Winning is becoming more than just a habit for Sebastian Vettel. Having dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the start to take a seventh consecutive victory by more than half a minute from his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, the German now has his sights set on the double world champion Alberto Ascari’s record of nine straight wins for Ferrari between the 1952 and 1953 seasons.
This time, the newly crowned champion got it all done at the start. Webber got away well from pole position, as did Lewis Hamilton from fourth, but the Englishman’s chances were doomed from the moment the Australian moved left to block his attempt to nose down the inside into the first corner. As Vettel ran round the outside of Webber to snatch the lead, Nico Rosberg was able to follow through in the second Mercedes to take second, as Romain Grosjean also got a slingshot on Hamilton to push him down to fifth. For a moment that became sixth when Nico Hulkenberg also squeezed ahead in the Sauber, before Hamilton retaliated. He had problems with the rear brakes on his Mercedes heading to the grid and would have an unhappy race.
By the 14th lap, TV cameras caught Kimi Raikkonen sneaking into a hire car and leaving the circuit like a guilty schoolboy bunking off school. He had been put to the back of the grid from fifth after a technical infringement, and the Finn’s race ended ignominiously on the opening lap after a brush with Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham. Last year’s winner clearly saw no point in hanging around.
Webber regained his momentum by the 20th lap as he overtook Rosberg, but by then Vettel was long gone. Fernando Alonso bullied through to a gritty fifth, but no action was taken against the Spaniard for exceeding track limits as he rejoined from the pits ahead of the battling Jean-Eric Vergne and Felipe Massa.
Where Alonso had been able to overtake Scotsman Paul di Resta, Hamilton was unable to do so and came home in seventh place. “Same old different day,” the Brit said. “It can’t be other people’s fault. Nico’s been getting great points for the team. I just need to work harder to try to do the same.”
Vettel beamed: “This was incredible! But there’s not much more to say, other than that the massive gaps were a big surprise. It was great to have my mum and dad here. That means a lot. I want to dedicate this win to them.”