Sebastian Vettel decimated his rivals at the Yas Marina Circuit to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver finishing over half a minute ahead of team-mate Mark Webber and third-placed Nico Rosberg.
In so doing, Vettel scored his seventh consecutive victory of the season to draw level with Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record with Ferrari.
Vettel, starting from second on the grid behind Webber, set up his 11th win of the year when the lights went out. Team-mate Webber made a poor getaway and Vettel leapt into the lead.
Nico Rosberg also passed Webber at the start but despite a good start the Mercedes driver presented little threat to Vettel in the first stint. In the first four laps, the Red Bull driver pulled out a three-second gap over his compatriot and by the time Rosberg made his first visit to the pit lane on lap 10, the gap had drifted out to 8.2 seconds.
Vettel’s utter domination of the race was then underlined when Webber passed Rosberg on lap 20. The champion elect crossed the line to start the next lap and a full 27 seconds elapsed before his team-mate began his own 21st tour.
For the Red Bull driver it was then simply a case of grinding through the remaining 34 laps until he could take the chequered flag, watch another record slide his way and, to the delight of the local fans, pitch his RB9 into a series of donuts, just as he had done in India last week.
Then the celebration has earned him a slap on the wrist and a financial penalty for his team from the stewards. This time though, Vettel was sure he would escape a visit to the officials’ office.
“I don’t think [it will be penalised] because this time I bought the car back, so it’s fine. As you can see it’s in parc fermé,” Vettel joked afterwards. “The car was absolutely brilliant. Not much more to say. I was flying at some stages. At least it felt like it. Massive gaps, a big surprise.”
Webber, meanwhile admitted that he had no response to the electric pace shown bv his team-mate.
“I think in the first stint I was just not strong enough and on the soft tyres Seb got a very good gap,” he said. “I had to reposition on the primes. So anyway, after that the race started pretty well for me but then Seb… he was gone. He was on another category out in front and I had to have a little battle with Nico for second.”
For Rosberg, third place was good reward, the result, in association with team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s seventh-place finish, lifting Mercedes further ahead of rivals Ferrari in the battle for second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Third place is good. The aim for the weekend was to be best of the rest behind the Red Bulls and that’s worked out,” he said. “I was very happy to hear that we took some more points off them again and that we’re edging away from them. That’s the most important thing for us at the moment – just to finish second in the Constructors’.”
Behind the front three, Romain Grosjean salvaged pride for Lotus by taking fourth place. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who had qualified fifth on Saturday, was sent to the back of the grid after qualifying after his car failed a left-hand side front floor deflector test and then at the start, the Finn collided with one of the Caterhams, a clash that ended Raikkonen’s race.
Fernando Alonso limited the damage with a fifth-place finish, though it was achieved controversially. The Spaniard made his second and final stop, for soft tyres, on lap 44. He emerged from the pit lane exit alongside a tight battle between Toro Rosso’ Jean-Eric Vergne in seventh and Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
Desperate to bypass both, Alonso aggressively overtook Vergne but was later placed under investigation for possibly exceeding the track limits in doing so. He later escaped sanction.
Behind Alonso, Force India’s Paul Di Resta made a one-stop strategy work to finish sixth, while Hamilton was seventh for Mercedes. Massa took eighth place and the final two points positions went to McLaren’s Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil in the second Force India.
2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Race Result
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 55 Winner 25
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 55 +30.8 secs 18
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 55 +33.6 secs 15
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 55 +34.8 secs 12
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 55 +67.1 secs 10
6 Paul di Resta Force India 55 +78.1 secs 8
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 55 +79.2 secs 6
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 55 +82.8 secs 4
9 Sergio Perez McLaren 55 +91.1 secs 2
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 55 +93.2 secs 1
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams 55 +95.9 secs
12 Jenson Button McLaren 55 + secs
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 55 + secs
14 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 54 +1 Lap
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 54 +1 Lap
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 54 +1 Lap
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 54 +1 Lap
18 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 54 +1 Lap
19 Charles Pic Caterham 54 +1 Lap
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia 53 +2 Laps
21 Max Chilton Marussia 53 +2 Laps
Ret Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 0 Accident