By Alex Kapadia
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen sealed the first victory of his Formula One comeback after triumphing at the thrilling Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a one-stop tyres strategy.
The Finn stopped on lap 31 to move from the P Zero Yellow soft to the P Zero White medium tyres and notched up the 19th win of his career.
Raikkonen, who started fourth on the grid, took the lead following the retirement of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on lap 19, and did not relinquish it until the finish.
Second place for Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – who used an identical strategy to Raikkonen, stopping three laps earlier – meant that the Spaniard reduced his gap to the lead of the drivers’ championship to 10 points with two races to go, pushing the Lotus driver all the way to the chequered flag.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, said: “Congratulations to Kimi for becoming the eighth different winner we’ve seen this year, and to Lotus and Eric Boullier, for his first win as team principal, after what was one of the most exciting grands prix of the year, which revolved around two safety car periods.
“The timing of the first safety car altered the race strategies for everyone, enabling the soft tyre runners to go even longer, while two drivers switched to the medium tyre and Sebastian Vettel went onto the soft: the start of an amazing run.
“It also meant that one stop was quite clearly the way to go for most competitors, as the five laps under the safety car reduced the overall amount of tyre wear during the race, which was already low.
“This enabled the drivers who stopped early to complete up to nearly 30 laps on the medium compound and make up places by undercutting those who stopped later. It was definitely a mixed-up race with several different strategies at work, which gave the fans some spectacular action to watch from start to finish.”