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Winners and Losers: Abu Dhabi GP Sunday 23rd November 2014


Lewis Hamilton finally achieved the points difference that all his 2014 performances have justified…

Star of the Race
Felipe Massa, Williams, 2nd
As Rob Smedley said after the race, “not bad for an old guy”. Given how far behind Williams have been behind the Silver Arrows in the last few races, this was a real star turn from Felipe. And what made it really close at the end of the race was Felipe’s ability to preserve his Soft tyres in the middle stint, so that he could switch back to the SuperSofts at the end. Had he not run so long, or preserved his tyres so well, then he would have been back onto the Softs and it would have been a cruise to the line for Lewis. As it was, Felipe made the ‘World Champion elect’ work for it.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 12: Jean Eric-Vergne, Toro Rosso, and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
This was a score draw in terms of overtaking, Daniel Ricciardo, starting from the pitlane, was on a charge through the field and it looked like a formality that he would get past the Toro Rosso as he took a DRS tow down the second Yas Marina straight and dived past into Turn 11. Jean-Eric had other ideas and the cars went side by side through turns 11/12/13 but it still looked like Dan would claim the place… But just when you thought it was all over Jean-Eric dived up the inside into Turn 14 and Daniel had to drop back, respecting his team-mate of 2013. It was tough, close, contactless and perfect racing. And Dan got him the next lap anyway.

Winners
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
The thing about F1 is that it never turns out how you expect it to. After Brazil, the commonly held start prediction for this race was synchronized excellence and Nico shading it into Turn 1.  Lewis rated Abu Dhabi as his best start of the season and even though Yas Marina doesn’t particularly favour the polesitter, Lewis would have been P1 into Turn 1 at any circuit this year such was the difference in starts of the two.

From that point on it was a question of keeping out of DRS range and edging out a small buffer that might account for a slightly scuffed pit-stop.  Lewis also had the advantage in that he could stop first, and Nico had tyres from Q2 that were one lap older. The gap between the two went out from 1.7 seconds on Lap 6 to 2.7 seconds on Lap 9 with Lewis pitting on Lap 10.

Just before Nico’s ERS problem kicked in, the gap on Lap 21 was 2.9 seconds and on Lap 22 it was 2.7 seconds. Then it went out to 3.9 and 7.1 on Laps 23 & 24 as the changed brake retardation caught Rosberg out. From that point on it was a question of driving with eyes in the mirrors and on the pitboard.

In the end ‘double points’ didn’t spoil the title decider; in fact the gap of 67 points that it created between Lewis and Nico better reflected the season and the 11-5 score in race victories.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 3rd
Valtteri felt that his clutch wasn’t right on the parade lap, and the adjustment he made still didn’t fix it. As a result he got a poor start, slipped back early and spent the rest of the race returning to where he should have been. Shades of Ricciardo. Bottas finished his second season on the podium and was the major points earner in the team’s best season since 2003. Their P2 and P3 was the first time two Williams drivers had been on the podium since 2005 with Messrs Webber and Heidfeld.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 4th
Another star performance from Daniel who worked his way through the field with a lot more concerted effort than his departing team-mate.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 5th
Button got a great start and was P4 on the opening lap from P6 on the grid. If this is to be his last season it was a good way to finish.
 
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 6th
Sergio Perez, Force India, 7th
Nico’s best result in a while and Force India’s biggest ever points all in a single GP was not enough to overhaul Mclaren. But they certainly got the strategy right.

Losers

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 14th
Nico lost it the moment the red lights went out and he got too much wheelspin away from his gridbox. Hamilton, who’s been prone to nerves at title deciders, hooked up the most immaculate start and that was virtually it. Job done. It was disappointing to see Rosberg’s ERS pack up from Lap 23, and there might have been the slim chance we could have some fun had Rosberg been able to get in front of Hamilton at the second stops and back him up towards Felipe Massa, but it was the slimmest of the slim.

Nico was gracious in defeat and showed a sportsmanlike quality never witnessed before in intra-team title battles. And he does have the Pole trophy in recognition of the far superior job he’s done on Saturdays in 2014.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 9th
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 10th

Ferrari finished the race in the positions they qualified in on Saturday - that is before the race stewards found that Red Bull had put a cheeky, suspicious-looking leaf spring-like mounting on their front wing. Although Fernando looked to have the better of Jenson Button he slipped back down the field and his afternoon was summed up by his struggle to outpace the Caterham down the back straight just after he’d taken on new tyres. Raikkonen circulated behind him for most of the race having lost out at the start.

It seems slightly unfair that Marco Mattiacci should comment on Fernando’s lack of motivation in a season where he has comprehensively beaten his team-mate and after five years of constantly driving the nuts off any machine that was given to him. But then again there were rumours in the paddock that Marco’s tenure as team boss may well be sleeping with the fishes.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 11th>
Magnussen got mugged at the start and dropped behind both Force Indias which were starting on the same tyre (though it was surprising to see Perez keep his place after cutting a swathe across the run-off at Turns 5/6 and just filtering back in, hoping that no-one would notice). What was particularly surprising was Kevin’s lack of speed on the SuperSoft tyres that he fitted in the middle stint.

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, DNF
Pastor’s final Renault engine went bang going underneath the hotel, and it was interesting to see the Lotus mechanics reaction. Instead of grim resignation there were smiles and laughter. Clearly there was some major betting money going down on whether Pastor would get to the end of the race without a flame-out. Although they’re going to have to rebuild that for the test on Tuesday…

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Given that the organisers had arranged some pretty impressive support features, such as a Pharell Williams concert, the race is still hugely dependent on non-locals jetting in to watch. Now this may be true of the USGP when only 15% of the audience are made up of Texans, but the bulk of fans are from North America. There were many gaps in grandstands for this most important of races, so imagine how few they’d get if they ran it in the middle of the season, with music supplied by the Eddie Jordan band.

Media Watch
Suzi Perry “What a bone-tingling prospect this race is.”
Eddie Jordan “It’s fairy book stuff.”

Eddie Jordan “The first corner was a huge moment. It just lifted things off the top of his head.”

Suzi Perry commenting after Lee McKenzie’s interview with Fernando Alonso; “He looks more and more like a South American dictator every race. Do you think he’s growing that for Ron (Dennis)? He doesn’t like beards, does he.”

After Eddie Jordan was ‘flanned’ by two of his former Jordan employees now working for Mercedes, David Coulthard adroitly caught his glasses which were sent flying
David Coulthard Did you see my reactions there?”
Suzi PerryYou were like a cat. Like a Woo-Woo girl.”

Anrdew Davies