x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Thrills and spills on an entertaining circuit in Abu Dhabi

'Boring' races are now firmly a thing of the past at Yas Marina.

Williams’ Bruno Senna, bottom right, and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, bottom left, collided at the start yesterday.
Williams’ Bruno Senna, bottom right, and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, bottom left, collided at the start yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Yas Marina Circuit has worked hard to shed a reputation, gained in its first year, as one of the least entertaining tracks in Formula One. Last night, the results of those efforts were on display.

The fourth Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proved not only to be the most exciting staged here but, according to the large majority of the paddock's well informed, the highlight of the 2012 season.

Overtaking, supposedly a fanciful phenomenon around Hermann Tilke's narrow design, was common, while two considerable crashes twice lured the safety car from its place in the pit lane.

The first incident, on lap nine, involved Nico Rosberg's Mercedes launching itself over the back of Narain Karthikeyan's HRT. Parts shattered as debris scattered across the track, the drivers fortunate to walk away unscathed.

"We had a problem and the steering of the car went rock solid, so I had to lift my foot off the accelerator," Karthikeyan said. "Unfortunately, Rosberg was coming from behind and couldn't avoid me."

In the ensuing queue behind the safety car, Sebastian Vettel, the world champion chasing precious points in the title race, miscalculated the pace of Daniel Ricciardo's trailing Toro Rosso and avoided the Australian only by smashing into a marker board.

The evening's second spectacular collision arrived in the floodlit lap 39. Sauber's Sergio Perez attempted to pass Paul di Resta, and after the Mexican ran wide he attempted to rejoin the tarmac in the space occupied by Lotus's Romain Grosjean. Mark Webber, the Red Bull racer, was an unlucky third party.

The latter two were eliminated; Perez, somehow, continued.

"We were strong, but never got free air and it's difficult here with traffic," Webber said. "We saw quite a few incidents where people were trying to pass."

Other skirmishes included Nico Hulkenburg and Bruno Senna at the start, where Grosjean and Rosberg also made contact and promptly headed for the pits. Hulkenburg retired, and presumably watched on television as Webber touched Pastor Maldonado's Williams on lap 23 to send his Red Bull into a spin.

Three loops later, Webber collided with Ferrari's Felipe Massa to twirl the Brazilian, who said over his radio: "Did you see what he did to me?"

Perhaps Lewis Hamilton, having viewed the majority of proceedings from the sidelines following his early retirement, summed it up best.

"An incredible race," said last year's winner. "Great to watch."

So much for boring, boring Yas Marina.

jmcauley@thenational.ae