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Shakeup in the Desert: The 2011 Abu Dhabi GP

November 13, 2011 by Matt

Abu Dhabi Yas Marina F1 Formula One Circuit Track Map

Cozied up to the enormous complex that is Ferrari World, the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a spectacle of new money splendor kicked off by a surprising turn of events for the world champion.

Yes folks, much as I don’t wish misfortune on anyone, I’m pleased to be able to report that Sebastian Vettel did not win the event and clinch his 12th win of the season. No, the world champion-elect’s Red Bull RB7 suffered a right rear suspension and tire failure three corners into the race, spun out and limped back to the pits, where it was determined the car was too damaged to continue. Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren seized the opportunity afforded by Vettel’s first retirement of the season to go into full-attack mode, building a substantial—dare I say, Vettel-like—lead, leaving the rest of the field slogging it out for silver. Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari maintained a solid pace behind Hamilton, racking up a few fastest laps himself, while Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, and Mark Webber in the other McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull, respectively, leapfrogged each other multiple times before Button eventually crossed the line in third to claim the final podium spot. If there’s any doubt about which three constructors have completely dominated this season, races like today’s provide ample confirmation of the Austrian, British and Italian teams’ mastery of the 2011 formula.

The venue was a kind of mash-up of the urban, lifeless Singapore race and the organic-yet-technical Indian GP two weeks ago. The race was held at dusk and bridged the transition between day and night with powerful circuit-illuminating floodlights. And strangely, as much as the whole F1 circus is a larger-than-life affair, completely taking over the atmosphere of a host city during a race weekend, in Abu Dhabi, surrounded by so much oil wealth-fueled grandeur, the F1 race seemed like a sideshow. More than any venue I’ve seen so far, the cars looked almost like toys in some unimaginably wealthy oil sheik’s playground. I got the sense that with a word, any of the race’s high-dollar patrons could have bought the whole multimillion dollar sport outright several times over, had they wanted to. For a competition that takes itself far too seriously at times (most of the time?), it was an interesting effect.

Filed under: Formula 1, News, Racing

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