Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Race


The 2021 Drivers’ Championship will be decided over the next 58 laps (or maybe fewer). There’s one case where HAM finishes P9 but VER is P10 and gets fastest lap, but other than that whoever finishes ahead will win the crown; if neither finishes in the points, VER is champ. With VER starting ahead of HAM and on softer tyres, it’s going to be a challenge for HAM to pass him on a track where it’s hard to overtake (the polesitter has won the race here every year since 2015), so I think VER is the favourite.

Provisional grid: VER, HAM, NOR, PER, SAI, BOT, LEC, TSU, OCO, RIC, ALO, GAS, STR, GIO, VET, LAT, RUS, RAI, SCH, MAZ
None of the post-Qualifying investigations changed the grid, but MAZ has tested positive for coronavirus so he won’t be able to race (and Haas cannot replace him).

Pit lane is open; cars can head to the grid
HAM’s in his Mercedes earlier than usual; presumably that’s so he can just focus on the job ahead
NOR is starting P3; “I’m a bit nervous, because I kind of want to stay where I am and just watch everything unfold over the first few laps or even the whole race, but I also don’t want to get involved too much because it could cause a lot of controversy.”
The grid is packed! It’s funny to spot people not wearing their mask properly as they realise they’re on camera and quickly fix it
The last “We race as one” gesture and host’s national anthem of the season
HAM and VER stand face to face, either side of the trophy

10mins before the start; drivers are getting into their cars
Air temperature 24°C; track 29°C – a little cooler than Quali
VER leads everyone away on the formation lap
Mediums for everyone who has the choice, except GAS and ALO on hards
The grid forms up
Grid: VER, HAM, NOR, PER, SAI, BOT, LEC, TSU, OCO, RIC, ALO, GAS, STR, GIO, VET, LAT, RUS, RAI, SCH (DNS: MAZ due to positive covid test)

01/58: HAM leads into Turn 1
PER takes P3 from NOR
VER dives inside HAM, gets close to HAM but HAM has to avoid a collision
HAM has to cut the corner; he’ll need to let VER take P1
Where’s BOT gone? Down to P8

02: HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, LEC, TSU, BOT, OCO, RIC, ALO, GAS, GIO, STR, VET, LAT, RAI, SCH, RUS
No word from Mercedes about giving P1 to VER
Incident involving VER and HAM – no investigation necessary
Whiny Spice is going to explode 🙂
Red Bull on the radio to Michael Masi; they’re told VER pushed HAM wide, so HAM was told to “give back the gap”

03: HAM fastest lap 1:28.791
Radio for VER telling him to get his head down, no investigation, building the chip on his shoulder

04: HAM f/lap 1:28.587

05/58: HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, LEC, TSU, BOT, OCO, RIC, ALO, GAS, GIO, STR, VET, RAI, LAT, SCH, RUS

06: Great to see LEC’s helmet cam
Horner complains about “A total lack of consistency”, “We’re not best pleased”

07: VET takes P14 from teammate STR
Red Bull on the radio to Michael Masi complaining about lap 1 again
Replay shows VER force HAM wide, small contact

08: HAM f/lap 1:28.550

09: BOT still down in P8, behind TSU
Radio from VER saying his soft tyres are starting to go off

10/58: HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, LEC, TSU, BOT, OCO, RIC, ALO, GAS, GIO, VET, STR, RAI, LAT, SCH, RUS
HAM f/lap 1:28.356

11: HAM f/lap 1:28.216

12: HAM f/lap 1:28.134
Radio from VER, “Rear tyres are really struggling”

13: Radio for ALO telling him

14: VER pits from P2; hards go on; rejoins P5, just ahead of LEC
LEC runs wide, rejoins P7

15/58: HAM pits from P1; hards go on; rejoins P2
LEC reclaims P6 from TSU
Radio for PER, “HAM’s pitted; Plan B”

16: LEC and OCO pit
VER closing on SAI

17: HAM f/lap 1:27.833
VER runs a little wide as he gets into the dirty air behind SAI

18: HAM f/lap 1:27.780 – he’s ~4.5sec behind PER, so it won’t be long before PER starts trying to slow HAM
NOR pits

19: Radio for PER, “Hold up Lewis!” – no surprise there

20/58: PER, HAM, VER, SAI… who pits from P4
HAM catches PER and swoops past
But PER fights back and reclaims P1

21: PER making his Red Bull as wide as possible
HAM makes another pass and this one sticks
Radio for PER telling him to give VER DRS
Radio from VER, “Checo is a legend”

22: PER pits; rejoins P5
VER is now only 2sec behind HAM

24: HAM f/lap 1:27.663
TSU pits from P3; rejoins P10
Radio from PER asking if he’s now racing to the end; told “we’re looking what we can do to help Max”

25/58: HAM, VER, BOT, PER, ALO, GAS, SAI, NOR, LEC, TSU, OCO, RIC, LAT, RUS, GIO, VET, STR, RAI, SCH
HAM ~3sec ahead of VER, who in turn is nearly 20sec clear of BOT who has yet to pit

26: Yellow flag – RAI has an issue – has he tagged the wall?

27: Replay shows he lost the rear end into Turn 6, slowly nose-first into the TechPro barrier
Radio from RAI reporting a brake-by-wire problem
Radio from RUS reporting a loss of drive; he’s limping back to the pits

28: RAI made it to the pits; retires
RUS in the pits too; he’s also retired – 2nd DNF in two races
Radio from HAM, “It’s a long way for these tyres”

29 = half distance: Red Bull asking VER about front wing adjustment, so maybe they’re looking to do a 2nd stop

30/58: HAM, VER, BOT, PER, ALO, GAS, SAI, NOR, LEC, TSU, OCO, RIC, GIO, VET, STR, SCH, LAT; out: RUS, RAI
HAM f/lap 1:27.484

31: BOT pits from P3; hards go on; rejoins P9

32: BOT closing on LEC

33: HAM f/lap 1:27.444 – his lead is now 5sec
Radio for HAM asking “If we stop under Safety Car, which tyre compound?”; “Either are good”

34: Even with DRS, BOT can’t get close enough to attack LEC
BOT finally takes P8

35/58: HAM, VER, PER, ALO, GAS, SAI, NOR, BOT, LEC, TSU
HAM f/lap 1:27.201
Radio from GIO reporting “No shifting”
GIO pulls off tracks, parks his Alfa – I’m surprised there’s not even a yellow flag

36: VSC deployed
LEC pits

37[VSC]: VER pits; more hards go on; rejoins still P2
PER pits too; more hards; rejoins still P3
Radio from Toto Wolff asking Michael Masi not to deploy the (real) Safety Car – that’s uncalled for

38[VSC]: VSC ends
ALO takes P7 from TSU

39: VER f/lap 1:26.321
HAM concerned they didn’t pit; he’s told the risk of losing track position was too high

40/58: HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, BOT, TSU, ALO, GAS, OCO, RIC, LEC, VET, STR, SCH, LAT; out: GIO, RUS, RAI
Radio for HAM telling him VER will need to be 0.8sec
VER f/lap 1:26.103

41: Radio from HAM, “I won’t be able to keep this pace up”

43: HAM’s lead down to 14sec – it was 18sec after VER’s 2nd stop – he can’t afford to pit unless there’s another VSC
Pirelli say the hard tyre will last 50 laps, so in theory HAM doesn’t need to stop again

44: BOT all over NOR’s rear wing

45/58: HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, BOT, TSU, GAS, ALO, OCO, RIC, LEC, VET, STR, SCH, LAT
HAM’s closing on the ALO-OCO-RIC-LEC train

46: HAM’s still behind LEC

47: HAM’s lapped LEC and RIC; OCO then ALO to go

48: Radio from HAM asking why his dash is showing “8 laps”; he’s told to ignore it (There’s 11 left)
HAM’s now lapped OCO

49: BOT has a look at NOR but the McLaren keeps P5
Argh! The official FIA site has stopped updating

50/58: HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR… pits with a puncture
HAM’s lead just over 11sec
Radio for HAM warning him about kerbs, suspecting they’re the cause of NOR’s puncture

52: Now VER is lapping that same train so the gap is still 11sec
NOR on new mediums takes P8 from ALO

53: LAT in the wall at Turn 14
Safety Car deployed

54[SC]: Why didn’t HAM pit???
VER and PER pit; softs go on

55/58[SC]: Radio from HAM asking why he stayed out; told he would have lost track position; Mercedes think the race may not restart
HAM is sounding very nervous
Oh great, now the FIA app has broken too (as well as their website)

56[SC]: PER pits again; retires
Race control: lapped cars will not be permitted to pass the SC
That means VER is behind a bunch of cars, which should easily let him pass
VER whines again 🙁

57[SC]: Horner on the radio to Michael Masi, whining about not letting the lapped cars pass the SC, which would let VER sit on HAM’s tail
Race control now say lapped cars can pass the SC … but also the SC in at the end of this lap
SC into the pit lane

58 = final lap: HAM leads into Turn 1
VER dives inside and steals P1
HAM alongside; VER squeezes HAM

VER takes the chequered flag
But that is a total shambles – the stewards have been inconsistent all season but that is unbelievable

It’s a farce – the stewards ignored the rules (only the cars between HAM and VER unlapped themselves, not all lapped cars) because Michael Masi wanted to get a racing lap in at the end. Well, sorry, you can’t ignore the rules because you don’t want to finish behind the SC.

Provisional result: VER*, HAM, SAI, TSU, GAS, BOT, NOR, ALO, OCO, LEC; VET, RIC, STR, SCH
DNF: PER, LAT, GIO, RUS, RAI
*Fastest lap: VER

Mercedes have protested “against the classification established at the end of the Competition”, relating to alleged breaches of Articles 48.8 and 48.12 of the FIA Sporting Regulations
Mind you, I can’t remember the last time the FIA upheld an appeal against a decision made by the FIA, but then I’ve only been following F1 for ~35 years

[Reload/refresh for more updates]

[2021 calendar] [2021 line-up] [Points standings]