Vettel has double success in Abu Dhabi: from race winner to World Champion
Sebastian Vettel was the man of the moment in Abu Dhabi, as he performed the best under pressure, among the other contenders battling for the Drivers' title. The 23 year old has become the youngest World Champion in Formula One history to date. From the outset as polesitter, he raced like his life depended on it, and set some blistering lap times on his way to take the chequered flag. The Red Bull driver's overall winning time was 1:39:36.837s.
Vettel, the new World Champion was still overcome, after securing his maiden title in the sport. "I'm speechless. I don't know what you are supposed to say in these moments, it has been an incredibly tough season for myself and all of us, physically and mentally," said.
"We always kept believing in ourselves - no matter what people said - in the team and in our car. I kept believing in myself and today was a special day all round... I knew all I could try to do was win this race and do my best. We only led this championship once this season, but it was when it mattered!" the German added. "To be honest I didn't know anything until I passed the chequered flag... It's been an incredible journey with Red Bull and, after all the ups and downs this season, to come here now and win the championship is unbelievable."
Lewis Hamilton, who did not manage to take the title, still picked up some points in the race to finish in second place in the final standings. The Briton's team mate and fellow countryman, Jenson Button, grabbed the last spot on the podium and took third position. The 2009 World Champion lost his chance of retaining his title, after last weekend's result in Brazil.
"We've ended this year on a high -- to get both of us onto the podium and to clinch runner-up spot in the constructors' world championship represent a great achievement for the whole Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team," said Hamilton, the 2008 World Champion.
Coming into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend for the season finale on the Yas Marina circuit, there were two other drivers besides Vettel and Hamilton with a chance of achieving the ultimate prize. Fernando Alonso, who was the points leader before today's race, lost out after making a pit stop early on. Consequently, the Ferrari driver only managed to finish in seventh place. Mark Webber also faced the same fate, when he also visited the pits before any other front-runners. The Red Bull driver followed closely behind Alonso, and crossed the finish line in eighth position.
"It's a shame to get to the end of the season and then lose the title at the final moment, but that's racing, that is sport," said Alonso, a two-time World Champion himself. "Everything went wrong today, from the start itself to the strategy. With hindsight, it would have been better not to pit so soon, but it's easy to say that when you have all the facts: however, it was definitely not an easy decision. I want to congratulate Red Bull and its drivers: over the course of the season they have had a little something extra than us and they deserve to be where they are today."
The incident that required a safety car situation, which is what prompted both drivers to pit early, occurred when the race had barely begun on the first lap. The Mercedes drivers had contact with each other, when Rubens Barrichello in his Williams, was defending his position from Michael Schumacher. Nico Rosberg in the sister Mercedes tried to squeeze passed his team mate, but this resulted in the pair coming together. There was an extra car in the mix, as Vitantonio Liuzzi came round the corner between turns five and six, and had nowhere to go in his Force India car. The Italian then ploughed into Schumacher's already stationary car. This spelled the end of the race for both Schumacher and Liuzzi. The safety car returned to the pits at the end of lap five, once the race marshals had cleared the debris. The only other car to retire from the race was Virgin Racing's Timo Glock. The German driver stopped out on the track on lap 46, and it was later discovered that his car had suffered a gearbox problem.
Although Rosberg had to pit after colliding with his team mate, the German was able to continue to race on. Once he had made the pit stops he needed, Rosberg would reap the rewards later on. He managed to make his way through the field from 17th place and when the race came to an end, he landed himself with an impressive finish in fourth position.
The Renault team seemed to be very much at the forefront of the race with both drivers proving to be an obstruction for Hamilton and Alonso, who were racing for the title. Of the two drivers for the team, it was Robert Kubica who outperformed his Russian team mate, Vitaly Petrov. Kubica pipped the Formula One rookie to fifth place, who picked up sixth position, which he can be pleased with. Petrov also put up a good fight against Alonso throughout the race, the Russian prevented Alonso from taking sixth position at the end. Hamilton fought with Kubica for a while too, and the pair were battling for position at times near the front. Later in the race, the third contender for this year's title faced the same fate trying to find a way around Petrov.
"I was able to match Sebastian's [Vettel] pace in the early part of the race -- but, after my pitstop, I was stuck behind Robert [Kubica]. It was just impossible to get past him -- he made no mistakes -- so it wasn't possible to resume my attack on Sebastian. But that's the way motor racing goes sometimes," explained Hamilton.
Like Kubica and Petrov, there were a few other drivers in the midfield, who stood out in the race more so than usual. Jaime Alguersuari was another driver, who was a force not be messed with. The Spaniard caused Ferrari's Felipe Massa to lose time, as the Brazilian driver, was trying to make his way through the pack. The Toro Rosso driver had a slight wobble on lap 16, and nearly lost control of his car under braking, but managed to keep it on the track. He also caused a delay for Webber during the race, and the Australian just could not pass him for quite some time. Alguersuari had a solid finish for his team in ninth position, and jumped ahead of Massa, who got the last point scoring position in tenth place.
Webber commented, "It was a big day and we had the chance to do something incredibly unique, but in the end it didn't turn out for us. Earlier in the race we knew we had to roll the dice and go for it with the strategy, but it left us exposed and Fernando (Alonso) covered us. I tried my absolute hardest and we did everything we could, but in the end it wasn't enough. You've got to take your hat off to Sebastian, he's done a great job all year and to lead the Championship at the last race, he's got the timing right and I fully congratulate him on the World Championship."
Nick Heidfeld had a fairly quiet time to himself in the race. The German driver completed the race in 11th position, and was quite ahead of his Sauber team mate, Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese driver, who is famous for being fearless, and scrapping with drivers for position, got up to his old tricks once again, and challenged some people in the field. Despite only securing 14th place in the end, Kobayashi had a battle with Barrichello around lap seven. Of the two drivers, the experienced one had the upper hand and Barrichello succeeded in taking seventh place at that point. Kubica and Hamilton were also in the mix with Kobayashi, and took track positions from him at times. As the scraps were over when the chequered flag was waived, Barrichello won the battle, and got the higher position to finish in 12th place.
As his team mate Liuzzi failed to finish the race due to crashing out on lap one, Adrian Sutil was left flying the flag for Force India. For the majority of the race, the German driver seemed to drive alone, and just get on with the job in hand. He brought his car to the end of the race, landing himself a 13th place finish.
Sebastian Buemi got himself towards the better end of the field during the middle stages of the race. On lap 34 the Swiss driver, in the other Toro Rosso, leapt nearer to the front and was in sixth position at that point as some of the leading cars had taken their pit stops and he had not. Buemi got into quite a good position for a while but unfortunately, this was not to last until the end of the race. Buemi fell further down the pack, after the other drivers regained their positions. As a result, Buemi had to settle for a 15th place finish.
Nico Hulkenberg also experienced the same situation as Buemi, not only being outperformed by his team mate, but also sliding down towards the back of the pack. The German driver in the other Williams, failed to catch his team mate, and steal a better position. Nevertheless, he ended the race alongside Buemi and took 16th position.
During the season in practice, qualifying and races, Lotus has mainly been the team to beat, of those making their debut in Formula One this year. Once again they were true to form, and kept up their impressive track record in the race. Heikki Kovalainen secured 17th place, and got in front of rival team, Virgin Racing's Lucas Di Grassi who took 18th position. Bruno Senna lined up next in the final race results after a shrewd move to pit under the safety car on lap one, which paid off. Those who also benefited in the end, in terms of getting in front of their team mates especially, included: Rosberg, Petrov, Alguersuari, and di Grassi.
Sadly, for Senna's team mate, Christian Klien did not get the best result like some of the others. The Austrian crossed the line to take 20th position. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli in the other Lotus was left in the final position, at the back of the pack in 21st place. The Italian driver suffered with wing problems on his car during the race. On lap 29 he was ahead of his Finnish team mate, but was forced to pit when his front wing was damaged. This then handed Kovalainen 17th place at the time, and Trulli was left trailing behind. On the penultimate lap of the race, Trulli had trouble with the other end of his car. He lost part of his rear wing, which luckily landed away from the racing line, so the safety car was not needed for the marshals to remove it. Once again Trulli made a visit to the pits to repair the damage, and he finished at the opposite end of the pack to race winner and World Champion Vettel.
Red Bull now has the two main titles: Constructers' and the World Championhip for Vettel. Of the two, the drivers' title was particularly close with Vettel at the top of the points ahead of Alonso who came second, by a tiny margin of just four points. Webber was ten points adrift from Alonso and took third place. Hamilton was even closer to Webber, with only two points separating the pair. Button, who was already out of the title fight before the race, was 26 points behind Hamilton and took fifth place. There were 70 points separating Button and Massa who ended the year in sixth place.
In terms of the Constructors' championship, the Red Bull team had it in the bag by quite a few points. McLaren who finished the season in second place were 44 points behind the newly crowned champions. There was a further distance between Ferrari who came third, and they were 58 points away from second place. Of the teams outside the main title contenders, Mercedes joined the top ones in getting over 200 points. However, they secured fourth place ahead of Renault, but both were quite far away from threatening Ferrari's spot, with 182 points between them.
After completing 18 races, the drivers took it down to the 19th and final round, to decide who would secure the title and become World Champion. The Formula One season never fails to disappoint in delivering dramatic events, with safety car situations, drivers being investigated by the stewards, crashes on the circuit, and the way drivers battle with each other, to get the best position possible. For even the most experienced drivers in the sport, the addition of the Korean race was a circuit new to everyone. Such things as new locations for the races, can add to the excitement as the drivers, go all out in their quest to become World Champion. With the winter break look forward to, it is also a time for them to prepare their new cars before next season. It is likely that when Formula One starts up again in March next year, there will be surprises and ever changing results along the way. Today's race just proves that anything can happen. There were still four drivers who wanted to win the title, and until the chequered flag no one knew who it would be awarded to.