F1: Warning - Ice Ahead
He crossed the finish line and listened as his team congratulated him over the radio. Then he said, “I told you guys, don’t stop believing.” Sebastian Vettel had come a long, long way, one that involved starting from the pits, right at the back, and ending the race at 3rd. It was a phenomenal race, if I may say so myself.
Yes. You can read that bit again. Go on read it a 3rd time as well. I know. I never thought I would be writing it. But hey, The Finger was on top of his game, and made Lady Luck work for her glass of rose water. When was the last time that happened?
But then, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix definitely counts as one of those races that made this season perfect. It brought with it a breath of fresh air – much needed after a series of Vettelian dominance, of three series of The Finger on the podium. It isn’t the most pleasant sight and is one of the reasons why I have been so grumpy lately.
One single man was the star of the show. The Ice Man returned from retirement and set the track on fire. I know I’m mixing metaphors. But forgive me. The excitement cup hath overfloweth.
“Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’m doing all of that. You don’t have to remind me every single time.”
I love the Finn and his straight-up, no-nonsense, in-your-face attitude. He is truly the coolest ice-cream-eating racer of them all. So, yes, his comeback promised much excitement. Which is why I wasn’t very surprised to see Kimi Raikkonen right up there in the 3rd spot for Championship – without winning a single race. That’s so Kimi isn’t it? So when the lights went red and chaos followed, all was quiet up front. Lewis Hamilton was leading and for 19 laps, it seemed as if Lew-Lew had broken the McLaren Curse.
But it looks like Lady Luck didn’t like the way the race was going. She yawned and on the 20th lap, Lew-Lew pulled over. His McLaren had lost power. Before we knew it, Kimi pulled away from Pastor Maldonado increasing the distance, and showing some incredible pace. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso was mounting pressure on the Williams’ driver and made it past him. He set his sights on the Ice Man. The Lotus team radioed over, telling Kimi that he had a 5-second lead over Alonso. “Leave me alone,” the Ice Man snapped back. “I know what I am doing.”
The gap increased. Alonso, desperate to catch Kimi and the Championship, tried to push his woebegone Ferrari, setting the fastest lap and tried to close the gap. But the Finn was just too fast and too consistent. He cruised home to victory, calmly got out of his car, and waved. Yes, we even got a smile out of him! Wonders never cease.
Alonso meanwhile managed to close the Championship gap, reducing it to a measly 10 points. There are two more races to go and a bunch of points still up for grabs. The Spaniard later said told F1.com, “Everyone fights with the weapons they have at their disposal; we will not manage to turn our car into the quickest of the pack with a wave of a magic wand, but we will counter their performance with the perfection of our team.” The fight is still on.
Back to Front
If Kimi was the coolest man on track, The Finger was definitely the luckiest and the quickest. His weekend did start in an ominous fashion, as Vettel pulled over on the track at the end of Qualifying 3. His car did not have sufficient fuel on-board to comply with the rules. So Vettel was demoted from 3rd to the pit lane. He started well, but ended up having a tête-à-tête with Bruno Senna, then dropped back again, after a brush with Daniel Ricciardo while the safety car was out. But the Finger recovered…and how! He climbed his way to the top. Lady Luck smiled too, as a series of retirements and the safety car added to his fortune. It was enough for Vettel to make his way to 4th and hound Jenson Button – the lone McLaren on track. The to-and-fro, their ballet of overtaking and then some was music and made the race extra special. But the Red Bull was just too quick. Vettel passed Button, grabbed 3rd and a spot in the podium. I sighed, but accept that he ran this race exceptionally well.
Bruno Senna has had two exceptional races, the Valtteri Bottas threat notwithstanding. He survived the initial clash with Vettel and Hulkenberg. He fell back, but fought his way to the top – at one point running at 5th. He ended the race at the 8th spot, while Pastor Maldonado finished at 5th. Bruno later said, “It was a very tough weekend, but it had a sweet taste in the end. I had a good start, getting myself into a good position for Turn 1, but then a few cars tangled ahead and hit me. I had to start from zero again, but I kept my cool. There was a lot going on, but we had good pace when we needed it, and scored some solid points for the team. It is what we are here for and we never give up.”
Crash, Bang, Boom
I must mention the scary accidents that left me with a pounding heart. There was Nico Rosberg, who flew over Narain Karthikeyan as the HRT driver slowed down when he lost hydraulic pressure in his car. Then there was Mark Webber. He first had a half-spin while trying to get past Maldonado, then a face-off with Felipe Massa, which left the Brazilian spinning. The final nail on the Red Bull car was Webber’s run-in with a spinning Romain Grosjean. In the Giraffe’s defence (no, it wasn’t his fault this time), an eager Sergio Perez tried to get past Paul Di Resta and Grosjean, hitting the Frenchman in the process. Checo served a 10 second stop-and-go penalty as a result, and ended the race at 15th.
Now, are you one of those people who decided it was going to be Vettel all the way? Think again. The Championship is wide open. This time, the circus makes its ways to the American shores and Texas. What will this race bring, I wonder? The cards are still up in the air.