x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Here's how the race was won

Sebastian Vettel claimed the inaugural Abu Dhabi GP for Red Bull-Renault last night. The German triumphed by 17.8 seconds from teammate Mark Webber with world champion Jenson Button of Brawn sharing the podium.

Brawn's Jenson Button tried his best to overtake Red Bull's Mark Webber on the final lap for second place at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Brawn's Jenson Button tried his best to overtake Red Bull's Mark Webber on the final lap for second place at the Yas Marina Circuit.

If Hamilton is to make his strategy work he needs to convert his lead at the start and that is exactly what he does as the rest of the field tentatively tackle the first turn. A poor entry into turn six has the second-placed Vettel looking to go around the outside of Hamilton as they prepare to enter the long straight. Hamilton makes full use of his Kers button to pull away on the 1.2km straight and holds Vettel off, with the second Red Bull of Webber running in third place.

Replays show that Rubens Barrichello's Brawn car clipped his front wing against the back of Webber's car, but is able to carry on without repair. He is passed by teammate Jenson Button, and his chances of gaining a podium finish are hurt as he drops to fifth. Jarno Trulli's Toyota and Robert Kubica's BMW duel over sixth, and Kubica takes the place at turn 12. Heikki Kovalainen makes up the most ground thanks to his McLaren's Kers power to move up to 13th from 18th.

A key period in the race as McLaren and Hamilton know they need to increase the gap on Vettel as they are stopping for fuel before him. On the team radio, Hamilton is told that Vettel is quicker in the first and third sectors of the lap, while Hamilton is half a second faster in the middle split. Two laps later Hamilton runs wide at turn 17, losing a second to Vettel in the process. More interestingly, after a slow start, Webber is the fastest man on the circuit and begins catching up on the front two - though he is still three seconds adrift entering the pit stop window.

Hamilton makes his first pit stop and had managed to open up only a 1.6-second lead over Vettel despite the clear advantage that he has on the long straights. He returns to the track from the pit lane in clear air but, on heavy fuel, is slower than he was in the opening stint. Vettel, now in the open, immediately sets a fastest lap as he looks to leapfrog the McLaren before he makes his own pit stop. Webber pits at the end of the following lap but cannot beat Hamilton out and remains effectively third.

Vettel, who had stuck incredibly closely to Hamilton despite his lack of speed on the straight, makes his first pit stop. There are bizarre scenes in front of him as Jaime Alguersuari gets his pit garages mixed up and the Toro Rosso driver tries to stop in the Red Bull pit. He is furiously waved through by the Red Bull mechanics who keep their cool and turn around Vettel in eight seconds. The German joins ahead of Hamilton and in the lead. It is not such good news for Alguersuari who runs out of fuel on the track and is the first retirement of the race.

Hamilton has been warned over the team radio that there was a right rear brake problem on his car, and smoke can be seen coming from the right rear wheel under braking. He runs off the track at turn 17 and is advised by the team to retire the car as they are concerned it is the only the brake pad on that section of the car that had weakened and are not prepared to risk a high-speed brake failure. The Briton drives forlornly back to the pit lane and is the second retirement of the race. It is the first time in his career that a mechanical failure has forced him out.

Kamui Kobayashi had been looking to impress for Toyota as he tries to get a permanent race seat for 2010 and he does his cause no harm with an excellent first stint as he pits from third. He superbly passes Button at turn eight on lap 18 and pulls out six seconds on the British driver. The Japanese is the fastest driver on the track for a period as he runs on a light fuel load. Though he loses pace after his sole pit stop he will finish sixth eventually, superbly beating teammate Jarno Trulli by a place.

Button is warned over his pit radio that he needs to raise his speed if he is to beat Kobayashi and also stave off the challenge of his teammate Barrichello, who is only a second behind him in fourth place.The words have a positive effect as Button immediately finds around half a second in the lap and in the following laps opens up a four- second lead on Barrichello, while lapping more than a second faster than the load-heavy Kobayashi. Barrichello falls back and settles for fourth ahead of BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.

The final pit stops for the front runners are completed without any incident. Vettel returns to the track in front with a 16-second lead over Webber, while Button's improved pace has ensured he retains third position which leaves him on course to gain only his second podium finish since the Turkish Grand Prix back in June. Further back, Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso and Kubica's BMW touch at the exit of turn eight as they fight for eighth, with the latter coming off worse as he spins and is overtaken by Nico Rosberg's Williams in the process.

Vettel cruises home for his fourth win of the season which also seals a second place in the world championship. But the action is behind him as Webber and Button go wheel-to-wheel as the Brawn car reels in the Australian in the closing laps. Button gets alongside on both long straights but Webber manages to hold his own and ensures Red Bull have their fourth one-two finish of what has been their most successful season.

gcaycill@thenational.ae