Motorsports Update – November 5, 2012
Next race: Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valencia, November 11
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Kimi Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso while Sebastian Vettel held on to his championship lead despite starting from the pit lane, finishing third.
In a thrilling, nail-biting, incident-packed race, Hamilton initially looked set to win. The McLaren driver led away from pole and, apart from a brief scare when he made a mistake while struggling to warm up his tyies in the early laps and had to fight off an attack from Raikkonen, appeared in control.
Hamilton was about a half a second a lap quicker than Raikkonen when his car ground to a halt on lap 20 of 55. The problem was later found to be a fuel-pump failure, continuing a dismal run of reliability from McLaren in recent races.
That left Raikkonen in the lead, and he appeared in control, edging away from Alonso, who had passed William’s Pastor Maldonado to take second place on the lap Hamilton retired.
Meanwhile, Vettel had been working his way through the field after starting from the pit lane following his disqualification from qualifying for not having enough fuel in his car to provide a sample.
The German damaged his front wing in a collision with Williams’s Bruno Senna but that barely impeded his progress through the backmarkers.
However, the safety car was then deployed following a frightening crash in which Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes was launched over the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT.
In the queue behind the safety car, Vettel misjudged the pace of Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso in front of him, had to take avoiding action and smashed into a trackside marker board.
The impact wrecked his front wing but actually worked to his advantage, as it forced the German into the pits for a new wing and he put on a new set of fresh tires.
He made superb use of these in the next few laps to climb up to seventh place by the time the leaders started to make their pit stops for fresh tires.
Those stops promoted Vettel to second place behind Raikkonen and Lotus believed Red Bull might be trying to get to the end of the race without stopping again.
Instead, Vettel pitted again on lap 37 for another set of tyres, rejoining fourth about 15 seconds behind the lead group of Raikkonen, Alonso and McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Two laps later, an incident between Sauber’s Sergio Perez, Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Red Bull’s Mark Webber brought out the safety car again and wiped out Vettel’s deficit.
It set up a thrilling climax to the race.
The race was restarted with 13 laps to go and as Raikkonen quickly built a three-second lead, Vettel immediately started to pressure Button for third.
Button appeared to have the Red Bull under control but then Vettel made a final push and managed to pass Button for third around the outside into Turn 11 and then taking the inside into Turn 12 on lap 52.
Meanwhile, with seven laps to go Alonso’s Ferrari began to come alive and he started closing in on Raikkonen in the lead. Alonso got the lead down to a second but Raikkonen just held on.
Maldonado took fifth ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, Senna, Force India’s Paul di Resta and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.
Note: the most entertaining part of the race may have been Raikkonen’s radio communication with his team – http://youtu.be/FrDDn8ZY9wk – which garnered a lot of chatter on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
AAA Texas 500, Texas Motor Speedway
Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski were nearing the start-finish line after a late restart at Texas when their cars suddenly slammed together.
Somehow, they managed to maintain control and prolong their battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Before their big bang inside the final 10 laps, Keselowski was coming up the track with Johnson on the outside. After the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet got loose, Johnson seemed to be charging ahead before they ricocheted off each other heading toward the front stretch. They stayed side-by-side into the next lap, and appeared to scrape each other again – and still had to get through another restart.
When there was a third restart in the last 20 laps, for a green-white-checkered finish, Johnson regained the lead for the seventh and last time to win from the pole for the second week in a row. He charged on the outside after some more bumping, clearing Keselowski on the backstretch with 1 1/2 laps left.
Kyle Busch, who led four times for 80 laps, finished third with a close-up view of Johnson and Keselowski. Matt Kenseth finished fourth, Tony Stewart fifth, followed by Clint Bowyer, who is 36 points back in third in the series standings.
Next race: Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 8-11
Sources: series websites, press releases and various independent motorsports websites