Abu Dhabi GP 2011: as it happened

12.45pm GMT Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The championships are well and truly over and this Yas Marina circuit has a reputation for turgidity, so it is earnestly to be hoped that this is not a procession. In fact, the FIA has overnight extended one of the two DRS zones, in a blatant acknowledgement that overtaking might not be on the agenda.

Elsewhere, the inter-team battles remain the biggest source of intrigue, particularly at McLaren, Mercedes and Force India. Williams are also a team to consider today, as Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello start from the very back in what is the team’s worst ever qualifying.

Sebastian Vettel departs from pole, thanks to a sterling effort yesterday which denied Lewis Hamilton at the last. Hamilton starts second with Button third and Webber fourth on the grid. The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa are fifth and sixth respectively, with Rosberg and Schumacher and Sutil and di Resta rounding out the top ten.

The grid is now being cleared and the sun has started to go down, which means that the start is now imminent.

12.55pm They are off on the parade lap. This is certainly a wonderful setting. Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta are on the prime, slower tyre, as are the two Williams at the back.

And the burn-outs commence as they line up on the grid now, ready for the off. The suspense is palpable, as ever, the pulses racing.

Lap 1 And they are off! Vettel has a puncture! He was through the first turn but then something has happened to him! He’s off! McLaren one-two! But now Alonso is threatening Button and will have him! And the Mercedes are at it hammer-and-tongs too!

Lap 2 What a breathless first lap! Vettel’s puncture must have come from his running over the kerb, as he did in turn two. He is now right at the back and limping round to the pit with his right rear in tatters. He now pits but the field have left him for dead. It looks like it’s all over for the world champion now…the flailing tyre has damaged his floor and exhaust by the looks.

Lap 3 DRS enabled. Seeing replays now of Vettel’s puncture incident, it appears to be a very sudden deflation. His retirement is now confirmed.

Lap 4 It’s Hamilton from Alonso, Button, Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Schumacher, Sutil.

Lap 5 Mark Webber took Button last lap, but Button got him back with the DRS. It is all frantic here – so much going on in the first lap or two. According to Ted Kravitz, the Red Bull team had no knowledge of a puncture prior to the off, so it must have been over the kerb. Tyre pressures would have been low at the start too.

Lap 6 Alonso’s start was nothing short of magnificent. He went round the outside of Mark Webber in Turn One and slipstreamed Button superbly.

Lap 7 The battle between Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher at the start was also something to behold. Rosberg was brave and uncompromising and as a result he ended up in front. The reason that I’m talking about that is because nothing else is going on.

Lap 8 Hamilton is around two and a half seconds ahead of Alonso.

Lap 9 Alonso is not letting that gap get any bigger, though. “Surely he’s outperforming the car,” says Martin Brundle. Button has managed to shake off Webber’s immediate attentions.

Lap 10 Sebastian Buemi and Paul di Resta are squabbling over ninth, and this shows that DRS is indeed working here as they swap positions. Di Resta is now in front; his team mate has caught Michael Schumacher.

Lap 11 Outside the top ten we have Petrov in 11th, followed by Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Barrichello, Maldonado, Trulli, Glock, Senna.

Lap 12 Di Resta tells his team that he is starting to lose traction as he continues to battle Buemi for ninth.

Lap 13 Webber is back on the back of Button, who is just announcing that he has some kind of problem. Yes, he’s a second a lap slower than leading team mate Lewis Hamilton at the moment. Surely Button is a sitting duck for the chasing Red Bull, now.

Lap 14 Di Resta and Buemi have doh-si-dohed again. But di Resta has made a mistake under braking and Buemi is through for good! Petrov is approaching the back of the Scot too.

Lap 15 It’s a KERS failure for Button. And Webber is on him! Webber passes him down the straight but Button stays on the inside through the next few turns and stays ahead! Great defence from the Brit, and sterling entertainment.

Lap 16 Massa pits. Webber cannot make the same move on Button as he did last lap down the long straight.

Lap 17 Hamilton, Alonso and Button all pit. No drama – they emerge in the same order. It was a lightning back to back stop for the McLaren pit crew, and one they performed in an exemplary way.

Lap 18 The leader Webber pits…how close will this be with Button? Not at all close, is the answer. They have a problem with the right rear and he was stationary for ten seconds, nearly. He loses out not only on threatening Button but also to Felipe Massa, who is now Button’s new tormentor.

Lap 19 So it’s Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Massa, Webber, Rosberg, yet-to-stop Buemi, di Resta, Sutil, Schumacher, Petrov. But Buemi is going slowly – he has a problem.

Lap 20 Lewis Hamilton looks superbly relaxed in that McLaren cockpit. He is managing the gap to Alonso nicely. The answer to Paul di Resta’s travails is now clear – he is being one-stopped by the team. Michael Schumacher passes him.

Lap 21 Renault team mates Senna and Petrov are fighting over 12th place. Senna solves the issue by pitting. But Petrov cannot relax – Sergio Perez approaches.

Lap 22 Maldonado, by dint of not having pitted yet, finds himself in 11th. Good effort.

Lap 23 Massa is closing on Button in third, who still has no KERS. Buemi’s retirement is confirmed.

Lap 24 Kamui Kobayashi has also managed to wend his way up the field to tenth, and has stopped. At the front it is Hamilton from Alonso, Button, Massa, Webber, Rosberg, Sutil, Schumacher, di Resta, Kobayashi, Maldonado, Petrov, Perez, Kovalainen, Barichello, Senna, Glock.

Lap 25 Alonso is driving a clever race, maintaining around a three second deficit behind Hamilton. He is keeping the pressure on for the second round of stops.

Lap 26 McLaren are telling Hamilton to conserve his tyres a bit. Three seconds cover Button, Massa and Webber in third, fourth and fifth.

Lap 27 Pastor Maldonado kisses the wall on the pit exit. Not so impressive.

Lap 28 Massa gets told that he can have Button, amongst other gentle encouragement from Rob Smedley on the Ferrari pitwall. It’s now less than two seconds that covers the three.

Lap 29 Paul di Resta takes his one stop. He will be sitting pretty in ten laps’ time or so when the rest of the field have to stop again. It has dropped him to twelfth, though. Webber is starting to give Felipe Massa a headache.

Lap 30 Maldonado is in more trouble for ignoring blue flags. He has been whacked with a drive-through. Massa goes wide at the hairpin and Webber will have him! He does…but Massa can retake the place down the next straight if he is clever…yes he does. Good clean racing, that. Return to status quo. It also plays into Button’s hands – he is escaping down the road while these two bicker.

Lap 31 Maldonado has served his penalty.

Lap 32 Jenson Button’s KERS has returned…it’s all coming up roses for him. Massa gets a bit balked by traffic in the form of Jaime Alguersuari while he overtakes the Spaniard. Webber is watching and waiting.

Lap 33 Button is now six seconds in front. Wow. Maldonado holds Massa up badly as the Brazilian laps him. That is not cricket, especially after you’ve just had a penalty for that sort of thing. Tsk.

Lap 34 Di Resta has, somehow, managed to get ahead of Petrov, and so the Scot finds himself in a well-placed 11th position. He is nevertheless about to be lapped by the leader Hamilton.

Lap 35 Maldonado and Alguersuari are both under investigation for ignoring blue flags. Barrichello pits and that means di Resta is back into ninth. It’s a big ask for him to get any further up than that though, even with a pitstop in his pocket – Schumacher is 51 seconds ahead.

Lap 36 Mark Webber pits again and that was smoother from Red Bull. Can he jump Massa?

Lap 37 Button pits. He is assured of third, it seems, unless anything happens. Word is that Ferrari are going to run Alonso long in an attempt to nick the win from Hamilton, whom they are hoping will wear his tyres down towards the end. The gap between the two is just under four seconds.

Lap 38 Senna now has a drive-through for ignoring blue flags.

Lap 39 The order is Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Rosberg (who are all yet to pit), Button, Webber, Schumacher, Sutil, di Resta, Perez.

Lap 40 Webber has closed right up on Button, which is effectively a fight for third but at the moment a fight for fifth. But Webber will have to stop again because he hasn’t used both types of tyre, so it’s all illusory. Hamilton pits.

Lap 41 Ferrari’s idea is that if Alonso can deliver fast laps on these old but faster tyres, he can jump Hamilton who is now on the new but slower tyres. Alonso remains out accordingly. The gap is around 18 seconds. Hamilton has traffic.

Lap 42 Does Alonso have the pace? The gap is 20 seconds to Hamilton. This is genuinely exciting.

Lap 43 This is going to be very close. Ferrari have played an ace here, but Alonso may not have been quick enough. That’s probably why they’re pitting him now…And there’s an HRT pitting in front of him! Disaster for Alonso…The right front was a bit slow for him as well. No, Hamilton is well ahead as Alonso comes out.

Lap 44 Mark Webber’s alternative strategy might mean he loses out to Rosberg as well, which wouldn’t improve the Australian’s mood. It hasn’t worked out for him today.

Lap 45 Webber and Rosberg are now fighting on track, and they both have to pit again. Webber will emerge behind Massa, who has just done the decent thing and gone litter picking. By which I mean he has collected a stray winglet.

Lap 46 The order is Hamilton, Alonso, Webber and Rosberg (who have yet to pit), Button, Massa, Schumacher, Sutil, di Resta, Perez, Kobayashi, Barichello, Petrov, Maldonado, Alguersuari, Senna, Kovalainen.

Lap 47 Webber will probably pit on the last lap. This means he might yet be able to jump Massa for what will be fourth, but Webber will have to keep up this barnstorming pace that he’s currently doing.

Lap 48 With it all shaken out, di Resta is twenty seconds or so behind Sutil. So it didn’t really work, the one stopper.

Lap 49 Hamilton’s gap to Alonso is around five and a half seconds. Rosberg pits. A redoubtable performance from the younger German, to stake his claim to team leadership within Mercedes following what some perceive as unfair treatment in India.

Lap 50 Massa spins into Turn One, which might well have gifted that fourth place to Webber. Not a good showing for the Brazilian. Webber is making sure by pumping in quick laps.

Lap 51 “McLaren are nervous of Webber,” Ted Kravitz says. It is some decent pace from the Red Bull but it would take something very special for him to jump Button.

Lap 52 This has been an intriguing spectacle, so words must be eaten. Daniel Ricciardo is out of the race.

Lap 53 Hamilton looks as though he has this one in the bag. A Vettel-esque race from the Englishman who will have managed to conserve his tyres if he wins this race.

Lap 54 We are under yellows because Sergio Perez was careless and clouted a bollard.

Lap 55 It’s the last lap and Webber is in. It’s seamless from Red Bull, but Button is through and Massa is a long way back, so that is a safe fourth place.

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX

A controlled and measured win from the Englishman, although he will not count it amongst his best because of Vettel’s retirement. Nevertheless, today is a strong win which should do wonders for his confidence.

Fernando Alonso is second with Jenson Button third and Mark Webber fourth. Felipe Massa is a distant fifth and Nico Rosberg is sixth. Schumacher is seventh, Sutil eighth, di Resta ninth and Kobayashi in tenth. Perez was 11th, Barrichello 12th, Petrov 13th, Maldonado 14th, Alguersuari 15th, Senna 16th, Kovalainen 17th, Trulli 18th, Glock 19th, and Liuzzi in 20th the last of the finishers.