Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver in history to win the FIA Formula 1 World Championship by dominating the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a steady drive to victory, ahead of two quick McLarens, while championship favourites Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso found themselves stuck behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, driving the race of his career and were unable to do anything about the Russian. It was ironic that the speed of the two McLarens helped the Red Bulls as Alonso was in no position to mount an effective challenge.
The race began with Vettel just managing to keep Lewis Hamilton behind him at the start, with a fast-starting Jenson Button getting ahead of Alonso into third place. Mar Webber tucked in behind the Spaniard. At Turn 6 Rubens Barrichello was slow into the corner, boxing up the two Mercedes behind him. Rosberg went around the outside but Michael Schumacher spun and ended up in the middle of the road where the luckless Tonio Liuzzi arrived with nowhere to go.
The result was a Safety Car which would play a vital part in proceedings as Rosberg and Petrov went into the pits to get rid of the soft rubber and get on the more durable hard tyres. They rejoined at the back but as the race progressed they moved up the order, with no further need to stop.
When the race restarted Vettel was able to hold back Hamilton, while Button shadowed them. Webber decided that his only hope was to get rid of his soft tyres early and on lap 11 went into the pits and rejoined 16th. Four laps later Ferrari decided that it had to cover Webber, rather than have Alonso chase after Vettel and the McLarens, the Spaniard pitted and rejoined 12th, just ahead of Webber, but behind Petrov.
Hamilton pitted on lap 23 and Vettel went in next time round to cover the move. This left Button in the lead and for 15 laps the World Champion stayed ahead. Vettel had rejoined in second with Robert Kubica third, having started on hard tyres. He would eventually have to stop but for the next laps he held off Hamilton, which put paid to any chance that he might have had of winning the race. Further back Petrov continued to keep Alonso and Webber in his wake and gradually the cars between then began to disappear into the pits and fell away. By lap 38 Petrov was seventh. On the next lap Button pitted, rejoining fourth behind Vettel, Kubica and Hamilton. Robert kept on going holding back Hamilton, while Petrov held off Alonso and Webber. On lap 46 and 47 Kubica and fifth-placed Adrian Sutil pitted. Robert was able to get out just ahead of Petrov, while Sutil tumbled way back, out of the points.
But the die was cast. Vettel was ahead with Hamilton and Button in hot pursuit. Rosberg’s lonely race took him to fourth and then came Kubica, Petrov, Alonso and Webber, in an increasingly lively train. But there was nothin to be done. Vettel crossed the line and clocked up 256 points. Alonso’s total was 252, Mark Webber 242 and Hamilton 240. It had been a tense and exciting event. Vettel was beside himself with joy, Alonso might have been wiser to wave congratulations at Petrov for a job well done, but instead he gesticulated rudely, which did nothing for his reputation as a good sportsman. Winning well is good but as Felipe Massa proved in Brazil two years ago, losing well is something that wins more respect.
A great season has come to an end. Let us hope that next year’s is as good…