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By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Sunday, November 4, 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton retired from today’s action-packed 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Kimi Raikkonen took victory for Lotus.
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire dramatically stopped at the Yas Marina Circuit after leading the race for the opening 19 laps.
Last year’s Abu Dhabi GP winner seemed on course for his 21st F1 race victory when his McLaren suddenly lost power on lap 20.
Hamilton was more than three seconds clear of Raikkonen’s Lotus at the time.
The pitwall told him over the radio: “Lewis, we’ve lost all power. We’re looking into what’s going on.”
“The engine just shut off,” replied Hamilton.
The McLaren response was: “I’m really sorry about that, Lewis. You were flying; that one was in the bag.”
Hamilton’s retirement handed Raikkonen the lead when a McLaren pole to flag victory looked on the cards.
Hamilton said afterwards: “I’m gutted. I’d had really good pace all weekend and I feel certain we could have won today.
“I had a fuel pressure problem – it was very sudden, I was just entering a corner and the car just died on me.”
He added: “The car was a dream to drive – I was cruising and still pulling away when I had my problem.”
Raikkonen eventually took the chequered flag for his first F1 victory since returning to the sport.
Title contender Fernando Alonso was second for Ferrari after closing right in on the Finnish driver in the closing laps.
F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel incredibly finished on the podium after starting the race from the pit lane. The German Red Bull driver took Jenson Button for a brilliant third place with just a few laps to go.
Button, Hamilton’s McLaren teammate, finished fourth following a fascinating Abu Dhabi race featuring two Safety Car periods and plenty of talking points.
Pastor Maldonado was fifth in the final results for Williams.
Watched by Olympic champion Jessica Ennis, Hamilton made a clean getaway from pole position to lead into the first corner, while front-row partner Mark Webber got bogged down and was soon overtaken by Raikkonen’s Lotus and then Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
However, Hamilton struggled to get heat into his tyres in the opening laps, locked up coming out of turn eight and soon had Raikkonen hot on his tail.
Meanwhile, reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel started from the pit lane and clawed his way up to 17th place in the opening three laps, although he reported damage to his front wing after being clipped by Bruno Senna.
By lap six, race leader Hamilton had pulled a couple of seconds clear of Raikkonen, with Pastor Maldonado in third place for Williams.
The McLaren pitwall told Lewis: “0.5s faster than Raikkonen on the last lap.”
The Safety Car was deployed on lap nine after Nico Rosberg spectacularly ploughed into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s car, which suddenly slowed, and the Mercedes GP was launched over the HRT Cosworth.
The McLaren pit told Lewis over the raido: “A lot of debris on track at Turns 15 and 16. Debris on outside of circuit, so make sure you use the inside line.”
The pitwall added: “There’ll be plenty of time after the Safety Car to build a gap. Your pace is excellent.”
Hamilton complained the Safety Car was going too slow, and the reply came: “Please use KERS while you’re behind the Safety Car to keep temperatures up.”
During the Safety Car period, Vettel swerved behind Ricciardo and smashed through a polystyrene marker sign on the side of the track, further damaging his front wing.
He entered the pits and the stop dropped him down the field again to 21st place.
Hamilton pulled clear again when the race re-started and within a lap was 1.5s ahead of Raikkonen.
He was told a lap later: “Gap to Raikkonen is 2.3s. You were 0.8s faster on that lap.
“You are the fastest car on-track.”
But with Hamilton in total command, his McLaren suddenly came to a halt on the side of the track with all power gone and Lewis had to walk back to the garage.
London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis tweeted: “Gutted for @LewisHamilton!”
The Safety Car was deployed for a second time after 39 laps when Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez were involved in a tussle, the incident forcing the Red Bull into the Lotus and off the track.
Sauber man Perez, who will replace Hamilton in the McLaren team next season, was hit with a stop-go penalty for causing the collision.
Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, felt victory was there for Hamilton to take – until his unfortunate retirement.
“From the point of view of sheer pace, Lewis totally dominated the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend – until loss of fuel pressure ended his race when he was serenely managing a comfortable lead,” said Whitmarsh.
“Until that point, he’d had the race in the bag, and it goes without saying that the entire Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is absolutely gutted that through no fault of his own he wasn’t able to win here today.”