Vet­tel’s not cool­ing his heels in the heat

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

NEWLY-CROWNED four-time world cham­pion Sebastian Vet­tel showed no signs of eas­ing up as he led a Red Bull one-two in free prac­tice at the Abu Dhabi For­mula One Grand Prix yes­ter­day.

The 26- year- old Ger­man, who se­cured his fourth suc­ces­sive ti­tle in In­dia last weekend, scorched around the Yas Ma­rina cir­cuit with a best time of one minute 41.335 sec­onds in the evening ses­sion.

Aus­tralian team­mate Mark Web­ber was 0.155 slower.

Lo­tus’s Ro­main Gros­jean, whose team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen won last year’s race, was fastest in the sear­ing heat of the af­ter­noon in 1:44.241 but had a front brake fail­ure un­der the flood­lights.

Lewis Hamil­ton, win­ner in 2011 and twice on pole at the cir­cuit, was sec­ond quick­est for Mercedes in the open­ing ses­sion, just 0.192 slower than Gros­jean, and third in the evening.

Raikko­nen, who trig­gered spec­u­la­tion about his re­la­tion­ship with the team when he failed to ap­pear for Thurs­day’s me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties at the cir­cuit, fi­nally ar­rived and was sixth and fourth fastest, re­spec­tively, in the two ses­sions.

Gros­jean has beaten Raikko­nen in the last two races and fin­ished on the podium in the last three.

Red Bull have al­ready clinched their fourth suc­ces­sive con­struc­tors’ ti­tle and the fo­cus is now on whether any­one can stop Red Bull and Vet­tel win­ning the last three races of the year. Vet­tel has won two of the four races held in Abu Dhabi, in­clud­ing 2010 when he clinched his first cham­pi­onship.

Web­ber was fourth quick­est be­fore the sun set and the flood­lights came on, with Nico Ros­berg fifth for Mercedes in both ses­sions.

Fer­rari’s Fer­nando Alonso, who had been the only man math­e­mat­i­cally ca­pa­ble of mak­ing Vet­tel wait for the ti­tle in In­dia, was 12th and eighth with Brazil­ian team­mate Felipe Massa 17th and 10th.

Lo­tus, mean­while, moved to smother spec­u­la­tion yes­ter­day about a break­down in re­la­tions with “prodi­gal son” Raikko­nen by high­light­ing how much they will miss him when he moves to Fer­rari next sea­son.

Speak­ing on the day the Finn showed up for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix af­ter miss­ing Thurs­day’s me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties, Lo­tus chair­man Ger­ard Lopez took to the For­mula One team’s web­site ( www. lo­tus f1team. com) to calm the sit­u­a­tion.

The part­ner­ship with Raikko­nen, he said, had been a “per­fect fit” for Lo­tus.

“One of the un­for­tu­nate things about be­ing in the lime­light is that peo­ple are al­ways try­ing to make it look like there are huge fights go­ing on.

“We dis­cussed the fact that Kimi was sign­ing for Fer­rari be­tween the two of us and it was a very frank dis­cus­sion.

“The whole Ice­man thing ac­tu­ally pre­vails on the track from where he is very cool­headed and a very good driver. In re­al­ity he’s a kind guy… and over the two years I’ve gained a friend in For­mula One which is a dif­fi­cult place to do so.”

Last weekend’s In­dian Grand Prix trig­gered fresh spec­u­la­tion that the re­la­tion­ship was on the rocks af­ter track op­er­a­tions man­ager Alan Per­mane was heard swear­ing at the Finn as he told him to get out of team­mate Ro­main Gros­jean's way. Raikko­nen, who won his 2007 world cham­pi­onship with Fer­rari, replied with a sim­i­lar ex­ple­tive and his man­ager said he had never heard of a team treat­ing their driver in such a man­ner.

“A lot was made about the com­ments… dur­ing the course of a tense mo­ment in a race, but this was just one ex­change tak­ing a mat­ter of sec­onds in the course of a two-year re­la­tion­ship,” said Lopez.

Raikko­nen made his come­back with the team last year af­ter spend­ing two years in ral­ly­ing and other in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­sport se­ries.

Lopez said Lo­tus had al­ways be­lieved in the Finn and had wanted to keep him, but had not been able to match Fer­rari’s of­fer.

“For me this brought sad­ness, as it’s like the prodi­gal son leav­ing us,” said Lopez.

“The first thing that Kimi did was to re­move any ex­cuses from the team. We knew we had one of the best ever driv­ers in For­mula One and as a re­sult of that there was no es­cape from whether the cars were good enough. With Kimi we knew we had a bench­mark.” – AFP, Reuters

PRODI­GAL SON: Lo­tus chair­man Ger­ard Lopez says Kimi Raikko­nen will be missed af­ter leav­ing the team.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.