Just when everyone was thinking that Formula 1 was becoming far too predictable - Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has long since won the championship, and has taken the checkered flag at 11 of the 18 races run so far this year - the unexpected occurred at Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Before he had even completed a single lap, Vettel was out of the race, due to damage to his car caused by a puncture. That left McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to take the win, closely followed by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in second, and Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button in third.
Alonso fought tooth and nail to take the lead from the Briton, with long periods during the race when there was little more than a second between them. But during the final stint, Hamilton was able to increase the gap on his former teammate, and take just his third win of what has been a pretty dismal year for the 2008 world champion.
For Alonso, Sunday's result means that he has crept a little closer to Button in the championship stakes, with just 10 points between the two. Despite his disadvantage, Alonso could still take second place in the championship if Button were to have a particularly poor race at the season-closer in Brazil on November 27.
Speaking after the Grand Prix, which saw Alonso quickly move up from fifth to second on the opening lap, he explained that he had to give it everything he had to keep up with Hamilton.
"I tried hard all race," he said. "It was an individual race against time. I was doing qualifying laps every lap trying to close the gap but it was one tenth up or down for the whole stint and we dominated."
But with Ferrari only having taken one win this season - Alonso's victory at Silverstone - the Spaniard confessed that he was looking forward to putting this year behind him and concentrating on next season.
"To be honest I want to have the last race and think of 2012 as soon as possible," he told the press on Sunday. "Not to forget this year, because the year has been quite good for the team and in general we made good improvements from last year, but we were not able to fight for the championship. Definitely next year is a good challenge for us - and a big motivation for next year is to do better than 2011."