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F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Vettel’s mysterious puncture

Sport Published the 17/11/2011 by Jack

For the first time this season, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) didn’t finish on the podium. The world champion was forced to quit after a first lap puncture. Taking advantage of Vettel’s early finish, Lewis Hamilton (Mc Laren), drove a superb race fighting off challenges from Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) right to the end. Meanwhile, Pirelli are still trying to understand what caused Vettel’s early puncture.

Lewis Hamilton (Mc Laren), winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Grix Copyright © : Pirelli

The race

As usual, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix started at dusk and finished at night, giving drivers and cars the chance to enjoy cooler temperatures than in the afternoon (still around 28°C!). Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) will not match Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in one season (2004): Vettel was forced to retire at turn two on the first lap after his right rear tyre lost pressure resulting in irreparable mechanical damage.

Logically, victory went to Lewis Hamilton (Mc Laren) who scored his third victory of the season at Abu Dhabi. The Brit dominated the race from start to finish, bravely resisting attacks from Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) who got off to a flying start. Jenson Button (Mc Laren) took third place on the podium.

Tyre strategies

To complete the 55 laps of the Yas Marina circuit, Lewis Hamilton made two pit stops, just like the majority of drivers. He used soft tyres (PZero yellow) for the first two stints before changing to the Pzero white medium compound for the final stint. In an attempt to overtake the Brit, Fernando Alonso stayed out for two more laps but it wasn’t enough to get ahead.

As for Mark Webber (Red Bull, 4e), he gambled on a three stop strategy only changing to medium tyres for the last lap of the race.  Paul di Resta (Force India) was the only driver to make one pit stop, changing from medium to soft tyres on lap 27. The Scot completed a last stint of 28 laps with the PZero yellow soft tyres. He finished 9th.

Starting from the back of the grid, Rubens Barrichello (Williams) moved up to finish 12th thanks to a two stop strategy and starting the race with medium tyres. Finally, Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), who adopted a similar strategy, finished in the points for the first time in seven races.

The Pirelli investigation

For Pirelli there seems to be no obvious reason behind this early puncture.  “Together with Red Bull we’re still examining the remains of Sebastian Vettel’s tyre in order to try to piece together what happened” explained Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director. It is a very unusual incident. We have inspected the corner with Sebastian and we have found no clues to explain this pressure loss”. While continuing to search for a satisfactory explanation, the tyre manufacturer is now concentrating on testing the 2012 season tyres.

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