Vettel’s not cooling his heels in the heat
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.