Victory for Sebastian Vettel

ABU DHAB — On his balaclava — a wollen cap worn beneath the helmet — was written ‘Monza’. That was the stage of his first-ever Grand Prix win at the Italian GP in 2008.

By James Jose (

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Published: Mon 15 Nov 2010, 11:21 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:00 PM

That worked as a lucky charm, as, two years on, Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to become world champion. The German beat reigning champ Fernando Alonso to the title by four points.

The Red Bull driver led from start to finish and drove into the twilight of the Yas Marina Circuit as the youngest ever Formula One World Champion and in the process posted back-to-back victories in Abu Dhabi.

At 23 years and 135 days, he beat McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who was the youngest champion, by 166 days.

The German from Heppenheim had started on pole but was lying third in the drivers’ standings behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. But the young gun drove an absolutely flawless race while the other two — Alonso and Webber — failed to mount a challenge.

Vettel finished a full 10.162 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Outgoing champion Jenson Button gave a good send-off to the No.1 on his car by finishing third, 11.047 seconds adrift of Vettel.

Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg was fourth, while Renault’s Polish driver Robert Kubica and Russian Vitaly Petrov finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

Vettel had the Renault duo to thank after the two held the other championship contenders Alonso and Webber at bay. Alonso finished seventh, while Webber ended eighth. Alonso needed to finish fifth or above to win the title, even if Vettel won the race.

Webber had all the work to do after qualifying P5 and an early pit stop, because of an enforced tyre change, made things worse. Alonso, who started from P3, too did not have a good start, losing position to Button.

Vettel, who was third in the standings with 231 points prior to this race, finished on 256 points, while Alonso managed only six points, which left him in second spot with 252 points. Webber earned four points to finish on 242 points. It was a double for Red Bull as they had already wrapped up the Constructors’ Championship in Brazil last weekend.

The race got going with the track temperature hovering at 32 degrees and an air temperature of 29 degrees. There was no drama at the start as Vettel got away despite Hamilton trying to get a look in at turn 1. Vettel closed him out and there was no looking back thereafter. Outgoing world champion Button, who started from fourth, had a good start, getting ahead of third-placed Alonso as the lights went out. Alonso tried to shut him out but the Briton stayed ahead.

But the Safety Car was deployed in the opening lap itself after Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg, who started from ninth, touched teammate Michael Schumacher at turn 6. Schumacher spun while Rosberg managed to get away. Schumacher tried to get the car off the track but, by then, Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi’s rammed into the seven-time world champion’s Mercedes which put both of them out of the race.

The Safety Car was out for four laps before the race resumed. Vettel had built a 1.2 second lead over Hamilton and reeled off a series of fastest laps in lap 7, 8 and 9 where he chipped away at it. He had built the gap to 1.7 seconds.

Webber had to pit early after he ran wide at turn 19 on lap 8 where his rear right tyre kissed the barricade and sparks flew. Webber pitted on lap 11 with a 3.9s stop and rejoined in 16th.

Alonso pitted on lap 15 with a 4.4s stop and rejoined in 12th, ahead of Webber, who had moved to 13th. The order ahead of the pack was Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Barrichello.

Alonso and Webber moved up a spot to 11thand 12th, respectively. Vettel had pulled away so ahead that the gap between him and 11thplaced Alonso was +28.833 seconds. Alonso tried to get past Petrov on lap 24 but ran wide on turn 8. Hamilton pitted on lap 23 with a 4.4s stop and rejoined fourth.

All eyes were on race leader Vettel as he pitted on lap 24 and the German with a quick 3.8-second stop rejoined in second behind race leader Button, who was yet to pit.

By lap 35, the order at the top was Button, Vettel, Renault’s Robert Kubica and Hamilton. Meanwhile, at the back, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov held Alonso and Webber at bay. Petrov was ninth, while Alonso and Webber were 10thand 11th, respectively.

The threesome had moved up to seven, eight and nine by lap 39. Race leader Button pitted on lap 39 and his 3.9 stop ensured he rejoined in third, behind Kubica, who was yet to make a stop.

Alonso’s chances of the title lay in the hand of Petrov and Kubica and his chances went slimmer after Kubica pitted on lap 46 and rejoined in sixth, ahead of Petrov, Alonso and Webber.

Vettel then cruised home and slowed down after he took the chequered flag to savour the moment.

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