McLaren describe Sebastian Vettel's drive to third place in Abu Dhabi GP as 'lucky'
But Sky F1 pundits hail 'a champion's drive' from pitlane to podium
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 05/11/12 10:04am
Fuel problem forces Hamilton retirement
Lewis Hamilton has described Sebastian Vettel as "the luckiest man in F1" with the entire McLaren team apparently unconvinced that the World Champion deserved to claim third place in the Abu Dhabi GP after starting Sunday's race from the pitlane.
While Hamilton's remark was made with a forlorn chuckle following his own luckless retirement from the lead of the grand prix, the description was endorsed by both Jenson Button, whom Vettel overtook with five laps remaining to clinch his place on the podium, and McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh as they reflected on a captivating and confusing afternoon.
"Vettel got lucky with the second Safety Car," bemoaned the 2009 World Champion. "To keep him behind when he had brand-new tyres was so difficult because he had really good traction out of the slow corners.
"He did very well on the prime tyres, the car is quick, but if he didn't have those two Safety Cars he wouldn't have been up there."
To compound McLaren's evident frustration, Sunday's result also mathematically ended their hopes of winning the Constructors' Championship this season, with Button unable to hang on to a podium after a suspected fuel-pump failure forced Hamilton into retirement.
"Gutting for him, and the team," commented Whitmarsh. "Jenson fought long and hard through that race but I think Sebastian was quite lucky with the number of safetys, which is quite unusual here, but that's the way it went. A tough afternoon for the team."
But doesn't a driver make his own luck? If Vettel was fortunate, it was surely not in the exploitation of the two Safety Car deployments, but at the start of the race when he damaged his front-wing on two separate occasions and was then wisely instructed by his Red Bull team to cede position to Romain Grosjean after overtaking the Lotus with all four wheels over the track confines.
Button: I didn't have the pace
"A great effort from him to for 3rd but not totally perfect," observed Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft. "Some early clashes had to give a place back to Grosjean but from then on sublime.
"Yes, he made his luck and it might have been different if not for the pace car but a tremendous drive."
It was a balanced viewpoint endorsed by Anthony Davidson.
"Yes, he had a helping hand along the way but you have to have the desire and he had that today," concurred Anthony as he reviewed in-car footage of Vettel's topsy-turvy afternoon. "He showed the real mentality of a champion."
The barbs might not be going away, but a third World Championship, barring disaster, will be surely be coming his way sooner rather than later.