Race - Vettel grabs title with Abu Dhabi win 14 Nov 2010
Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel is the new world champion, and the youngest in history, after a gripping Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Vettel led from the start and only surrendered the lead after his tyre stop, but the outcome of the championship was effectively decided on the opening lap when Mercedes GPs Michael Schumacher spun and was mounted by an unsighted Tonio Liuzzi. As the safety car came out, Renault crucially pitted Vitaly Petrov, as did Mercedes Nico Rosberg. Both stops would later play key roles.
When the racing resumed, Vettel opened a lead over McLarens Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who had beaten Ferraris Fernando Alonso off the line. Red Bulls Mark Webber chased the Spaniard, but would be destined to spend a cheerless afternoon struggling in the Ferraris slipstream.
As Vettel controlled things, Webber pitted for Bridgestones harder rubber as early as the 11th lap, with Alonso following suit four laps later. But as they fell into the midfield behind Petrov, Hamilton did not stop until the 23rd lap, Vettel the 24th. That put Button into the lead, but as Vettel resumed behind the man he replaces as champion, Hamilton was crucially trapped behind the ever-quick Robert Kubica who was on a long opening stint for Renault on the harder tyres.
Alonso, meanwhile, was still trapped behind Kubicas team mate Petrov as BMW Saubers Kamui Kobayashi, Kubica, Force Indias Adrian Sutil, Toro Rossos Sebastien Buemi, Rosberg and Williams' Nico Hulkenberg duked it out ahead of them. Kobayashi, Sutil, Buemi and Hulkenberg all fell way back when they finally changed tyres, but Button only dropped to fourth when he finally pitted on the 39th lap, and that became third when Kubica eventually did likewise on the 46th in the most crucial stop of the race.
Neither Rosberg nor Petrov, of course, needed to stop again, so by now it was clear that Alonsos hopes were doomed even if he managed to pass Petrov, because he needed fourth overall if he was to avoid losing the title on fourth place countbacks if he finished fifth. Even that was not a realistic hope, as he failed to dislodge the Russian.
Going into the final eight laps the order was Vettel, around 10 seconds clear of Hamilton, with Button a couple more seconds back, then came Rosberg after a great but unobstrusive performance, Kubica, who got away with momentarily crossing the white line on the pit-lane exit, and Petrov. Try as he might, Alonso just could not pass the Renault, and the frustrated Spaniard exchanged a few uncomplimentary hand signals with its driver on the slowdown lap, although later said the Russian had driven a good race.
Thus the final tally showed Vettel with 256 points, Alonso with 252, Webber with 242 and Hamilton with 240. In the constructors stakes, Red Bull of course had already wrapped things up but finished a brilliant season with 498 points to McLarens 454 and Ferraris 396.
It barely mattered that Jaime Alguersuari took ninth for Toro Rosso, not having helped his Red Bull stablemate Webber at all in the laps immediately after the Australians stop, then came a disgruntled Felipe Massa for Ferrari in 10th from Nick Heidfelds BMW Sauber, Rubens Barrichellos Williams, Sutil, Kobayashi, Buemi and Hulkenberg.
Lotuss Heikki Kovalainen won the newbie stakes for Tony Fernandess team, ahead of Lucas di Grassis Virgin and the HRTs of Bruno Senna and Christian Klien. Jarno Trullis Lotus was the final classified finisher after both his front and rear wings suffered failures at different parts of the race.
Joining Force Indias Liuzzi and Schumacher as a non-fnisher was Timo Glocks Virgin, which stopped late in the race.
And so the most dramatic season of Formula One racing in many years draws to its close, and as Bridgestone bid farewell, the era of Sebastian Vettel dawns. One has to feel sorry for his team mate Webber, for whom things just didnt go to plan, and for Alonso, but with 10 pole positions the young German has laid just claim to the title, and the joy at Red Bull literally knew no bounds.
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