Sebastian Vettel bounced back from post-qualifying demotion Saturday to the back of the Yas Marina grid to roar to third place in an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix won by Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen.
After recording the third-fastest time in qualifying Saturday, Vettel's car was found to have infringed fuel sample level rules. As a result, the Red Bull Racing driver started from pit lane and a mountain to climb in the race.
But the defending champion made quick work of the deficit. Within two laps of the start he had risen to 18th. He continued his progress through the early stages and by lap nine was approaching the top 10.
The charge, however, wasn't without incident. Vettel clashed with Bruno Senna at the start, resulting in damage to the RB8's front wing. The damage got worse when the safety car made its first appearance, following an accident involved Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan.
Vettel was following Daniel Ricciardo under the course car when the Toro Rosso driver braked on a straight. The move surprised Vettel, who had to swerve right, colliding with a polystyrene barrier. That forced Vettel to pit for a new front wing (and new soft option tires).
Dropped down the field once more, Vettel faced another battle through the order but by lap 38 he had risen to fourth, having again taken on fresh soft tires. The gap to the top three of McLaren's Jenson Button, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen was wide, however, and it looked as if Vettel would have to settle for the position.
But after another safety car period for an accident that ended teammate Mark Webber's race, Vettel closed up on Button and eventually passed the McLaren driver to take the final podium place behind title rival Alonso and winner Raikkonen.
“It was a good race for us today, a big chance for Ferrari and Fernando, but we didn't allow it,” said Vettel, who now leads Alonso by 10 points heading into the United States Grand Prix. “I enjoyed it a lot today, more than anything. I damaged the front wing pretty early with Bruno, which was not ideal, but we were able to carry on and not lose too much.
“Then, during the safety car, maybe I didn’t pay enough attention,” he added. “Daniel was slowing down, just as I was warming the tires and I got surprised. I had to move to the right and hit the DRS board, which damaged the front wing. It was the worst time to have to pit from P13 and start again at the back of the field, then I had to do it all over again, passing everyone from the back. In the end, to finish third on the podium is just fantastic.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing's team boss, hailed Vettel’s performance as a “remarkable comeback."
It was a less successful afternoon for Webber. The Australian endured a torrid race in which he tangled with Pastor Maldonado in a battle for fourth and then was knocked out of the race on lap 38 when he collided with Romain Grosjean following a clash in which Sergio Perez tried to pass both the Frenchman and Force India's Paul Di Resta.
“Nothing really worked out for us today,” said Webber. "I think we were strong, but we never got free air and it's difficult here with traffic; we saw quite a few incidents where people were trying to pass."
About the incident with Grosjean, Webber said, "I tried to go down the inside when the cars ahead made contact. I thought there was an opportunity, but then Grosjean made contact with my car and that was the end for us.”