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Moments in time - the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

19 Nov 2014

Abu Dhabi has only been on the calendar since 2009, but the race has already provided a wealth of memorable moments.

In our series exploring the history of Grands Prix through selected iconic images, we turn our attention to Yas Marina, a circuit which has witnessed a four-way title fight, jubilation for Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, a big crash for Nico Rosberg, and more…

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is go! 2009

Formula One racing staged its first night race in 2008, and it followed it up in 2009 with the addition of its first twilight event: the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the striking Yas Marina Circuit. Just after 1700 hours local time, as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton led the field into the first corner as a huge crowd watched on from the grandstands. But it wasn’t to be the Briton’s day: failing brakes forced him into retirement just 20 laps into the race.

(© Sutton Images)

Winner Vettel doused by champion Button, 2009

Jenson Button (left) and Sebastian Vettel (right) had fought tooth and nail for the world title over the latter half of 2009, so it was only fitting that both men should end up on the podium at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. But while Button had clinched the ultimate prize in Brazil, at Yas Marina he had no answer for the Red Bull driver, who - once McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton retired - was able to win at a canter. Button, pictured here showering Vettel with rosewater, eventually brought his Brawn home third after an entertaining late-race scrap with the other Red Bull of Mark Webber.

(© Sutton Images)

The ‘famous four’ pose ahead of ultimate showdown, 2010

The 2010 season will go down as one of the closest fought on record, with four drivers heading into the season finale at Yas Marina with a legitimate chance of clinching the drivers’ crown. After 18 thrilling rounds, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (second left, 246 points) held a slim advantage over the Red Bull duo of Mark Webber (far right, 238 points) and Sebastian Vettel (far left, 231 points), with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton (second right, 222 points) a little further back. However, they wouldn’t finish in that order…

(© Sutton Images)

Schumacher and Liuzzi tangle dramatically, 2010

“I came round the third corner and saw a cloud of smoke in front of me. I couldn't move anywhere as there were cars all around me and then when the smoke cleared I saw Michael facing the wrong way round and stopped on track. I couldn't do anything…” That was Vitantonio Liuzzi’s assessment of the shocking first-lap crash in the 2010 Yas Marina race which ended with the Italian’s Force India perching precariously on top of Michael Schumacher’s stricken Mercedes. Thankfully, despite the severity of the accident, both drivers escaped injury.

(© Sutton Images)

Petrov pours cold water on Alonso’s championship aspirations, 2010

Going into the 2010 season finale at Abu Dhabi, Fernando Alonso was poised to complete a fairy-tale first year with Ferrari. After a mid-season wobble, the Spaniard had staged a remarkable comeback over the eight races leading up to the Yas Marina event, turning a 47-point championship deficit into an eight-point advantage. All he required to guarantee a third title was a top-two finish - and he didn’t necessarily need that depending on where title rivals Vettel, Webber and Hamilton finished. Sadly for Alonso (second in this picture), it wasn’t to be, thanks largely to a poor strategy call early in the race that led to him being stuck behind Vitaly Petrov (yellow car), who’d made his one and only pit stop under the early safety car brought out following the Schumacher/Liuzzi crash. Try as he might, Alonso just couldn’t find a way past the Russian’s rapid Renault and he eventually trailed home in seventh, losing the title by four points in the process.

(© Sutton Images)

Vettel becomes the youngest ever F1 champion, 2010

Sebastian Vettel had nothing to lose going into the 2010 title decider in Abu Dhabi. The German was 15 points behind Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ standings and knew he’d need a decent slice of luck to steal the crown. All Vettel could do was win and hope that everything else fell into place - and that’s exactly what happened. Against the odds the Red Bull driver became the youngest world champion in F1 history, leading to these wild celebrations in the paddock.

(© Sutton Images)

Happy Hamilton mobbed by mechanics after ‘soul-affirming’ victory, 2011

If you needed to know how much winning the 2011 race at Yas Marina meant to Lewis Hamilton, you needed only to look at his reaction following the race. The McLaren driver, who had gone three months without a victory and by his own assessment had ‘massively underachieved’ over the year, leapt from his machine in parc ferme before bounding over the fences to celebrate jubilantly with his crew (pictured). “I’m usually my own biggest critic - I’m always hard on myself when I make mistakes - but I really felt like I maximised everything today,” Hamilton said, having dominated the race from the moment Sebastian Vettel spun his right-rear punctured Red Bull on the first lap. “To be able to walk away (from the race) with a smile feels just fantastic: victory is good for the soul.”

(© Sutton Images)

Rosberg takes flight over Karthikeyan, 2012

One of the scariest incidents of the 2012 season occurred in the early stages of the race at Yas Marina when Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg flew over the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT before slamming into the barriers. The spectacular incident occurred when Rosberg, who’d been shuffled down the order after an early pit stop for a new front wing, was left with no time to react as Karthikeyan, who he was following closely, slowed in a normally high-speed corner. “We had a problem with the hydraulic pressure and the steering of the car went rock solid - I had to lift my foot off the accelerator,” Karthikeyan would subsequently explain. Thankfully neither driver was injured in the unusual accident.

(© Formula One World Championship)

Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus). 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit

Leave him alone, he knows what he’s doing, 2012

Kimi Raikkonen’s no-nonsense response to his race engineer’s repeated radio interjections during the 2012 race at Yas Marina has become the stuff of legend. “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing,” the Finn exclaimed, and to be fair, he did. After inheriting the lead from Lewis Hamilton when the Briton’s McLaren expired on lap 20, Raikkonen coolly held Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (in the background) at bay for 36 laps to take his first victory since returning to the sport at the beginning of the year.

(© Sutton Images)

Vettel celebrates seventh successive victory with handful of donuts, 2013

At the previous race in India Sebastian Vettel celebrated clinching his fourth-straight world title with a jubilant display of donuts. However, whilst this thrilled the crowds, the FIA were less amused and hit the German with a reprimand for failing to return his car to parc ferme. Such a punishment might have put other drivers off repeating the stunt, but not so Vettel - at the very next race, having waltzed to his seventh successive victory, the Red Bull star performed another set of smoky pirouettes. This time though, he returned his car to parc ferme - and escaped punishment...

(© Sutton Images)