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Next race: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Island
Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Pastor Maldonado back to his best // The Williams driver reminds us why we were so impressed with him early in the season


What on earth happened in the Middle East over the weekend? Just when everyone was sure we could crack predicting the 2012 season, we are dealt a hammer blow by one of the best races of the year. Obviously at the start of the season everyone was sure that the two best races of the year would be in Valencia and Abu Dhabi, but no one could have seen a race like that coming? It was complete chalk and cheese to India the week before. Seven retirees, five from accidents and 14 drivers were involved in contact that majorly affected their race - I’ve not seen stats like that for a long time.

Aggressive Maldonado puts in top drawer performance

I know that he won’t get all the credits, especially with a title race on but the Venezuelan put in a special drive and, in my view, his best of the season. As we have seen in the past few races, the field is spreading out, so I think that fifth place was the maximum that Pastor Maldonado could have achieved.

The thing that impressed me most about Maldonado’s drive was his aggressiveness. When he was trying to recover from all those incidents, he lost a lot of his pace and was far too cautious in wheel to wheel combat. But on Sunday, he hustled, put the car on the second row of the grid and drove his own race from there. Despite holding faster cars behind him, particularly with his KERS working intermittently, he was not a mobile chicane, and defended aggressively but fairly.

Maldonado to the max
Maldonado to the maxCredit: Charles Coates/LAT

The flashpoint in Maldonado’s race was his collision with Mark Webber. And, if I’m honest, he had every right to take that corner, rather than yield. Although he was the one to tip Webber into a spin, I think it was more down to Webber turning into the corner too early, rather than Maldonado not giving up on a position when he really should.

Other than that, he chose his battles well, conceding when he needed too, such as when Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso came barrelling past him. My only criticism of Maldonado is his start. Had he maintained his position ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and been second into turn one, it would have been interesting to see where he ended up. Although, with the pace Kimi had in the race, I have a feeling it wouldn’t have mattered.

Räikkönen... at last!

I had given up on Lotus winning a race this year but I was proven wrong as Kimi finally got his mojo back and produced a scintillating drive to take to the top step of the podium for the first time since the 2009 Belgian GP (I was there, I’m glad to say). The Flying Finn was in dominant mood from the moment Lewis Hamilton’s engine software went bang. He really did never look back, even when his team were instructing him to do so.

Lewis Hamilton should get lessons from Kimi in entertaining radio communication

Sunday was almost like a ‘best of’ of Kimi. There was his prodigious speed on show, of course, as he held off all challengers, bar Lewis Hamilton. But we also saw the side of Kimi that we all love. I think that Lewis Hamilton should get lessons from Kimi in entertaining radio communication because his messages on Sunday were sheer brilliance as he became more and more frustrated with the team trying to coach him to the victory. And that was just the broadcastable stuff!

All jokes aside, it was great to see Kimi back to his best and I hope that this gives the team, as well as Kimi, the boost they need to mount a fully fledged title challenge in 2013. I think we have all missed him fighting right at the sharp end.

Red mist aids Red Bull recovery

Vettel has his fair share of luck in Abu Dhabi
Credit: Vladimir Rys/Getty

After taking the big Saturday penalty in his stride on Saturday, Sebastian Vettel let his anger do the talking in the race. I couldn’t believe how badly Vettel was letting his frustration affect him in the opening 15 laps.

Despite fighting his way up to twelfth, he had damaged his front wing just by carelessly leaving his it where it didn’t belong in a battle with Bruno Senna, and then destroyed it when trying to avoid ‘teammate’ Daniel Ricciardo and hitting the DRS board instead. I never expected to see him so riled up after the incident, it reminded me of after his crash with Mark Webber in the 2010 Turkish GP where he just lost it.

But somehow, though a cocktail of anger, determination and a large spoonful of luck, he fought up into a respectable position. Then came the intrigue. Would he stop again or would he gamble on keeping his tyres and try to hold second place? It was an interesting debate and both sides had merit. Only Red Bull knew what they were to do. In the end, they went the safe route and timed the pit stop to perfection as Sebastian was able to pit and come out ahead of the Grosjean, Di Resta, Pérez, Webber scrap - something that he will be hugely thankful for now having seen how that ended up.

Yes he may have got lucky as many competitors were held up or eliminated before Vettel had to deal with them, but it was a champion’s drive and if he wins the title by 15 points or less, he will have truly earned his third title in a row.

Recovery drives earn respect

The final award goes to two men who wanted the same piece of tarmac going into the first corner. There was only one way it was going to end up and sure enough, both men’s races were compromised. As Paul di Resta fought with teammate Nico Hülkenberg, he helped cause a four car melee, puncturing his front right tyre and spinning Bruno Senna. Both men were at the back of the pack but fought their way up the grid, aided by a safety car.

It was another case of what might have been for Force India

Di Resta was running fifth until a great four corner battle with Grosjean and Pérez wiped out the Frenchman and Mark Webber, and forced him to pit for a third time. He recovered to tenth but it was another case of what might have been for Force India.

Bruno was slightly luckier. Having fought his way back up after his spin, he made his alternate strategy work and was a prime benefactor of the Di Resta/Pérez/Grosjean/Webber battle going sour. In the end he worked his way up to eighth, showing the Williams has found some of its genuine pace back, but it was one of a number of great drives ruined by careless driving throughout the race.

Podium becomes the naughty corner

I’m not a big fan of the new podium procedures but I think that after yesterday, I’ll be watching it a lot more often. It was pure comic genius. First was Kimi’s reluctance to spray the precious rose water (which ironically enough, doesn’t contain alcohol) as he took three huge gulps, something I bet would happen from the moment he won the race. The would-be alcohol in his system may have triggered what happened next as he swore to a huge live audience in a heavily religious country.

I’m certain that once Sebastian Vettel was determined to go one better. And he did! Twice! It was great to watch and I can’t imagine what was going through David Coulthard’s mind as he saw his protégé swear for a second time on the podium. But the unruly children had one more trick for the substitute teacher, as Vettel drenched him in the rose water. I can’t imagine DC up there again anytime soon but all I can say is after a race and post race-like that is, can we have some more please?

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F1 team launches
McLaren HondaOnline29 Jan
Sauber F1 TeamOnline30 Jan
Scuderia FerrariOnline30 Jan
Scuderia Toro RossoJerez, Spain31 Jan
Infiniti Red Bull RacingJerez, Spain1 Feb
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 TeamJerez, Spain1 Feb
Williams Martini RacingJerez, Spain1 Feb
Lotus F1 TeamJerez, Spain2 Feb
Sahara Force India F1 TeamOnline25 Feb
F1 test schedule
Circuito de JerezSpain1 Feb
Circuito de JerezSpain2 Feb
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Circuito de JerezSpain4 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain19 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain20 Feb
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Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain22 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain26 Feb
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Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain28 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain1 Mar

An Aside with Joe