Vettel's stunning third
Sebastian Vettel produced the biggest improvement from a starting grid position in 23 years to keep his world title defence firmly on track as Red Bull teammate Mark Webber crashed out of a drama-charged Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Vettel started 24th in his Red Bull car but finished third behind winner Kimi Raikkonen at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday night - the biggest jump by any driver since fellow-German Christian Danner went from 26th to fourth at the 1989 US Grand Prix.
''It was a crazy race,'' said Vettel. ''It's hard enough to get through the field once, but we did it twice.''
Vettel's brilliant drive, which included the fastest lap, came despite a near-miss with young Australian Daniel Ricciardo, driving for Red Bull subsidiary Toro Rosso, which forced him into the pits.
With two races remaining and a maximum 50 points on offer, Vettel heads the drivers championship on 255 points, a lead of 10 points from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who placed second in Abu Dhabi.
Lotus driver Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who returned to formula one this season after a two-year absence, is 57 points back from Vettel in third, with Australian Webber fourth on 167 points.
Starting from the front row, Webber was pushing for fifth place deep in the race when he was involved in a crash with Romain Grosjean that broke his suspension, ending a run of 23 straight finishes and cruelling his chances of gaining ground on the championship leaders.
''Absolutely nothing worked out for me in this race,'' lamented Webber, who was also involved in a minor incident with Williams driver Pastor Maldonado.
''There were quite a few incidents. Maldonado and I made contact at one point and there were lots of other incidents.
''This place isn't my favourite track, but a golfer can't only play par threes and I have to perform everywhere too.
''I was pleased with how I drove, particularly in qualifying, but it wasn't to be in the race.''
Vettel admitted he was caught out when he nearly collided with Ricciardo.
''We were in quite a good position, but I was surprised by Daniel Ricciardo's move and I was caught out,'' Vettel said.
''I should have been more aware and I had no choice but to avoid him and run to the right and I hit a DRS board flat on and had to pit, which wasn't good at that moment because we came out dead last.
''Then, it was all or nothing and we were pushing but the pace was there and it was a very good race for us.''
Asked if he thought a podium was achievable at the start of the race, Vettel said: ''Yes, I did, to be honest with you. After the first couple of laps that target was drifting a little bit away.
''I had a messy start, wanted to get through cars quickly and damaged the front wing, and under the safety car had a bit of a mistake with Ricciardo, because he was braking on the straight and we nearly touched.''
It was Raikkonen's first win since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.
The eighth different winner of the season, he gave Lotus a victory for the first time since Ayrton Senna won for the original team in 1987.
The 33-year-old betrayed few emotions on the podium
Asked how he felt, he said: ''Last time you guys were giving me grief because I didn't smile enough, but I'm happy for the team. It's been a hard season and not easy times lately.'' AAP-AFP