Lewis Hamilton has taken his third win of the season in Abu Dhabi using Pirelli’s P Zero tires, running a two-stop strategy with two stints on the P Zero Yellow soft tire followed by a single stint on the P Zero White medium. Hamilton claimed the 17th win of his career, having previously won in China and Germany this year.
A similar strategy was adopted by all of the top three finishers, while Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber tried a three-stop strategy, only switching to the harder tire with one lap to go. Force India driver Paul di Resta was the only finisher to go for a one-stop strategy, changing from medium to soft tires on lap 27 and then running 28 laps on the P Zero Yellow to the finish. The majority of competitors used a two-stop strategy over the 55 laps.
Hamilton took the lead on the first lap after newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel retired with damage to the rear of his car after his tire deflated on the opening lap. The cause of the sudden deflation is still being investigated by Pirelli’s engineers. This brings to an end Red Bull Racing’s run of 19 consecutive podium finishes, and it is also the first time in 19 races that Vettel has retired.
As usual, the Abu Dhabi race started at dusk and finished at night, with track temperatures stabilizing at around 82 degrees Fahrenheit towards the end of the race. This helped to extend the tire life, with the soft tires lasting around 25 laps and the medium compound for about 30 laps. The race was characterized by a fierce battle between Hamilton and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who moved from fifth to second on the opening lap. At the last round of pit stops, Alonso stayed out for two laps longer than Hamilton – which brought him close enough to try and pass. The Spaniard finished second, scoring his 10th podium of 2011 and his first in Abu Dhabi: the only current race where he has not been in the top three.
Despite starting at the back of the grid following mechanical problems during qualifying, Rubens Barrichello managed to climb up the field and finish 12th thanks to a two-stop strategy, starting on medium tires followed by two stints on softs. Kamui Kobayashi also scored points for Sauber for the first time in seven races with a similar strategy.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Together with Red Bull Racing, we’re still examining the remains of Sebastian Vettel’s tire in order to try and piece together what happened. It certainly seems to be a very unusual incident and we’ve already been to look at the place with Sebastian: there seems to be no reason that is immediately obvious and the set of tires was one that he had already used for qualifying. But until we know for sure, there’s no point in speculating. With the dropping temperatures, our soft and medium tires were faced with slightly different track conditions to normal, with different teams trying a very wide variety of strategies, from one to three stops. I’ve been told that last year there were just 11 overtaking maneuvers here, so this year certainly presented quite a contrast. Normally at this point we would be packing up to go home, but now we look forward to the young driver test later this week, where we will try out some of our 2012 range of tires for the first time.”
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