Vettel cruises to Abu Dhabi win

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to seal his seventh consecutive victory.

Vettel, already world champion, led every lap as he beat his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso enlivened the closing laps with a late chargeto take fifth from Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

The Spaniard was later cleared by stewards for passing off the track.

Alonso’s late progress was one of a number of scraps through the race for the lower positions, but it all took place behind Vettel, who was in total control once he had beaten Webber into the first corner.

The Australian had beaten his team-mate to pole position on Saturday but Vettel made a slightly better start, led into the first corner and drove off into the distance.

“The car was absolutely brilliant. Not much more to say. Massive gaps, big surprise,” said Vettel.

He made his first stop several laps later than Webber, Rosberg and Grosjean, which meant he could come in for tyres for the first time on lap 14 and rejoin without losing the lead.

Webber’s hopes of challenging Vettel were ended when he was passed by Rosberg at the first corner. Unable to pass the Mercedes during the first stint, Webber was further delayed when he came out behind Adrian Sutil’s Force India following his first pit stop on lap eight.

By the time he had cleared Sutil and further traffic in front of him and passed Rosberg for second place on lap 20, Webber was 27 seconds behind Vettel and the race was long over.

“The start wasn’t great,” said Webber. “Nico’s was unbelievable, Seb’s was a bit better. Anyway I wasn’t strong enough on the soft tyres [in the first stint].

“Seb got a very good gap, I had to reposition on the primes. Seb was gone. In another category out front.”

It was Vettel’s 11th win this season, equalling his tally from his second championship-winning season in 2011.

The 26-year-old remains on target to equal both Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 13 victories in one season and Alberto Ascari’s of nine consecutive F1 grand prix wins, which has stood for 60 years.

Behind Rosberg and Grosjean, Force India’s Paul Di Resta found himself in fifth place in the closing laps having done only one pit stop and fighting off the faster cars of Hamilton and Alonso behind him.

Hamilton and Alonso had both done two stops, but the Spaniard had delayed his second long enough to allow him to fit the faster ‘soft’ tyres for a short final stint while his rivals were on worn ‘mediums’.

Rejoining from his final stop on lap 45, Alonso found himself side-by-side with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne in Turn Three.

The Frenchman appeared not to see him and Alonso took to the run-off area in avoidance, passing Vergne in the process.

The incident had been under investigation by the stewards, who considered Alonso may have gained an advantage by running off the track, which is not allowed. Alonso has since been cleared of any rule infringement.

“I was going out of the pits,” Alonso said. “I was alongside the Toro Rosso and I didn’t have the space for both of us to go on the track so at that point either you are invisible or you are forced to be out of the track.

“We have been forced a little bit. The rules say when you have a car alongside you, you cannot use the full width of the track. He used the full width of the track. I was forced to go out and I think it’s clear.”

The stewards said Alonso had no choice but to go off the track to avoid Vergne, “had the advantage throughout the sequence” and that “neither car could avoid the incident and no advantage was gained”.

“It was a racing incident and if he had not gone on the outside [of the track] like he did, we would have had a big crash,” Vergne said.

“It was high-speed, and what he did was right. Actually, I am really happy he did that otherwise we would have had an accident.”

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“I knew that I might be racing against him but as I didn’t see him on the left, I thought he was in front of me. But he was next to me where I could not see him.”

Alonso used the extra grip of his tyres to close on and pass Hamilton and Di Resta to take fifth place on consecutive laps with four and three laps to go.

Di Resta held off Hamilton to take sixth, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa eighth from McLaren’s Sergio Perez, who overtook Sutil in the closing stages.