, it’s had it all, and here’s our top 5.

2011 - Surprise Winner

Lewis Hamilton had a poor season in 2011 (by his standards) but a win in Abu Dhabi was a highlight
Lewis Hamilton had a poor season in 2011 (by his standards) but a win in Abu Dhabi was a highlight

When Sebastian Vettel qualified on pole for the 2011 race, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the recently-crowned double world champion was going to walk away to yet another win. After all, he had been victorious in both the inaugural race in 2009 and the following year, not to mention how dominant he’d been that campaign, with 11 wins in the previous 17 rounds.

Vettel didn't make it much further than the first lap, though, as he suffered a puncture in Turn 2 and was unable to continue. Lewis Hamilton inherited the lead and was chased by Fernando Alonso, who had gotten around both Mark Webber and Jenson Button in the first corner.

Hamilton was largely untroubled throughout the race, despite Alonso's best efforts. The standout driver of the day was probably Kamui Kobayashi, who went from 16th to 10th by the finish, and the Sauber man scored the final point on that day. Webber and Button locked horns again throughout the race, not too dissimilarly to how they did in 2009, although this time it was the Brit who came out on top, and he claimed the final podium spot.

2014 - The New Double World Champion

Hamilton and Rosberg duked it out for the 2014 title in Abu Dhabi
Hamilton and Rosberg duked it out for the 2014 title in Abu Dhabi

The 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is F1's only ever double points race (a rule that we'll hopefully never see make a return) but this did mean that the title race between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg continued into the final round with the German having a reasonable shot at the title.

Rosberg had set an incredible lap to claim pole position, nearly 4 tenths ahead of Hamilton, but it was the latter who led into Turn 1 thanks to a perfect launch off the line. In Lewis' own words, he drove his Mercedes as he stole it and from there he wasn't challenged for the lead. Nico did his utmost to try and take first place back, but Hamilton did just enough to keep his team-mate at bay.

On Lap 23, things went from bad to worse for Rosberg, locking up, running wide and then reporting engine troubles. His ERS had failed, meaning a loss of 160bhp, an amount that even the W05 couldn't afford to lose.

Rosberg plummeted down the field, ending up in 14th and a lap behind Hamilton by the finish. With Lewis backing off to ensure he finished, Felipe Massa closed up to his once-championship rival, but couldn't get within striking distance, missing out on his first win since 2008.

Valtteri Bottas made it a double podium finish for Williams, while a mention should also go to Daniel Ricciardo, finishing an excellent fourth after starting from the pit-lane. For Hamilton, though, he became a legend - in the words of Prince Harry - for he was a double world champion, and a champion for two different teams, something not many have achieved.

2010 - 4-way Desert Duel

(Left-Right) Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton
(Left-Right) Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton
Webber went into the final round all with a shot at the title in 2010.

The 2010 F1 driver's championship was primarily fought between Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Mark Webber of Red Bull and going into the final round in Abu Dhabi, Fernando held an 8 point advantage over Webber. Webber's team-mate, Sebastian Vettel had an outside shot of the title, being 14 points behind 'Nando before a wheel was turned in the UAE. Lewis Hamilton also had a slim chance of winning the title, sitting 24 points behind Alonso with 25 to play for, he had to win the race to have any chance.

Vettel qualified on pole and held his advantage into the first corner, being followed by Hamilton and then Button, who'd got past Alonso into Turn 1. Michael Schumacher had a very short race, spinning and being collected by Vitantonio Liuzzi's Force India. Both retired and this brought out the Safety Car, causing some of the midfield runners to pit, something that would be crucial later on.

Once racing had resumed, Webber, and then Alonso pit and both emerged behind the early stoppers, and in the era of 1-stop being the only viable strategy. Those that bided their time were rewarded with better track position, later on, Vettel and the two McLarens retaining their P1-3. Alonso was desperate to get past Vitaly Petrov into sixth, but even that wouldn't have been enough for the Spaniard to win the championship. He got desperate in the late stages, but the Renault was too fast in a straight line, and the Russian placed his car perfectly throughout.

Seb crossed the line ahead of Lewis, overtaking the Brit as the youngest world champion in the sport's history, a record which still stands to this day. Nico Rosberg was a respectable P4, Robert Kubica led home a Renault 5-6 and Alonso finished a disappointing P7, not enough, and he likely as red with rage as his scarlet Ferrari.

2012 - Leave Him Alone, He Knows What He's Doing!

Kimi Raikkonen claimed a very popular victory in 2012.
Kimi Raikkonen claimed a very popular victory in 2012.

Kimi Raikkonen took a two-year hiatus from Ferrari in 2010 but returned in2012. The Iceman was back and had an outside shot at the title as he regularly dragged his average Lotus car up the grid to score podium finishes. However - much as it has during his return to Ferrari - the win had alluded him.

Yas Marina, a track which Raikkonen was not particularly fond of, would be the site of the first win of his return. Lewis Hamilton was the only one ahead of him after the first corner after he himself went from fourth to second. A mechanical failure for Hamilton after 18 Laps promoted Kimi to the first position.

Fernando Alonso pressured Raikkonen for the remainder of the race, the Spaniard desperate to win and take his championship lead back but the Iceman stayed cool to the finish to claim his 19th win in the sport. Leave him alone, he knows what he's doing.

P2 would normally go down as a great result for Fernando, but Sebastian Vettel's excellent P3 from the pit-lane was a real kick in the teeth for the Spaniard and this was arguably the drive which won the German's third world title.

2016 - The Silver Arrows Battle Again

The two Mercedes rivals embrace each other after a hard-fought season-long battle.
The two Mercedes rivals embrace each other after a hard-fought season-long battle.

Just like 2014, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg went into the final round in Abu Dhabi with the driver's title still to be decided. However, this time it was Rosberg who was in the ascendancy, with Hamilton requiring a win and his team-mate to finish fourth or lower. Lewis claimed pole position on Saturday and converted this into first place on the first lap, Rosberg following cautiously behind.

Max Verstappen spun and fell to the back of the field, but the Dutchman would make a sensational comeback throughout the race. Nico shadowed Hamilton in the opening exchanges and this remained the case for the majority of the Grand Prix. Verstappen - on a very ambitious 1-stop - held up Rosberg, but he'd be passed on Lap 20 in a move that arguably won Rosberg the title.

Hamilton would back off and try to slow his team-mate down in the closing laps and with both Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen bearing down on the Silver Arrows, this was definitely be achieved. The final tour was an agonising watch, as the front four would snake through sector 3, but it was Rosberg who won his sole world championship, second place being enough for him.

2016 was a brilliant tactical drive, but Lewis wouldn't win the title that year, as, despite his best efforts, Rosberg finished second. A very hollow victory, but they all count.

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Edited by Rajdeep Puri
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