Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen won a Formula One race for the first time in three years after taking Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in dramatic fashion.
Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 world champion, grabbed the lead on lap 20 when McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the pole sitter, stalled on the track and retired from the event due to a reliability issue. The Finn then ran in front for the remainder of the 55-lap race at the 3.451-mile Yas Marina Circuit. He held off Fernando Alonso from Ferrari at the finish by 0.8 seconds for his first win since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. It was also Lotus' first F1 victory since the 1987 United States Grand Prix in Detroit.
Raikkonen left Ferrari at the end of the '09 season and then competed in the World Rally Championship as well as a handful of NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races for the next two years before joining Lotus for the 2012 season.
"I'm very happy for the team and for myself," said Raikkonen, who notched his 19th career F1 win. "Perhaps we were not the fastest at the end, but we were quick enough and consistent enough to win, so it's great for the team. We've had some difficult races in the second half of the season, so it's fantastic to come back with a win."
Raikkonen became the eighth different winner in F1 this year, which is the most in a season since 2003.
Two-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel made an amazing comeback to finish third after he had to start from the rear of the field. The Red Bull driver qualified third on Saturday, but he was later disqualified after race stewards determined there wasn't enough fuel in his car to provide a one-liter sample in post-qualifying scrutineering, as required by the sport's technical regulations.
"It was a good race for us today," Vettel said. "To finish third on the podium is just fantastic."
Vettel made contact with Williams' Bruno Senna and damaged his front wing during the opening laps. He sustained more damage to the wing when he clipped a DRS marker board on the side of the track while trying to avoid contact with Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso when Ricciardo was braking. A subsequent early pit stop for a new nose and wing dropped the German back to 21st.
"It was the worst time to have to pit from P13 and start again at the back of the field, and then I had to do it all over again, passing everyone from the back," Vettel noted.
Alonso finished second and trimmed Vettel's lead from 13 points to 10, as two races remain -- Austin, Texas (Nov. 18) and Brazil (Nov. 25).
"In the last couple of laps, Kimi was a little bit slower, so we attacked," Alonso said. "But second, I think, was the maximum today, starting sixth. So a perfect Sunday again for us, and we kept fighting until the end."
Jenson Button from McLaren was running in third until Vettel overtook him for the position with three laps remaining. Button settled for fourth. William's Pastor Maldonado completed the top-five.
Kamui Kobayashi from Sauber finished sixth, followed by Alonso's teammate, Felipe Massa, and Senna. Paul di Resta from Force India and Ricciardo were ninth and 10th, respectively.
The race in Abu Dhabi featured several accidents, including two which required the deployment of the safety car. A spectacular crash involving Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan occurred on the ninth lap.
When Karthikeyan's HRT car slowed on the track and had smoke coming from the rear, Rosberg's Mercedes slammed into the back of Karthikeyan and then sailed right over him before crashing hard into the barrier in turn 16. Both drivers walked away from the wreck unscathed.
"Narain told me that his steering broke, and he needed to brake, which I didn't expect in that high-speed corner," Rosberg said. "There was no time for me to react, and I'm very thankful that we are both fine. I went to the medical center for a precautionary check, but everything is good."
The second deployment came on lap 39 when Romain Grosjean from Lotus made contact with Sauber's Sergio Perez, who then collected Mark Webber from Red Bull. Grosjean and Webber were forced to retire, while Perez managed to finish the race in 15th.
Vettel and Alonso are now the only drivers who remain in contention to win the championship. Despite his victory in the Abu Dhabi GP, Raikkonen was eliminated from the title race, as he trails Vettel by 57 points.
Webber and Hamilton are also out of contention following their retirements. Hamilton, who won last year's Abu Dhabi GP, was quickest in two of the three practice sessions and was fastest in qualifying to claim his sixth pole of the season.
"I'm gutted," a disappointed Hamilton said. "I had really good pace all weekend, and I feel certain we could have won today. I had a fuel pressure problem, and it was very sudden. I was just entering a corner, and the car just died on me."
Webber is 88 points behind his teammate, Vettel, while Hamilton trails by 90.