Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Sebastian Vettel wins title after epic Formula One season
After an epic Formula One season, a season which had 19 races on the calendar and will without a doubt become a classic season in the 60-year history of the sport, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel was crowned World Champion after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The freshly crowned German champion, the youngest champion in the history of Formula One as he was 23 years and 134 days old when he crossed the finish line in first position, is the third German to win the title, Jochen Rindt and Michael Schumacher are the only other Germans who have won the Formula One Drivers' Championship before.
"All weekend I did not try to focus on the championship as the situation was pretty clear. We had to try to win this race, do our maximum and the rest was up to the others," Vettel said after the race. He also praised his team, "Everyone was believing in me. I think the atmosphere in the whole team was great." He also referred to the difficulties the team had to go through this season, "Even though we had a moment when people tried to knock us down and give us a hard time, but nonetheless, we had the ability to focus on what matters, not getting distracted by all sorts of talk and so on which was going on. We have to enjoy this moment, it's our moment."
We must be in a bloody good position!
Vettel said he didn't know he had won the title before he passed the finish line, "I didn't know anything until I passed the chequered flag. I was wondering, because my race engineer Rocky was trying to give me advice every lap to help me carry the car home and I was thinking: `Why's this guy so nervous, we must be in a bloody good position!'."
Vettel's 2010 championship challenge was far from prefect, he made several mistakes that cost him valuable points, he crashed into Mark Webber during the Turkish Grand Prix, and crashed into Jenson Button during the Belgium Grand Prix, on both occasions he was heavily criticized by the media, and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh even called him the 'crash kid'. In Korea his Renault engine blew up while he was leading the race, which cost him another 25 points, but Vettel remained undeterred and kept believing he could still win the title.
It wasn't an easy season for the Red Bull team either, they were accused of using an illegal ride height system, and the by now famous Red Bull flexing wing saga also continued to hound the Anglo-Austrian team until the end of the season. The team was accused of favoring Vettel which led to an intense rivalry between its two drivers. Webber refused to play second fiddle, and so did Vettel, which ultimately led to their crash in Turkey. Many things have been said an written about Red Bull this season, but the fact remains that during the final race of the season they were the only team with both drivers still in contention for the title.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was the man who was in the middle of it all and had to manage the team during its difficult times, he also had to answer some tough questions concerning the rivalry between his two drivers. But in the end it was worth the bumpy ride, and Horner led his team to winning both the Constructors' and Drivers' Championship. Horner was of course very pleased with the result in Abu Dhabi and praised both Vettel and Webber.
"It's an unbelievable outcome. The first time Sebastian has led the Championship is at the last race of the year, but arguably that's the only time you need to lead it. He's stuck with it though this year, he's had some tough times and he's had his issues with reliability here and there, but he's never lost his focus. We mustn't forget Mark [Webber] in all this and what an incredible job he's done this year. He's driven superbly well, he's won four grand prix victories and has taken the Championship to the final race," said Horner after the race.
"It could have gone to either one of them this year and it's a great privilege to have these two guys in our team. It's been a very big and emotional week for the team and I'd like to thank every single member, all our suppliers, everyone at Red Bull and Dietrich Mateschitz for his unfaltering support," the happy team principal said.
Expect the unexpected
It is often said that championships are not won during the first lap of a race, but unfortunately for Alonso and Webber, at the Yas Marina circuit the championship was decided during that very first lap. Things already went wrong when Button passed Fernando Alonso in the first corner, Alonso chose to play it safe and did not defend his position all too fiercely, probably thinking he would deal with Button later, as the McLaren driver was not in the race for the championship.
But it was the crash in Turn 4 between Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi that opened the door for Vettel and Hamilton, but shattered the dreams of Alonso and Webber. The seven-time World Champion was locked into a battle with his German team colleague Nico Rosberg, unfortunately Schumacher was a bit too eager to stay ahead of him, hit the accelerator too early in an attempt to fend off Rosberg's attack, and spun his car. "I went off the line, spun and because of the dirt there, the back of the car just came around," Schumacher explained.
While the Mercedes was facing the track in the wrong way, several cars managed to avoid a collision, but not Liuzzi, who was suddenly confronted with the Mercedes when the cars ahead of him moved out of the way. The Force India slammed into the Mercedes, narrowly missing the head of Schumacher. Liuzzi gave his version of the events, "I came round the third corner and saw a cloud of smoke in front. I couldn't move anywhere as there were cars all around me and then when the smoke cleared I saw Michael the wrong way round and stopped on track. I couldn't do anything but thankfully we were both OK after the accident."
The safety car came out to give the marshals the opportunity to clear the track and clean up the oil and water that had spilled from both cars. With the safety car on track, Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov, Jaime Alguersuari, Bruno Senna, Lucas di Grassi and Christian Klien decided to make their mandatory pit stop for new tyres, while the rest of the field decided to stay out. With hindsight, this proved to be a crucial moment in the race. The race resumed at the end of lap five, Vettel was still leading, with Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber and Felipe Massa right behind him.
On lap 10 Webber ran a bit wide and his right rear wheel brushed the wall, not much later he reported to his pit crew he was losing grip, and Red Bull decided to call him in for new tyres. After his stop Webber was seen drifting through the tunnel, desperate to make up for lost time, but the damage was already done. Due to the safety car period the field was still very close together, and Webber rejoined the race in 16th position., stuck behind the Toro Rosso of Alguersuari who had already pitted.
The biggest mistake Ferrari made was to follow the strategy of Webber, as they during the race still believed he was Alonso's biggest threat, but Webber's early pit stop proved to be a disastrous decision. Alonso pitted four laps later, and rejoined the race in 12th position, just ahead of Webber, who had by then overtaken Alguersuari. Both Alonso and Webber were now stuck behind the Renault of Petrov, who drove the race of his life and kept both drivers behind him. Both title contenders were now in a hopeless position, no points, and to add to their misery, further ahead the field, Vettel was still in second position, and Hamilton had made his stop and only had lost two places when he rejoined the race in fifth position.
Vettel stayed out on his super soft tyres and pitted on lap 24, his tyres had lasted many laps longer than those of Webber and Alonso. Although Vettel lost the lead to Button, Red Bull knew Button still had to pit, which would give the lead back to Vettel again. On lap 25 Button was leading the race followed by Vettel in second position, Hamilton was in fifth, and Alonso and Webber in 11th and 12th position respectively, still stuck behind Petrov. Alonso did what he could, ran wide several times in an attempt to overtake Petrov, but the Renault was simply too fast.
Alonso was seen waving his fist at Petrov after the race had finished, but the Russian hadn't done anything wrong and shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands from his cockpit as if he wanted to say: "I can't help it, it's not my fault." Petrov after the race, "I had a long battle with Fernando [Alonso], but the car had good top speed today so I was able to control the situation." About the angry Alonso he said, "He was angry of course. But what can I do? I just did my job. If he had tried a move, then I didn't want to crash with him, but it didn't come to that. I came here to fight, and race every other driver, and I think I showed today that I can fight."
Preserving the tyres
Button again proved he is a master in preserving his tyres, his super softs lasted until he pitted on lap 39, he rejoined the race in fourth position which gave the lead back to Vettel, who was now with seven points more compared to second place, in an even better position to grab the title. Although both Alonso and Webber had climbed to eighth and ninth place respectively because non-title contenders Kobayashi and Sebastien Buemi had pitted, it was still not enough to beat Vettel. They were still behind Petrov and some 38 seconds behind the leader.
Hamilton was was battling with Robert Kubica, who had started on the medium tyres, for third place. Whatever he tried, Hamilton could not pass him, and had to wait until the Pole made his pit stop on lap 46. He had raced 46 laps on his tyres, and rejoined the race in fifth position, three seconds ahead of Petrov. Thanks to a very light car and the fast super soft tyres, Kubica was unbeatable. And so was Rosberg, who also scored a new record, his medium Bridgestone tyres would last an incredible 53 laps.
Rosberg about his race, "We had a good pace on the medium tyres, just like in qualifying, and I was able to make the most of that performance when it mattered. Special thanks to Ross and James Vowles for a great strategy today."
Alonso and Webber both again won one position and were in seventh and eighth position after Adrian Sutil had finally made his pit stop on lap 47, his tyres had lasted for 47 laps. The situation for Alonso became worse, to get to fourth position to beat Vettel, he now had to overtake Petrov, Kubica and Rosberg within the remaining seven laps, and on his by then worn medium tyres, it proved to be an impossible task. Webber's position was even more desperate, he had to finish ahead of Alonso, and had to win the race to beat Vettel, and even the always optimistic Webber knew this wasn't going to happen.
From lap 47 on the order remained the same, Vettel crossed the finish line first, followed by Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Kubica and Petrov. Alonso and Webber crossed the line in seventh and eight position and had to admit defeat, as Vettel and his spot-on strategy, combined with their own very early pit stop, which clearly had been the wrong call, had beaten them. For the complete race result and the final standings in both championships, please follow the links at the bottom of the page.
Although Alonso was initially angry at Petrov, he later calmed down, and had to admit Vettel had been the better driver in Abu Dhabi. "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," the disappointed Spaniard commented. And added, "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."
Other title contender Webber was equally disappointed, "I'm very disappointed by what happened on Sunday evening; I aimed for the biggest target in motor sport, the Formula One World Championship, and it didn't work out. But there are still lots of positives to take out of the 2010 season. I've taken five pole positions, four victories and I'm even proud of some of my second places because they were well-executed race weekends."
Hamilton was also disappointed, but also understood there wasn't much more he could have done, "I was able to match Vettel's pace in the early part of the race -- but, after my pit stop, I was stuck behind Kubica. It was just impossible to get past him -- he made no mistakes -- so it wasn't possible to resume my attack on Vettel. But that's the way motor racing goes sometimes." Besides that, he wouldn't have won the title even if he would have snatched the win from Vettel, in that case Vettel's second place would also have been sufficient for him to win the title.
The end of the 2010 season
Vettel's title was a worthy conclusion of the 2010 season, a season already hailed and deemed by many as the most exciting Formula One season ever. After a boring start at Bahrain, all experts called for changes, as they believed it would become a boring season, but they couldn't have been more wrong. The FIA, now presided by Frenchman Jean Todt, had banned refueling and the 2009 double diffuser, but new technical innovations, combined with Bridgestone's very radical tyre compound allocations, made this a season to remember for all drivers, teams and fans.
The re-introduction of the KERS system was postponed until 2011, but McLaren's secret weapon, the F-Duct, provided plenty of extra speed to overtake on long straights, the clever wing stalling device was soon copied by all teams. The weather gods also played an important role during this season's 19 Grands Prix, and many races turned into a real slipping and sliding spectacle, difficult conditions for the drivers, but a joy to watch for the hundreds of millions of spectators all over the world.
Many crashes and collisions and the resulting safety car interventions determined the outcome of many races, and thanks to the high safety standards, no one was injured. Teams had to juggle with the limited number of engines to complete the season without a grid penalty, only car number 22, the BMW-Sauber of Pedro de la Rosa which was later piloted by his replacement driver Nick Heidfeld, needed a ninth engine, the rest of the teams were able to manage the engine mileage without any problems.
There were also plenty of controversies involving driver rivalry at the three leading teams Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, which provided plenty of food for thought, and especially the media were very keen to speculate about who was, and who wasn't, the second driver within the team. The much heralded return of Schumacher was anything but a success, and although it must be said the Mercedes was not exactly the fastest car on the grid, Schumacher was regularly outclassed by his younger team colleague Rosberg.
The three new teams Lotus Racing, Virgin Racing and HRT were criticized because of their lack of speed, which was ultimately the result of the limited financial resources they had available. FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone even said they were 'an embarrassment' to the sport, but what does he know, these three new teams stole the heart of many Formula One fans.
Another rookie also stole the heart of many fans this year, Japanese Sauber driver Kobayashi made a name for himself with his stunning overtaking maneuvers and his total commitment, he was a source of inspiration for the struggling Sauber team, and he managed to score 32 championship points in his first full season.
The overall result was that Formula One's popularity soared to new heights, people who were never interested in motor sports are now watching Formula One races, and newspapers and magazines who never had written one word about Formula One now publish reports after each Grand Prix. After last weekend's final race in Abu Dhabi, fans all over the world are already looking forward to the 2011 season, which will start on March 13 at the Bahrain International circuit, and will end twenty races later, on November 27 at the Brazilian Interlagos circuit.