Both championships have been claimed this year, with Sebastian Vettel taking the Driver Championship and Infiniti Red Bull Racing the Constructor's. But there's no skunk rule in Formula One, so the last three races of the schedule are going on as scheduled.

Abu Dhabi was the latest venue, and what the Yas Marina Circuit has lacked in racing excitement, it has more than made up for in drama. It's where Lewis Hamilton always does well and should have won but for an engine blow-up. That lead to Kimi Räikkönen taking the first win of his return, and giving Lotus its first win. It's where a championship was decided when Fernando Alonso was stuck behind Vitaly Petrov and Timo Glock and couldn't put up a fight against Vettel. And this year, it was where Mark Webber again out-qualified his Red Bull teammate and grabbed pole, just three rounds away from retirement.

He was followed by Vettel, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the unstoppable Nico Hülkenberg in the first Sauber in fifth, Romain Grosjean in the first Lotus, Felipe Massa in the first Ferrari, Sergio Perez in the McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso and Alonso in the second Ferrari in tenth. Tenth.

If the field hadn't been told that mirages also appear at night, they learned as soon as the lights went out.


That's when Vettel took his funny car disguised as an RB9 and romped away from everyone on a 55-lap drag race, never giving up the lead even when he was in the pits. Webber got a decent start but couldn't get it up into second gear and lost out to Vettel by the first turn and Rosberg by the third. Once Vettel got out in clear air, the race was done. At one point, after most of the followers had come in for new tires, Vettel was lapping faster on his old soft tires than everyone else was on brand new mediums. Accumulating more than a second on the field on each lap, he got so far ahead the producers didn't even bother turning the cameras on him, and the only radio conversations he had were from his engineer telling him either 'keep it up' or 'hold this gap.' He won the race by 30 seconds.

Webber had a scare on Lap 5 when his KERS had to be reset, but otherwise he ran a perfectly smooth race after falling back to third at the start. His RB9 wasn't pumped full of the magic juice found in Vettel's car so he actually had to work, a reliable car allowing him to pass his way through the pack whenever he pitted and keep Rosberg at bay. He finished second.



Rosberg rounded out the podium, his drive also on the quiet side. Even though the Mercedes man got into second on the first lap, his car wasn't strong enough to stay in front of Webber's Red Bull – and the huge, double DRS zones didn't help – but it was he instead of teammate Hamilton that proved the Mercedes still has some bite at Yas Marina.

The secret of his third place was that he didn't get caught behind the Force Indias and the Saubers after the first round of pit stops. Paul di Resta stopped once, Adrian Sutil stopped twice but the second time wasn't until a few laps from the end, and Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutíerrez waited until late to make their stops. Add in the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, and those five would bottle up Massa, Alonso, Grosjean and Hamilton for the thick part of the race.



That did lead to some neat moves among the clotted bunch in the DRS zones, such as when Hamilton was trying to get around Sutil, and Massa, behind those two, sneaked up and passed both as they squabbled into the first chicane. Speaking of Massa, his performances of late led Sky commentator Martin Brundle to say that Ferrari should fire him at the beginning of every season and then hire him again at the end; the Brazilian out-qualified Alonso, forced Alonso to pass him on the track and would have finished higher than eighth if Ferrari had given him the soft compound tires he wanted for the final stint instead of mediums. He said he wanted softs and he refused to blame the team for the mistake, but it's hard to figure out how that got messed up.

Alonso, conversely, did get soft tires for the last ten laps of the race and was able to make his way up through the field because of it. His second pit stop could have been disastrous, when he returned to the track and had to avoid Vergne, but instead of backing off and rejoining behind the Toro Rosso he ran outside the track limits and got air over some curbs, then rejoined after he had passed Vergne. The stewards didn't issue any penalty, so Alonso kept his fifth place.



As for others we thought might make noise, last year's race winner Räikkönen was out of the race at the first corner. Disqualified from qualifying because the floor of his Lotus was beyond tolerances, he started from the back of the pack instead of pit lane. He dove into Turn 1 underneath a backmarker and made slight contact, breaking his steering. Last year's near-winner Hamilton couldn't find the speed in his Mercedes and spent his race stuck behind the Force Indias and Saubers. Hülkenberg was doing well for a solid top ten finish until he was busted for an unsafe release on his first pit stop and had to serve a drive-through penalty. He would finish 14th.



The final order was Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Grosjean, Alonso, di Resta, Hamilton, Massa, Perez and Sutil. In case you're still counting, the win is Vettel's seventh in a row and 11th of the season. It would be ridiculous to bet against him winning the last two races of the season, even if Red Bull dials the performance of his car back by half.

Mercedes gave itself a bit more buffer in the fight for second in the Constructor's Championship, going from a four-point differential to Ferrari in third to an eleven-point spread. Lotus is still lurking in fourth, 25 points behind the Scuderia; the team out-qualified ahead of both Ferraris, and if they can get both cars to finish that way then they'll be a threat to the team in scarlet.



The next round comes on our own home turf, from the Circuit of the Americas in Texas on November 17. We'll see you then.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 24 Comments
      Justin B.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Another 30+ second win for Vettel/RedBull. It drives me crazy when I hear Steve Matchett and the other two compare Vettel to Webber. They assume Vettel is driving an identical car to Webber and the reason for the 30+ second gap to second place is down to Vettel's talent alone. The only good thing about this race weekend is that we are yet another week closer to the start of the 2014 season. At least the regulation changes might give the other teams a chance at equaling RedBull but I fear that it still won't be enough.
        JanP
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Justin B.
        The car running in the front does have the advantage of running in free air and without traffic. It also controls the pace of the rest of the car effectively. These things help a lot the front running car.
        HH112233
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Justin B.
        You suggest that RedBull built a second car for Webber? Yes, that is absolutely plausible... Webber has the exact same car as Seb, the only difference being his setup preference. It is possible that the car in general doesn't suit Webbers driving style. But he should be able to adapt to it. That leaves only driver skill as the difference. I guess Vettel is just that much better. As far as the regulation change for next season goes. My take on this is, the other teams can't catch RedBull so the FIA had to help them artificially by rule changes. The same thing happened in 2005 when Schumachers dominance was broken. The FIA interfered with rule changed to favor other teams like Renault and Alonso at that time.
          davido
          • 1 Year Ago
          @HH112233
          Red Bull has certainly given Vettel a more reliable car this season.
          HH112233
          • 1 Year Ago
          @HH112233
          Sorry davido the post above was meant to respond to a post from you further down. Please disregard this one.
      ksrcm
      • 1 Year Ago
      We can complain all we want, but unless teams are given leeway in more aspects then just aerodynamics, whomever has the best aero dude will destroy the competition. I say - bring back any tire mfg that wants to participate and let teams chose what tire they want at given track - set speed limit (say 340 km/h) and let teams chose number of cylinders, displacement, feeding ... and so on - bring back special gasolines/fuels - I'm OK with no driver aids as it is now (no active suspension, no TC, no ABS ... and so on). Keep it that way.
        JanP
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ksrcm
        1. I agree on the tires. Currently, the tire manufacturer spends its effort on making a great "show" rather than actually making the cars go fast. 2. Completely free engine formula is too expensive. And besides, the last time, when the 3.5L naturally aspirated engines were introduced, eventually everyone gravitated towards the 10-cylinder engine. Those who did not start with a 10 cylinder engine were hurt for _years_. Ferrari had to endure almost a decade long dry spell because they went with V12 at first. Next, why set the speed limit??? What's the point? Besides, things like aero specs and the maximum engine RPM already restrict the maximum speed. 3. With all engines following a similar formula, I don't see why they need different types of fuel. 4. This sounds good to me too. The sports show emphasize drivers skill, not electronics prowess.
      HH112233
      • 1 Year Ago
      I thought it was a very exciting race. I am watching the races in the US (Hobbs / Matchett) but switched from local providers back to RTL Germany (Wasser / Danner) or ORF 1 (Alex Wurz). Specially Wurz seams to have a hight technical understanding and is very informative on a lot of subjects. Vettel had a outstanding performance again! I loved the doughnuts at the end and his response. I don't understand how Alonso got away without a penalty when he joined the race after his last pitstop. Besides being overly aggressive, he went of track with all wheels and gained an unfair advantage. Anyway, I am glad he was cleared after his hospital visit.
      Groagun
      • 1 Year Ago
      There has been a general consensus that F1 has been rather uninteresting over the past few years(decades) or so and I have not been one of those persons to believe such. This year however has been terrible! I have not cared at all and have made no effort what so ever to watch any of the races. I've seen two or three of the replays put on in the afternoon or late at night but quickly lose interest as I know the outcome anyways. I used to get up early to watch and enjoy not just the racing but the technical aspects detailed by the various broadcasters. Here we get the BBC live feed and I have to say, it's awful! Speed Channel(Vision) did a way better job even when broadcasting from a studio in the US and not at track side. Aside from the woes of the broadcast, the actual racing itself has sucked, plain and simple, and the technical aspects of the sport while still very interesting are talked about with less and less frequency all the time. I understand the need and system behind NOT talking about your companies technology before it goes into road going cars but it just seems almost too technical now. On the other hand, what if we went in the other direction and lifted all rules and let the teams run wild with their ideas: keeping safety standards intact, would we get a much more visible and interesting show? Just asking because I think something needs to be done to get my and people like me, interest back and watching.
        JanP
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Groagun
        People who claim that F1 was uninteresting for the last few years are the ones who didn't watch it to begin this. 2005-2008 were very good. 2009, 2010, and 2012 are some of the best in the last two decades. 2011 was a bit slow and "predictable" due to the dominant RB7 car. The 2013 was pretty good in the first half, but then all the teams except Red Bull stopped car development in the second half and let Red Bull run away with 7 victories in a row so far. Don't blame Red Bull for this. Blame Ferrari and McLaren.
          davido
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JanP
          The issue with respect to cars being able to follow each other through fast corners and attack has been a problem for a least a decade. So overtaking has been missing for a long time. The overtaking that takes place now is 'artificial' insofar as it is a product of DRS and degraded tires. Schumacher at the height of his dominance said as much, too much aero, not enough mechanical grip. It's astonishing how often you hear drivers talking go being trapped behind slower cars for long periods of time. In what other form of motor sport is it difficult for faster vehicles to pass slower ones? I've been a fan of F1 since 1962. But I've been done for this season since Monza, since the outcome has been clear. I'll give it a go in 2014 but if the new formula only gives us more of what we've had since the '09 season, one dominant car; I'm done.
          Groagun
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JanP
          I didn't blame any of the teams or drivers.
      The Law
      • 1 Year Ago
      Boring race, I fell asleep half way.
      Flat4
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yeah another win for the cheating Red Bull team.
        JanP
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Flat4
        Please grow up Flat4, and learn how to accept a loss. Who is cheating? RB9 is the most scrutinized race car in F1. The FIA ruled RB9 chassis to be legal before and after the Singapore GP. You have no idea what you're talking about. So far, one team was caught redhanded doing cheaty stuff, and wasn't RedBull. It was Mercedes with Pirelli secretly staging an illegal tire test.
      Georg
      • 1 Year Ago
      This years problem ...next years regulation changes... After realizing that they canĀ“t stop RedBull the other teams have given up to spend money into car development in this season and focus on the new car and rules next year. As a result we see the rest of the season the same technical advantage of RedBull over the other teams... Hardly to blame Vettel or RedBull for that.... they simple did the best job..
      rubley00
      • 1 Year Ago
      Boring, boring, boring
        rubley00
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rubley00
        Also: they need to change up how the money is distributed. Ferrari getting something like an extra $40 Million simply for having red cars with horses is ridiculous, and I'm not a Ferrari hater, I'd just like to see some competition. Bernie implores more teams to join, a few do, and they aren't allowed to test (massive disadvantage to teams with years of data), they get very little money because they're at the back scoring no points, and then Bernie complains that they're too slow and they should be left out of the races. The reason the NFL is exciting is parity, you never know who is going to win. F1 has no parity. The most well funded teams get the biggest payouts, and lower teams have zero chance of moving up. Next year's rule changes may shake things up for 1 season, and then it will be back to normal.
          JanP
          • 1 Year Ago
          @rubley00
          It's less than 40 million last I heard (I hope). But yeah, last year Ferrari got more money than RedBull. In the following seasons, there will be a special stash of money to be distributed among RedBull, McLaren, Mercedes, and Ferrari before the rest of money is divided among all teams accordinng to championship points. So it's not only Ferrari that takes part in this scheme. It's a bad practice IMHO.
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