Vettel wins 2009 Abu Dhabi F1 GP
Completely insignificant in terms of championship points, the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concludes the F1 season. Once a brake problem slowed McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel had no competition in Sunday evening’s inaugural day/night race. A brilliant win cemented his second place in the drivers’ world championship behind Brawn GP’s Jenson Button, who enlivened the end of the race with a superb challenge to the second-placed Red Bull of Mark Webber in the closing stages.
Hamilton led from pole and built a lead of 1.4 seconds when he refuelled on the 17th lap. Vettel was able to run until the 20th, and emerged comfortably in the lead. Soon afterwards Hamilton’s challenge ended when McLaren had to withdraw his car after the telemetry revealed a problem with the right rear brake pads which were suffering from excessive wear.
Webber thus moved up to second, with Button at that stage a distant third ahead of Brawn GP team mate Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian had run ahead of the Englishman on the opening lap but clipped Webber’s left-rear wheel with the right-hand endplate of his front wing, causing understeer. Button overtook, and chased after Webber while, at one stage, unsuccessfully fending off impressive rookie Kamui Kobayashi, until the Toyota driver finally refuelled.
In the closing stages Button found the softer Bridgestone option tyre cured the understeer he’d had on the harder primes and homed in on Webber like a heat-seeking missile. On the final lap he drew alongside at the end of the 1.2 km back straight, but Webber handled the situation beautifully, hogging the inside line and forcing Button to go to the outside where he didn’t want to go. They ran side by side for a while, but the Australian was able to keep his second place by 0.6 seconds.
Behind them, the race was relatively uneventful. Nick Heidfeld signed off BMW Sauber’s tenure as a joint team with a solid fifth place ahead of Kobayashi, who proved to be the find of the second half of the season. Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was seventh, two-stopping where Kobayashi stopped once, and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi survived a challenge and a brush with BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica, which left the Pole spinning, to take the final point.
Nico Rosberg was ninth for Williams with a recovered Kubica 10th. McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen fought up from his 18th place start to take 11th, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s uncompetitive Ferrari, Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams, Fernando Alonso who took his Renault until the 34th lap before his sole refuelling stop, and similarly single-stopping Vitantonio Liuzzi whose Force India was the last unlapped runner.
Ferrari’s Giancarlo Fisichella jumped Romain Grosjean’s Renault in the closing laps for 16th, and the Franco Swiss driver was so unsettled that Force €ndia’s Adrian Sutil also sneaked by.
Besides Hamilton, the only other retirement was Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard mistakenly tried to refuel in Vettel’s Red Bull pit instead of his own Toro Rosso camp and was frantically waved back round. He stopped soon after out on the track.
In the constructors’ world championship, McLaren retained third place ahead of Ferrari, while Williams lost sixth at the last gasp by 1.5 points to BMW Sauber.
1 15 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault
2 14 Mark Webber RBR-Renault
3 22 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes
4 23 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes
5 6 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber
6 10 Kamui Kobayashi Toyota
7 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota
8 12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
9 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota
10 5 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber
11 2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
12 4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari
13 17 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota
14 7 Fernando Alonso Renault
15 21 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
16 3 Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari
17 20 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
18 8 Romain Grosjean Renault
Ret 1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
Ret 11 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari
POINTS TO DATE
1 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 95
2 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 84
3 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 77
4 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 69.5
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 49
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 48
7 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 34.5
8 Jarno Trulli Toyota 32.5
9 Fernando Alonso Renault 26
10 Timo Glock Toyota 24
11 Felipe Massa Ferrari 22
12 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 22
13 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 19
14 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 17
15 Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari 8
16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 6
17 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 5
18 Kamui Kobayashi Toyota 3
19 Sebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari 2
20 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 0
21 Nelsinho Piquet Renault 0
22 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 0
23 Romain Grosjean Renault 0
24 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 0
25 Luca Badoer Ferrari 0
CONSTRUCTOR POINTS TO DATE
1 Brawn-Mercedes 172
2 RBR-Renault 153.5
3 McLaren-Mercedes 71
4 Ferrari 70
5 Toyota 59.5
6 BMW Sauber 36
7 Williams-Toyota 34.5
8 Renault 26
9 Force India-Mercedes 13
10 STR-Ferrari 8