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Race - Vettel grabs title with Abu Dhabi win 14 Nov 2010

Podium (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren celebrate.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010 A huge crash as Schumacher spins and is hit by Liuzzi on the first lap Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6 follows the safety car.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) BMW Sauber, Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03 and Robert Kubica (POL) Renault R30 at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010

Red Bull’s 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 GP’s 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 McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who had beaten Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso off the line. Red Bull’s Mark Webber chased the Spaniard, but would be destined to spend a cheerless afternoon struggling in the Ferrari’s slipstream.

As Vettel controlled things, Webber pitted for Bridgestone’s 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 Kubica’s team mate Petrov as BMW Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, Kubica, Force India’s Adrian Sutil, Toro Rosso’s 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 Alonso’s 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 McLaren’s 454 and Ferrari’s 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 Australian’s stop, then came a disgruntled Felipe Massa for Ferrari in 10th from Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber, Rubens Barrichello’s Williams, Sutil, Kobayashi, Buemi and Hulkenberg.

Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen won the newbie stakes for Tony Fernandes’s team, ahead of Lucas di Grassi’s Virgin and the HRTs of Bruno Senna and Christian Klien. Jarno Trulli’s Lotus was the final classified finisher after both his front and rear wings suffered failures at different parts of the race.

Joining Force India’s Liuzzi and Schumacher as a non-fnisher was Timo Glock’s 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 didn’t 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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