Sebastian Vettel became the youngest ever F1 World Champion today when he won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
He was also lucky on the day that Ferrari made a terrible tactical error, which crippled Fernando Alonso’s race. They were so focussed on covering the early stop for Mark Webber and reacted to that, bringing Alonso in early, rather than seeing the risk posed by drivers who had pitted under a safety car on lap one. That error cost Alonso the world title today.
At the start Button jumped Alonso for third place. Webber didn’t really try to attack while further back Schumacher got caught out by his team mate in Turn 5 and went into a spin. He was smashed by Tonio Liuzzi, who had nowhere to go. The nose of Liuzzi’s car narrowly missed Schumacher’s head.
This brought out a safety car, under which Rosberg pitted, as did Petrov, Di Grassi and the two Hispania cars.
It was a messy end to a patchy comeback season for the seven times champion.
The race restarted on lap six. Hamilton had to go off track to avoid Vettel as he braked to build a gap to the safety car for the restart.
Webber’s tyres started to go off and he pitted on lap 12. But he came out behind Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso and when Alonso pitted on lap 15, he was able to rejoin just ahead of Webber. It seemed ironic that a Red Bull owned Toro Rosso car would be the one to cost Webber the chance to jump Alonso.
Webber pushed Alonso hard, the pair closed up on Petrov. Ferrari told Alonso it was “critical” that he pass Petrov. Meanwhile Alonso had other problems because also ahead of him was Nico Rosberg, who had pitted under the safety car and thus would not be stopping again. This put him on course to be fifth in the race and thus lose the title.
Hamilton pitted on lap 23 and that forced Vettel to react. He pitted a lap later and was lucky that Kobayashi made a mistake as it meant Vettel could get ahead of both Kobayashi and Kubica. The Pole made a sublime pass on the Japanese a lap later. Neither of them had pitted at this stage.
Hamilton passed Kobayashi on lap 27, but couldn’t pass Kubica. Meanwhile Button led on lap 31, having not pitted yet. We have seen him several times this season getting much longer life out of soft tyres than his rivals. Hamilton was on the radio asking for permission to pit for new tyres as his left front was giving him problems.
Button stayed out and Vettel closed him down. Button pitted on lap 40, dropping back into third place.
Kubica pitted on lap 47 and rejoined ahead of Petrov and Alonso, compounding the misery of Ferrari. The Renaults certainly did a job for Red Bull, their customer for engines, today. But it was all fair.
So Alonso started third and finished seventh, Webber started fifth and finished eighth.
“We have to enjoy this moment. It is our moment,” said Vettel. “I was thinking of Kimi’s situation today. It was similar, but we were in a stronger position. One big advantage with Kimi is that he does his own thing and that was my target all weekend long. Who would have thought that a Ferrari starting third with good pace would finish seventh? That’s how it goes some times. I’m just happy to add my name to the list with Schumacher and Senna.
“The car this year was phenomenal, it was a masterpiece. I had the clear target going into the season to win the championship, I was very focussed, maybe I got a bit tense mid season. But to come back after what happened in Spa and all the bad press I got, that’s when you realise who supports you. I realised that sometimes things don’t go your way but there is justice and today it went my way.”
ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX, Yas Marina Circuit, 55 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h39m36.837s
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 10.1s
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 11.0s
4. Rosberg Mercedes + 30.7s
5. Kubica Renault + 39.0s
6. Petrov Renault + 43.5s
7. Alonso Ferrari + 43.7s
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 44.2s
9. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 50.2s
10. Massa Ferrari + 50.8s
11. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 51.5s
12. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 57.6s
13. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 58.3s
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 59.5s
15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1m03.1s
16. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1m04.7s
17. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 1 lap
18. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
19. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
20. Klien HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 4 laps
FINAL STANDINGS DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Vettel 256
2. Alonso 252
3. Webber 242
4. Hamilton 240
5. Button 214
6. Massa 144
7. Rosberg 142
8. Kubica 136
9. Schumacher 72
10. Barrichello 47
11. Sutil 47
12. Kobayashi 32
13. Petrov 27
14. Hulkenberg 22
15. Liuzzi 21
16. Buemi 8
17. De la Rosa 6
18. Heidfeld 6
19. Alguersuari 5
1. Red Bull-Renault 498
2. McLaren-Mercedes 454
3. Ferrari 396
4. Mercedes 214
5. Renault 163
6. Williams-Cosworth 69
7. Force India-Mercedes 68
8. Sauber-Ferrari 44
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13