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Flashback: Abu Dhabi '09 - Vettel shines at dazzling new venue 30 Oct 2013

Sebastian Vettel, 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit The grid before the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Renault R29 at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24 leads at the start of the race. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24 retires from the race. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB5 leads Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB5.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Toyota TF109 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Second placed Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB5 finishes ahead of Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB5 passes the chequered flag. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB5 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Y Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing celebrate a 1-2 finish with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 1 November 2009 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB5 in the second practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 30 October 2009

Having conceded the drivers’ title to Brawn’s Jenson Button at the penultimate round of the 2009 season in Brazil, Sebastian Vettel arrived at the brand new, state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi determined to end his first year with Red Bull on a high. Ahead of the 2013 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix we remember the inaugural day/night event and a race in which Vettel was at his brilliant best…

It was somewhat appropriate that the world championship had been decided by the time of the final round, the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November 2009. It’s not that the new venue wasn’t worthy of hosting an occasion as important as a title showdown, more that it seemed unfair for anything to take attention away from the spectacular new track itself.

Work on the Yas Marina Circuit had begun back in February 2007 and in the intervening period a workforce of 14,000 people invested 35 million man hours shifting 1.6 million cubic metres of earthwork, laying 720,000 square metres of asphalt and pouring 225,000 cubic metres of concrete. Impressive statistics that yielded truly striking results.

When the drivers completed their usual pre-event track walks on the Thursday before the race, it’s fair to say that there was plenty of jaw dropping going on as each of the anti-clockwise circuit’s unique features revealed itself. Sure, the majority of drivers had already driven the circuit ‘virtually’ on their simulators, but to witness first-hand the pit-lane exit - which snaked through a tunnel under the track - and the circuit-spanning Yas Hotel - whose illuminated, colour-changing ‘gridshell’ would gleam across the Yas Island skyline in darker hours - was something altogether new.

When practice got underway on Friday the drivers were given their first taste of the track, as well as the unusual race lighting conditions - the second session, like the race, began at sunset and ran into floodlit darkness. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen topped the timesheets in the respective Friday sessions, but after FP3 on Saturday the trio of Brawn’s newly-crowned world champion Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber all looked capable of challenging for pole.

But as the sun set on Saturday evening there was one car in command of qualifying - the sparkling silver one of Lewis Hamilton. The Briton crushed his rivals with a lap that was over sixth-tenths of a second quicker than that of Vettel in second place. Webber grabbed third on the grid ahead of the Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and Button, whilst the best Ferrari could manage was 11th fastest with Kimi Raikkonen.

“The car has been I think probably the best it has been all year,” Hamilton raved afterwards. “It seems to really feel quite comfortable on this circuit. What they have done here is incredible and I think it is just a real pleasure to drive here and when you have definitely got the car beneath you it is just a great drive.”

With Hamilton in such imperious form, the McLaren driver’s rivals must have feared the worst when on Sunday evening the silver car made a perfect getaway from its front-row starting position to lead comfortably into Turn 1. Behind, Vettel and Webber squabbled for position, the latter running slightly wide before accidentally clipping Barrichello’s front wing. Button slipped by his ailing team mate to establish a front four order that would remain constant throughout the first stint.

What was surprising, however, was the speed of Hamilton’s McLaren, or rather the lack of it. Far from looking invincible, the Briton’s frequent trips into the Turn 17 run-off area confirmed he was struggling.

Hamilton stopped for fuel and tyres on Lap 17, Webber a lap later, and Vettel a lap after that. The extra track time - and an almost too swift pit exit - was enough to vault the German into the lead, but there was no time for Hamilton to respond for soon after he was parked up in the McLaren garage and out of the car.

“I had a good start, but I realised early on that something wasn’t right with the brakes,” a crestfallen Hamilton explained. “After three or four laps, it became clear that there was a problem with my right-rear brake pad, so I couldn’t open up the gap back to Sebastian and Mark. When the problem got worse, the team radioed me and told me to stop at the end of the lap.

“Of course, it’s a shame that we couldn’t show the performance we’d had throughout the weekend - but sometimes that’s racing.”

With Hamilton removed from the picture, Red Bull were in a position to dictate the race; Vettel ahead of Webber and pulling away, with the Brawns having fallen even further back during the pit stop sequence. In fact, Button in the leading Brawn had a real battle on his hands thanks to Toyota rookie Kamui Kobayashi - the man who had frustrated him during his debut in Brazil. Running a single-stop strategy, the Japanese racer was able to get a run on Button’s heavier two-stopping Brawn into Turn 8 and managed to make a pass stick.

The red and white Toyota then pulled away so swiftly that, for a time, it seemed like Kobayashi might be able to pull off a remarkable podium finish, but after pitting on Lap 29 his post-pit stop pace on heavy tanks was not swift enough to stay in contention.

As the last of the sunlight disappeared, the top order now looked set - Vettel hadn't put a foot wrong and was a good chunk ahead of Webber, who in turn was handily placed ahead of Button. Was the race - and therefore the season - in danger of fizzling out? It seemed likely until the final round of pit stops when Button’s car was fitted with soft tyres and instantly transformed into a contender.

Quickly Button closed in on the back of Webber’s Red Bull until with six laps to go he was in a position to challenge for second place. Try as he might, the Briton couldn’t find a way around the Australian until on the very last lap he managed to position his car in Webber’s slipstream heading down the back straight. Webber instinctively moved to the inside line and though Button was able to get alongside, the Red Bull driver just managed to hold him off with some well-judged late braking into Turn 8.

But the battle wasn’t over. Having braked so deeply into the chicane, Webber now lacked momentum and Button was able to challenge again on the straight down to Turn 11. The Red Bull driver again adopted his best defensive tactics and somehow kept the Brawn behind.

But the glory belonged to Vettel who had never looked threatened since taking the lead and who coolly took the chequered flag some 18 seconds ahead of the Webber/Button dog fight.

“That was a fantastic race,” beamed a delighted Vettel afterwards. “We had a very good start, it wasn’t good enough to overtake Lewis, but I was surprised I was so close to him.

“The car was a dream today. There was a lot of pressure, I nearly went a bit wide in the pit lane entrance during my first stop and then there was the scary exit through the tunnel, but I was on the limit and it was enough to get past Lewis. Unfortunately he then had to retire, but up to that point it was a fantastic race with him.

“After that I had a little bit of a cushion to Mark (Webber) and Jenson behind and I was able to pace myself, but the car was fantastic until the end.”

Behind the leading trio, Barrichello overcame his earlier woes to bring his Brawn home in fourth, four seconds ahead of Nick Heidfeld’s Sauber and the hugely impressive Kobayashi, who wrapped up a tenacious drive with sixth.

“Abu Dhabi has provided a fantastic venue for the final race of the season and the sport can be very proud to have such a stunning facility on the calendar,” said Brawn team principal Ross Brawn, echoing the general euphoric feeling in the paddock.

Another long season had drawn to a close and most people were looking forward to a well-needed winter break and the chance to recharge their batteries. However, there was one man who was less pleased that the curtain had come down on the racing year.

“It’s a shame that the season ends now, as we are on a roll!” exclaimed Vettel. Little did he know that 12 months on - at the very same venue - he’d be going into the winter break altogether less frustrated - as world champion.

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