Sebastian Vettel won the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today, his 4th win of the season and the 6th for his team. Team mate Mark Webber finished second, fighting off a late challenge from Jenson Button in the Brawn-Mercedes.
It was Vettel’s fourth win of the season, also the fourth 1-2 finish for Red Bull Racing and, encouragingly for them they have won the final three races of the season, which bodes well for 2010. Red Bull became a top team this season and believe that they can stay there for the future.
Lewis Hamilton started from pole position and led the opening stint, but was troubled with a brake problem from early on. He was unable to build a big enough lead to combat Vettel’s longer strategy and lost the lead to the German. Shortly afterwards he was told to pit and retire the car. Abnormal brake wear was the reason.
In the middle stint of the race, Vettel pulled away easily from team mate Mark Webber, meanwhile Jenson Button had another battle with Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi as he emerged from his first stop. The Japanese was on light fuel at the time and attacked the world champion very aggressively, forcing Button into a mistake under braking into Turn 8. It was a stunning piece of driving by Kobayashi. Button said after their battle in Brazil that Kobayashi is ‘crazy’ and clearly was mindful of that as he battled him.
Kobayashi was on a one stop strategy and was fighting Button for a podium, but when he switched to the soft tyre for his second stint his pace dropped off. But he came in a creditable 6th.
In the closing stages of the race Webber was struggling with the soft tyre and Button was able to close in on him. The pair battled for the final couple of laps, but Webber was able to hold off Button in the main passing places.
Meanwhile in the battle for third place in the constructors’ championship Kimi Raikkonen lost out to Heikki Kovalainen in the pit stops.
Rubens Barrichello damaged his front wing in a tangle with Webber in the first corner, but it didn’t seem to slow him down too much and he did not change it at the first pit stop.
The race had some overtaking, largely due to lighter cars on different strategies from heavier cars which had just pitted. But the field spread out a lot in the opening stint and the retirement of Hamilton cost the race it’s incisive edge until the final cameo from Webber and Button.