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Vettel protects F1 lead with his rally

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Kimi Raikkonen won a crash-filled Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday for his first victory since returning to Formula One this year, and Sebastian Vettel overcame a qualifying penalty to finish third and prevent a huge dent in his season points lead heading into the last two races.

Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who returned after rally driving for a year, overtook Red Bull's Mark Webber at the start to move into second. He took the lead in his Lotus on the 20th lap when McLaren's Lewis Hamilton retired because of a fuel pressure problem.

Raikkonen held off Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who finished second. Two-time defending F1 champion Vettel clawed his way up, but his lead over Alonso was cut to 10 points. Vettel was penalized for fuel irregularities after qualifying, forcing him to start last on the grid. He tops the drivers championship with 255 points, followed by Alonso (245) and Raikkonen (198).

"I'm very happy for the team and myself but mainly for the team," said Raikkonen, who last won a race in 2009 with Ferrari at the Belgian GP.

Vettel said he always believed he would end up on the podium. "I said to myself either we go full attack or nothing," he said. "That is what we did. We had a fantastic race."

Starting from the back of the field, Vettel was in the middle of many of the mishaps and responsible for a few of them. He damaged his wing when he clipped Bruno Senna. He then misjudged the pace of Daniel Ricciardo's car in front and ran over a board, requiring a visit to the pits. Later he went off the track to pass Romain Grosjean and then collided with Felipe Massa, sending him into a spin.

Despite all that, Vettel overtook Button with three laps remaining for third.

"It was nice fight with Jenson. He was difficult to pass. With him, I was really struggling. I just squeezed my way past," Vettel said.

Alonso remained confident he can catch Vettel in points: "We will fight until the end."

EAST BAY RACEWAY: Keith Nosbisch won his third straight Late Model race late Saturday in Gibsonton.

Vettel protects F1 lead with his rally 11/04/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 4, 2012 11:54pm]
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