Vettel storms to podium finish from back of grid as Raikkonen wins in Abu Dhabi
15:33 GMT, 4 November 2012
Kimi Raikkonen scored his first Formula One victory for more than three years by taking the chequered flag at the end of an astonishing, incident-packed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As a name in Formula One – bearing in mind the team has gone through various guises and owners in recent times – this was Lotus' first triumph since the 1987 USA East Grand Prix in Detroit.
Raikkonen, who inherited the lead after McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire on lap 20 with an electrical failure on his McLaren, becomes the eighth different driver to win a race this year.
Balancing act: Kimi Raikkonen celebrates winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Three amigos: Raikkonen won from Fernando Alonso (left) and Sebastian Vettel (right)
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Result
1 Kimi Raikkonen
2 Fernando Alonso
3 Sebastian Vettel
4 Jenson Button
5 Pastor Maldonado
6 Kamui Kobayashi
7 Felipe Massa
8 Bruno Senna
9 Paul Di Resta
10 Daniel Ricciardo
Hot on Raikkonen's heels was Ferrari's
Fernando Alonso, who has only managed to cut the gap to title rival
Sebastian Vettel by three points to 10.
That was following a stunning drive from the pit lane to third by the 24-year-old German.
It was exhilarating stuff throughout the 55 laps, from the first corner, through two safety car sessions, to the end.
Messages to Raikkonen during the race were met with dismissive comments so typical of the Finn as at one stage he said: 'Don't worry, I know what I'm doing.'
Following his 19th career win, asked as to how he felt at triumphing in a race again, the 'Iceman' simply said: 'Not much really.'
Pressed for a response from David Coulthard, Raikkonen added: 'I'm very happy for the team. It's been a hard season, not an easy time, but hopefully this gives us more belief.
'I hope this can turn the tables and give us many more wins, if not this year then for next year.'
Main man: Vettel (right) came from the back of the grid to finish third
Second best: Alonso remains behind Vettel in the race for the drivers' title
Team principal Eric Boullier said after last Sunday's Indian Grand Prix that he felt the elusive win for his team would have to wait until next year.
But seven days later Boullier was ecstatic as he said: 'Oh my God! Those last few laps were the longest of my life.
'This means a lot. It's the reward for everybody at Enstone after a tough three years. I am very happy for everybody at the factory.
'We missed out at the start of the season, which was frustrating, so I'm relieved for everybody.'
Alonso was content with second, despite the proximity of Vettel, and said: 'I'm very happy. We were not super competitive this weekend.
Driving through the pack: Sebastian Vettel started at the back of the grid
'We had to fight through the laps, then we had a good strategy that gave us a chance for the victory, but second was the maximum.'
Vettel, who swore twice during his questioning, was initially asked whether he believed he could be on the podium after starting from the pitlane.
With a smile, he replied: 'Yes, I did to be honest with you.
'After the first couple of laps the target was drifting. I had a messy start and damaged the front wing.
'During the first safety car there was a big mistake from Daniel (Ricciardo), but after that it was either full attack or nothing.
Clash: Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta and Sauber's Sergio Perez touch wheels after the start of the race
'The second safety car helped, then I had a nice fight with Jenson. It was a thrilling grand prix, up and down all the time.'
Asked about being so close to now winning his third world title, he said: 'There are still two races to go.
'We saw how things can change yesterday (when he was penalised for a fuel irregularity). There was a chance we could screw it up, but we didn't do that.'
Lap one was one to forget for Force India as Nico Hulkenberg was involved in a turn-one collision with Williams' Bruno Senna.
With a broken front-right suspension Hulkenberg was immediately ruled out of the race, whilst the incident also hurt team-mate Paul Di Resta as he punctured a tyre and dropped to the back of the field.
It also resulted in Mercedes' Nico Rosberg requiring a new front wing, whilst the Lotus of Romain Grosjean was also forced to pit.
Off track: Nico Hulkenberg crashes with Bruno Senna
All that swiftly elevated Vettel up three positions, but approaching the turn at the end of the longest straight in F1 on the first lap, he lost the right front-wing endplate after being clipped by Senna.
That proved significant, for although he was able to continue, during a safety car period when Rosberg hit and flew over the slowing HRT of Narain Karthikeyan on lap nine, he was involved in a minor incident.
Running behind Toro Rosso's Ricciardo, Vettel was forced to brake sharply to avoid contact with the Australian down the straight, hitting a polystyrene 'DRS' sign and further damaging the front wing.
The team then decided immediately to change the wing, as well as switching him on to a fresh set of soft tyres, asking him to stretch them to breaking point with a possible 42-lap run.
As Vettel cut his way through the field, others fell by the wayside, initially Hamilton on lap 20 as an electrical failure saw him grind to a halt.
It meant for the second time in four years at this track, and second time in five races this season, Hamilton was forced to retire whilst leading.
Smash: Nico Rosberg flies over Karthikeyan's car in a spectacular crash
There was a consolation hug from team principal Martin Whitmarsh once Hamilton made his way back to the pit wall, but it will have been of little solace.
From a near-certain victory position, Hamilton then watched this crazy race continue to unfold, with the most of the action surrounding Red Bull's Mark Webber.
The Australian was involved in a turn 11 collision with Williams' Pastor Maldonado on lap 22, and then a few laps later with Felipe Massa in his Ferrari.
Despite the stewards investigating, with the four-man panel including British Racing Drivers' Club president Derek Warwick, they decided both were racing incidents that did not warrant penalty.
It was third time unlucky, however, for Webber on lap 39 as he was part of a four-way scrap for fifth involving Di Resta, Sauber's Sergio Perez, Grosjean and Webber.
Di Resta initially tussled with Perez, sending the Mexican off the track, but in returning, McLaren-bound Perez then collided with Grosjean who in turn struck Webber.
Off and running: Lewis Hamilton made an impressive start from pole position
Following another swift investigation from the stewards they decided to hand Perez a 10-second stop-go penalty for causing a collision and forcing another driver off track.
All that had come one lap before Red Bull decided Vettel did require another set of tyres, but bringing him out in clean air in fourth as he had climbed as high as second.
The Perez-Grosjean-Webber smash brought the safety car out for a second time, further aiding Vettel's cause because with three laps remaining he finally squeezed past Button to claim third.
Ahead of him, Alonso managed to get within a second of Raikkonen, but never close enough to make a pass, so settling for second.
Behind the leading quartet were Maldonado, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, Massa, Senna, Di Resta and Ricciardo.
As for the constructors' championship, with Ferrari collecting 24 points and Red Bull 15 from this race, the gap is now 82, with only 86 available.