Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Red Bull have the run of Yas Marina - Abu Dhabi 2013 // A look at team performance from the weekend's racing action

Published by Christine

Webber in the Red Bull garage
Credit: Mason/Getty

I don't think anyone was anticipating a fantastic race in Abu Dhabi. Although there is a brief fascination with the lowering sun and sometimes the brightly lit hotel, the race track itself doesn't deliver. Given the way the latter half of the 2013 season, it was no surprise to find Red Bull dominating the entire weekend, and even with the championship battles ongoing behind, the two hour race on Sunday struggled to remain interesting.

Nevertheless, the season is almost over and there are points still being fought for. Here's how the teams fared under the setting sun and subsequent floodlights at Yas Marina.

Red Bull

Driver positions - Red Bull
DriverQualifyingRace
S Vettel2nd1st
M Webber1st2nd

At this point, there is very little to say about Red Bull’s continuing show of dominance. In Abu Dhabi, the only things of note were Vettel not quite being able to take pole position, Webber’s poor start handing the win back to his teammate, and the sizeable lead that Sebastian managed to build up.

Vettel made no excuses for the tenth of a second between the two cars on Saturday, presumably confident of his ability to get ahead during the race. It was off the line that Webber got his traditionally poor start, and lost out to both Vettel and the following Rosberg. He managed to regain the position over the Mercedes, but out front, Sebastian was untouchable.

At one point, he had a 40 second lead over the rest of the field, almost enough for two pit stops. By the time he took the chequered flag, he was thirty seconds ahead of second place Webber. The pace was so good in that car, that Sebastian himself labelled it “scary.” And Webber says the start was poor but didn’t make all that much difference in the end, as Vettel was just in “a different category.” Both drivers did celebratory donuts after the race, too, and this time they escaped fines.

Mercedes

Driver positions - Mercedes
DriverQualifyingRace
N Rosberg3rd3rd
L Hamilton4th7th

Lewis Hamilton had several scares throughout the weekend. During qualifying, he had to pull to a halt in the top-ten shootout, his car breaking a wishbone over the kerbs. He was still fast enough for fourth place, despite only getting one lap in. Whilst sitting on the grid ahead of the race, the Mercedes mechanics were suddenly flustering at the rear of the car – a problem with the brakes that meant they had to be stripped and put back together again. When the race actually began, Hamilton got away from the line with no problem but it was downhill from there. He dropped three places overall, struggled with grip and found the circuit impossible for overtaking.

On the flip side, Nico Rosberg said he went into qualifying hoping to be best of the rest, and he was just that. The Mercedes duo locked out the second row of the grid, and from there, Nico was able to surge past Webber off the line. He lost the position as their strategies unfolded, but still picked up a podium place. He looked beetroot red on the podium after a hot and difficult race, but he had a beaming smile as he picked up the trophy.

The team’s double points finish meant they could extend their lead over Ferrari in the constructor’s championship, their eyes firmly on the second place prize. With only two races left, being in the best of the rest position Nico wanted is a very achievable target.

The guys worked so hard this weekend to get my car repaired and ready for the race so it's frustrating not to have delivered a better performance for them. A massive thank you to everyone for their efforts and it's great that we have extended our lead for P2 in the constructors' championship. All points count but Nico did a really good job today to maximise the potential of the car.

- Lewis Hamilton, F1 driver, Mercedes

Lotus

Driver positions - Lotus
DriverQualifyingRace
K Räikkönen5thDNF
R Grosjean7th4th

Lotus had their weekend overshadowed by Kimi’s late arrival and early exit. The Finn didn’t appear at the track on media day, and there was plenty of speculation over whether he would turn up at all. He was there, in body if not in spirit, to secure a good grid position on Saturday. Unfortunately, the car failed subsequent floor tests and Kimi was relegated to the back of the field.

His strategists opted not to start him from the pit lane, believing that Kimi had the goods to keep his nose clean. This didn’t work out at all well, as it was on the first corner that Räikkönen and a Caterham came together, knocking Kimi out of the race. He stayed long enough to answer a few media questions, and then climbed into a car and disappeared from the track. Regardless of whether he stays or goes before the season is out, it’s an unhappy few weeks for the Räikkönen/Lotus partnership.

Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean is going from strength to strength. Although outqualified by his teammate on Saturday, he was promoted to sixth on the grid and had a brilliant start to move forward to fourth. Considering that race starts have been a weakness, he managed to get into fourth, and keep his head down to retain it to the end of the race. Another solid points finish, just as his team are considering their driver lineup for next year.

Ferrari

Driver positions - Ferrari
DriverQualifyingRace
F Alonso11th5th
F Massa8th8th

The Ferrari car didn’t seem to have the pace around the Yas Marina track, but it was still a surprise to see Fernando Alonso fail to reach the top ten on Saturday. He qualified in eleventh place, simply saying he didn’t get a clean lap. Felipe Massa did a little better, getting eighth on Saturday, which turned in to seventh on the grid.

It was strategy that was Massa’s downfall on race day, and the Brazilian has laid the blame squarely at the pit wall for his failure to make any progress by the time he reached the chequered flag. He’d been in front of Alonso until the second round of pit stops, where Massa says he was expecting the soft compound but ended up with the mediums. He admits, however: “I didn’t discuss it.” You know what they say about assuming things.

Meanwhile, Alonso did improve on his starting position, but was the subject of a stewards inquiry after a controversial pit exit. Side by side with Jean-Éric Vergne, the Ferrari was squeezed off track but Alonso didn’t lift off, and took the position. He also took the kerbs at speed, and came down with quite a bump – he was taken to hospital post-race for precautionary checks but was declared fit. The stewards took no action over the incident, meaning his fifth place stands – but the Mercedes podium allowed their rivals to pull away in the championship.

We still have two races to go and I’m much more confident we can re-attack Mercedes and Lotus. We know that we have a lack of traction and downforce in certain corners and we need to manage the set-up of the car in order to improve it.

- Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal, Ferrari

Force India

Driver positions - Force India
DriverQualifyingRace
P Di Resta12th6th
A Sutil18th10th

Force India had a split performance on Saturday, with Paul di Resta narrowly missing out on the top ten after a good performance in the second session. Adrian Sutil, however, dropped out in Q1, after being unable to get comfortable in the car, and struggling with the brakes. Unfortunately, both positions were behind their respective Sauber rivals, and thus the pressure was on to get a good race result.

The team were one of many trying to make a one stop strategy work on Sunday, but they were the only ones who actually managed the strategy correctly. Adrian Sutil was one of the last drivers to come in for his stop, allowing him to be up and mixing it with the race leaders for a good portion of the first half of the race. He dropped back after his stop and eventually wound up tenth, picking up a single point.

Di Resta also stopped just once, and managed to improve on his grid position to fight for the strong mid-points positions. He had to defend from both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, unable to stop the former from getting past, but keeping the latter behind him. Di Resta crossed the line in sixth place, and was very happy with his second points finish in a row. The result also allowed Force India to pull away from Sauber in the constructor’s championship, something that is increasingly important to them with just two races left to go.

McLaren

Driver positions - McLaren
DriverQualifyingRace
J Button13th12th
S Pérez9th9th

Jenson Button didn't have the best of qualifying sessions, or as he called it, a "puzzling" session. The Brit dropped out in Q3, and placed the blame with the lowering temperatures adversely affecting the tyres. Sergio Pérez managed to get through to the top ten, however, and ended up starting the race from eighth on the grid.

At the first corner, Button's woes continued. He locked up, couldn't get the car slowed down in time, and ended up bashing into the rear of Paul di Resta's Force India. Front wing damage followed, and that wrecked the balance of the car and any hopes of improvement. Button was lucky, really, to retain twelfth - the position he started from when the lights went out.

Pérez wasn't having a much better time of things, although he managed to avoid any contact. He did suffer from less traction than expected, and wasn't happy with the speed the tyres degraded at. He actually lost a place from where he started, but did squeeze into the points to bring something home for McLaren from a difficult weekend.

Williams

Driver positions - Williams
DriverQualifyingRace
P Maldonado15th11th
V Bottas16th15th

Both the Williams drivers blame traffic for holding them up in qualifying, but their positions relative to each other would suggest that was about the right pace for the car. Bottas dropped way back at the start of the race, being swamped by both the Caterham drivers on a preferable tyre compound to the Williams. He then had to fight his way back, but only got as far as finishing the race where he started.

Maldonado was upset by yet more traffic after the second round of pit stops, but took heart from increased pace and the benefits their new aero package has given them. Rumour has it, Williams were practicing with a configuration for next year, taking bits and pieces off the car that will be banned in 2014. The car was faster without them, so they ran it for the full weekend – which bodes well for next year, but makes you wonder what they’ve been playing at in 2013.

Unfortunately, we were a bit limited with our pitstops again, due to our modified procedures to ensure safety, so we weren't able to jump everyone we had hoped.

- Xevi Pujolar, Chief Race Engineer, Williams

Sauber

Driver positions - Sauber
DriverQualifyingRace
N Hülkenberg6th14th
E Gutiérrez17th13th

Sauber have been ominous in their stalking of Force India in the team standings, but this weekend their run of good fortune came to an end. Nico Hülkenberg was on top form in qualifying again, even he was surprised to be quite so high up. Esteban Gutiérrez was one of the non-backmarker drivers to be knocked out in Q1, the only saving grace being that he ended up ahead of Adrian Sutil.

I don’t think there’s been a more clear example of one driver flattering the car, and one underperforming, as during the race on Sunday their positions levelled out. Gutiérrez finished 13th, improving from his starting position but blaming the strategy for not allowing any more progress through the field.

Hülkenberg ended up 14th, behind his teammate because of a drive through penalty for an unsafe release. Even without that, the German wasn’t happy with the balance of the car, admitting that all the confidence he’d felt in qualifying was knocked out of him on the very first lap. In the end, Sauber finished solidly in the mid-field, but lost out in the battle with Force India. Their rivals are still not mathematically out of reach, but it will need to be a couple of very strong races to finish the season with.

Toro Rosso

Driver positions - Toro Rosso
DriverQualifyingRace
JE Vergne14th17th
D Ricciardo10th16th

The Toro Rosso qualifying performance is as unpredictable as it gets – some races they are comfortably in the top ten, at other tracks they are languishing in the bottom six. In Abu Dhabi, they were somewhere in between. Daniel Ricciardo managed to get into Q3, but made it no further than tenth. Vergne also had a couple of good sessions to secure the 14th fastest time of Q2, missing out on the top ten due to a lockup during his flying lap.

In the race, both drivers dropped back. Ricciardo puts it down to a bad start, from which he could never recover. Vergne blames the strategy switch – they had originally been going for a two-stop, but then decided to gamble for a one-stop. Unfortunately, the first pit stop came too early and so the tyres were having none of it as the laps racked up.

Vergne was also the other party in the pit-lane exit incident with Alonso, but he praises the Spaniard’s actions. “I knew I might be racing against him but as I didn’t see him on the left, I thought he was in front of me… It was high-speed and what he did was right… otherwise we would have had an accident.”

Caterham

Driver positions - Caterham
DriverQualifyingRace
C Pic21st19th
G Van der Garde19th18th

Van der Garde was the Caterham driver involved in the first lap collision with Kimi Räikkönen, and whilst perhaps blamed for robbing us of a great fight through the field, Giedo says it was not his fault. “I was in the pack and turned in for the first corner and got hit.” Giedo was the fastest of the backmarker drivers during qualifying, and he lined up on the grid 18th – a position he was able to retain until the end of the race.

Pic couldn’t find any balance in the car, and at one point his team were instructing him to stop braking quite so aggressively, and basically to be more like his teammate. After the collision at the beginning, Giedo was back behind Pic, but team orders came in to play to allow the positions to be reversed. Pic didn’t seem too happy about it, arguing back to the pit wall, but once ahead, Giedo left Charles for dust. By the end of the race, Giedo was on cloud nine whilst Pic was left frustrated at the difficult-to-handle car.

Marussia

Driver positions - Marussia
DriverQualifyingRace
J Bianchi20th20th
M Chilton22nd21st

Jules Bianchi was immediately on the back foot, after brushing the barriers during practice and curtailing his running. The damage was limited to the gearbox, which required a change, in turn forcing a five place grid drop – the actual drop was only one place, thanks to Kimi’s exclusion, but it still put Jules last of the backmarkers.

Meanwhile, Max Chilton had a DRS issue in qualifying that saw him set the slowest lap of the first session. It wasn’t long in the race that he was back behind his teammate, either, but neither driver was happy with the balance of the car, nor could they find the pace they were expecting. Max does take solace in the fact he’s finished all 17 races so far, which is impressive considering the back is usually where the chaos happens.

All content in the series Abu Dhabi 2013