Kimi Raikkonen won his first Grand Prix for over three years on Sunday evening in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the Finn held off the challenge of Fernando Alonso by eight tenths of a second. Even more amazing was the performance of championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who, despite starting in last place after a penalty in qualifying, took the last podium spot in third. Vettel now keeps his lead over Alonso in the standings by 10 points with two races to go.
"I'm very happy for the team and myself, but mainly for the team" said Raikkonen. "It's been a very hard season for the team and we've not had an easy time of late. Hopefully this will give the whole team a bit more belief. I hope this can turn the tables around and give us many more good races and wins - if not this year then next year as well."
The start of the race was highly exciting as Senna and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg tangled on the first lap, which ended in the German retiring from the race. Romain Grosjean and Paul Di Resta also collided, with both sustaining punctures that forced them to pit on the second lap in the process. Vettel was also involved in the bunching of cars and despite coming out with a slightly damaged front wing, he carried on.
It was Lewis Hamilton however, who best came out of the mess. The man who started on pole got off to a great start, and along with Raikkonen, went around a slow Mark Webber to take second position, with Hamilton holding a five second lead in front of another German, Nico Rosberg. Rosberg did not see the HRT of Narain Karthekeyan slow down with an engine failure and the Mercedes driver drove right into the back of the Indian, over the top of his HRT, before finally running into the barriers. As a result, there was debris all over the place and the safety car was brought out for the next six laps. It ruined Hamilton's lead but when the safety car pulled off, the 2008 world champion still had a 2.6 second-lead over Raikkonen on lap 18.
The Finn could only hope for a miracle and he got one when Hamilton slowed down and dropped out of the race two laps later with a fuel pressure problem. Raikkonen took a 5.7 second-lead ahead of Alonso, who by this time, was in second.
Although the front runners seemed set to hold onto their positions, those further back in the field were fighting it out tooth and nail. It all came to a head just before lap 40, when Sergio Perez tried to pass Grosjean and collided with the Frenchman, a collision which also involved Webber and Di Resta. Wreckage flew everywhere and Webber's Red Bull car received the most damage. Grosjean could not move his Lotus either, while Di Resta and Perez continued on in the race. The incident brought out the safety car for the second and last time in the race.
When the race resumed laps later, Raikkonen hit the afterburners and shot back into the lead. Alonso was gaining on him, while Vettel now took advantage of Button, who was in third, and was struggling to use his DRS system. The Englishman eventually lost his position on the podium when Vettel passed him with six laps to go. Meanwhile, Raikkonen held off Alonso to give Lotus their first win of the year after 18 attempts this season. For the 2007 world champion, it was a welcome relief after becoming so steady in finishes this season.
"I was really hoping to win it before now but, as I said, I'm happy" added the Finn. "We still have two races to go and I'll be looking to do the same again. There's no doubt that we are going to have a good party tonight."
Pastor Maldanado took fifth, while Kamui Kobyaschi was sixth. Brazilian's Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna were seventh and eighth respectively, while Di Resta and Daniel Riccardo rounded out the top ten.
The world championship now heads to a track that no driver knows. The next race is in the United States as the Grand Prix seeks a revival in North America. In two weeks, the race will be held in Austin, Texas for the first time.