F1 wrap: Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen looks ready for 2013 title challenge

What lessons did we learn from Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Kimi Raikkonen sealed a thrilling victory?

By Steven Oldham
kimi raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen returned to Formula 1 this season Photo: Lotus Renault GP

kimi raikkonen

Raikkonen ready for 2013 title challenge

Kimi Raikkonen’s victory on Sunday proves it is possible to take a break from the sport and return as a winner. The Lotus driver’s win is long overdue, havign been close on more than one occasion this season so far. This win should quash doubts anyone had of the Finn having lost his race-winning edge – he is not merely a driver who will consistently bring the car home in the points. roviding that Lotus step up their one-lap pace for Saturday afternoons, there is no reason he cannot challenge for a second driver’s title next season. His win was no doubt slightly fortunate – had Lewis Hamilton not retired the Brit looked in good form to complete a dominant weekend – but to win you have to finish, and it would have been understandable if he had shown some nerves when holding on for his first win in the sport for over three years, but he stayed composed and resisted the late charge from Fernando Alonso.

Two DRS zones at Yas Marina is the way forward

Last weekend’s grand prix was the first held at Abu Dhabi to provide real race-long entertainment and whoever made the decision to have another DRS zone allowed this year needs to be applauded. There were probably more overtakes in this race than in the past three years put together, and the second zone must surely be retained next season. The track layout at Yas Marina, especially the middle sector,should deliver better racing than it has previously. A poor exit from the chicane into the first zone can end your chances of an overtake there, but the ground caught up by deploying DRS there can set you up perfectly for the second zone as we saw many times on Sunday.

Perez making too many mistakes

Unfortunately for Sauber’s Sergio Perez, since he has been announced as a McLaren driver for next season he has made numerous mistakes which his new employers will not look kindly on. The Mexican has often been in scintilating form this year but he has compromised his own (and others) races in both India and Abu Dhabi by being reckless. The stop and go penalty handed out for his incidents with Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber destroyed his race. He was well set for another solid points finish beforehand but his rash and mindless overtaking manoeuvres are costing him dear at the moment. Some may say it might not matter so much when you’re driving a Sauber, but the spotlight on the young driver next season will be inescapable as he joins one of the sport’s most famous teams.

Poor starts still holding Webber back

Another driver with an area to improve is Mark Webber. The Red Bull man again wasted a front-row start with a poor getaway – leapfrogged by Pastor Maldonado, spectacularly so by Raikkonen and pushed down a further place by Alonso by the end of the lap. The likeable Australian will never be world champion if he continues to have nightmare starts such as this. Worryingly, it is no longer surprising to see him slow off the line. If it’s a car issue, it doesn’t appear to effect team mate Sebastian Vettel. After doing the hard work in qualifying, it is so frustrating to see Webber overtaken so regularly off the grid. He has raised his game considerably in terms of qualification this year – but the number of points he has missed out on due to slow getaways is increasing with every race. If he improved his starts, he would also avoid getting drawn into the sort of incidents that ended his race this weekend by being 30 seconds down the road when they happen.

Shop window well and truly open

With three more seats confirmed for 2013 in the space of a week, the remaining drivers yet to book a drive next year are doing what they can to convince team bosses to offer them a deal. It seems scandalous to that Kamui Kobayashi should be sweating on retaining his seat at Sauber – he has played just as much a part in the team’s most competitive season as his team-mate Perez and scored his first podium. With Nico Hulkenberg being confirmed first it would appear he is the team’s lead driver for next year, which would leave the Japanese driver wondering what more he could do to prove he can lead the team. Hulkenberg’s team-mate, Paul di Resta, will be disappointed to see most of the top drives filled already – realistically, only a move to Lotus alongside Raikkonen would be an improvement on where he is now. A third season at Force India looks likely. Romain Grosjean’s future is still in doubt at Lotus and a decision on his future will more than likely be made after the final race at Interlagos.

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