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Raikkonen wins as Vettel clings on to title lead

Kimi Raikkonen driving his Lotus at the Yas Marina circuit, yesterday.

Kimi Raikkonen driving his Lotus at the Yas Marina circuit, yesterday.

Kimi Raikkonen claimed his first win for three yearsyesterday as Sebastian Vettel clung on to his championshiplead by finishing third in a dramatic Abu Dhabi GP.

The 33-year-old Kimi Raikkonen, who returned to Formula One this season after a two-year absence, grabbed his triumph after early leader Lewis Hamilton was forced into retirement by a power failure on his McLaren car.

Kimi Raikkonen won convincingly ahead of Fernando Alonso, of Ferrari, who pushed hard for victory in the closing laps of an extraordinary 55-lap contest that included two prolonged safety car periods and a rash of major accidents.

Defending champion and series leader Sebastian Vettel started from the pit lane in his Red Bull and produced one of the greatest drives of his career to finish third.

Vettel’s drive, including clocking a fastest lap, kept him 10 points ahead of Alonso in the title race with two grands prix remaining.

The German leads on 255 points with Alonso on 245 and Raikkonen on 198.

This was Raikkonen’s first win since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix and his 19th career win.

He is the eighth different victor of the season and he gave the Lotus name a victory for the first time since Ayrton Senna won for the original Lotus team in the United States in 1987.

On a hot afternoon, Hamilton made a near-perfect start to pull away from his 25th pole position and into a clear lead.

Behind him, Raikkonen enjoyed a fast getaway and seized second ahead of a slow-starting Mark Webber.

Alonso sized up Webber and made his pass on the second straight after a dramatic wheel-to-wheel tussle through turn eight.

On lap nine Nico Rosberg ran into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s Hispania car and flipped into an airborne ride across the Indian’s car and over his head at more than 300 kph.

He slid heavily into the barriers and triggered the introduction of a safety car for six laps during which Vettel, having risen to 14th, ran too close to Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso and swerved wide, hit a bollard and almost hit the barriers.

He pitted on lap 13, rejoining 22nd to endure a close scrap with Romain Grosjean’s Lotus.

If it appeared to be ill-fortune for Vettel, it was not as this early stop enabled him to take full advantage as the race unfolded.

Hamilton’s drive ended on lap 20 when his McLaren lost all power. He pulled up, retiring from the lead for the second time in six races. It was his fifth ‘did not finish’ of a frustrating year.

Hamilton’s demise left Raikkonen in the lead while behind Vettel had climbed into the points ahead of the midway pit stops.

As Felipe Massa, Webber and Raikkonen made their stops, Vettel rose to second, taking full advantage of his luck.

As Vettel struggled on soft tyres, his team chose to call him in on lap 38 for a pit stop that saw him rejoin fourth ahead of a multi-car battle for fifth that exploded into another multiple collision on lap 39.

After a chain of minor incidents, Sergio Perez crashed his Sauber into Grosjean’s Lotus and, as they spun across the track, Webber was trapped in the carnage. He hit the Frenchman’s Lotus and was forced out with Grosjean.

All of this required another safety car intervention with Raikkonen in front ahead of Alonso, Jenson Button and Vettel as the teams recalculated strategy, possible tactics and prospects.

After four laps, they resumed with Raikkonen re-seizing control to lead by two seconds and Vettel challenging Button for third with 10 laps to go before passing him on lap 53.

Alonso, in a final push, closed to within striking distance of Raikkonen, but the Lotus man clung on in the final two laps to secure victory.

Abu Dhabi GP result

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) - 1h45m58.667s
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) at 0.852s
3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) - 4.163
4. Jenson Button (McLaren) - 7.787
5. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) - 13.007
6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) - 20.076
7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) - 22.896
8. Bruno Senna (Williams) - 23.542
9. Paul di Resta (Force India) - 24.160
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) - 27.463
11. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) - 28.075
12. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) - 34.906
13. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) - 47.764
14. Timo Glock (Marussia) - 56.473
15. Sergio Perez (Sauber) - 56.768
16. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham) - 1:04.595
17. Pedro de la Rosa (HRT) - 1:11.778

Retirements
Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) - 1st lap
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) - 8th lap
Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) - 8th lap
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) - 20th lap
Mark Webber (Red Bull) - 38th lap
Romain Grosjean (Lotus) - 38th lap
Charles Pic (Marussia) - 42th lap

Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel – 1:43.964.
Next race: United States – November 18.

Drivers’ standings
1. Vettel (GER) 255, 2. Alonso (ESP) 245, 3. Raikkonen (FIN) 198, 4. Webber (AUS) 167, 5. Hamilton (GBR) 165, 6. Button (GBR) 153, 7. Massa (BRA) 95, 8. Rosberg (GER) 93, 9. Grosjean (FRA) 90, 10. Perez (MEX) 66, 11. Kobayashi (JPN) 58, 12. Hulkenberg (GER) 49, 13. Di Resta (GBR) 46, 14. Maldonado (VEN) 43, 15. Schumacher (GER) 43, 16. Senna (BRA) 30, 17. Vergne (FRA) 12, 18. Ricciardo (AUS) 10.

Constructors
1. Red Bull 422, 2. Ferrari 340, 3. McLaren 318, 4. Lotus 288, 5. Mercedes 136, 6. Sauber 124, 7. Force India 95, 8. Williams 73, 9. Toro Rosso 22.

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