Vettel youngest F1 champion with Abu Dhabi win

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ABU DHABI - Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull became the youngest Formula One champion in history Sunday with victory from pole position in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Having already secured the constructors’ crown last week in Brazil, Red Bull completed a fantastic year as Vettel produced a stunning drive to become the youngest champion in the history of the sport at 23 years 134 days.

“I’m a bit speechless, I don’t know what to say at this moment,” said Vettel.

“We have only led this championship once, when it matters.”

Not only had Vettel failed to lead the drivers’ standings all season, he went into the F1 finale lying third overall but at least still one of four drivers capable of lifting the title.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had led the standings by 15 points from Mark Webber going to the final race but blew his chances when his team made a tactical error by calling him into the pits too early, with the Spaniard eventually trailing home in seventh place.

“It was a bad race,” admitted a disgruntled Alonso. “After the race it is always easy to see the strategy.”

Mark Webber’s hopes of a maiden title ended when he too decided to pit early on and the Red Bull driver had to settle for a disappointing eighth.

“We did what we could but in the end it wasn’t enough,” said Webber, who will be staying on with Red Bull next season. “Two championships for the team is great for us.”

Lewis Hamilton of McLaren also had slim hopes of lifting a second drivers’ crown but even a second-place finish behind Vettel was not enough. Last year’s champion Jenson Button completed the podium places in the second McLaren.

Vettel’s third win in four races sees the German finish the season top on 256 points from 19 races, four clear of Alonso. Webber takes third with 242 points with Hamilton fourth on 240 points.

The German made the perfect start from pole at the Yas Marina Circuit to lead Hamilton after the first corner but Alonso dropped to fourth after being passed by Button.

The safety car was out almost immediately when Vitantonio Luizzi crashed head-on into Michael Schumacher after the German spun following the slightest of touches by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg took advantage of the safety car to get his mandatory pit stop out of the way and normal racing resumed at the end of lap five, with Vettel and Hamilton immediately opening up a gap on third-placed Button.

Webber began losing ground on Alonso as his rear tyres started losing grip fast, and decided to pit on lap 11.

Ferrari, in what turned out to be the pivotal decision of the race, made the call to track Webber’s move and bring in Alonso at the end of lap 15.

Although the Spaniard managed to return ahead of the Australian, he found himself behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.

“We had to choose between Vettel and Webber,” said Alonso. “We covered Webber but with Petrov and Rosberg it was difficult to overtake.”

The leaders took full advantage of the Ferrari decision by staying out. Hamilton pitted on lap 23, returning behind Robert Kubica while Vettel pitted a lap later, crucially coming out in front of the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, as well as Kubica and Hamilton.

Hamilton managed to get past Kobayashi but had greater difficulty against Kubica while Button was the last of the leaders to pit after managing an incredible 39 laps on soft tyres to take fourth spot.

Kubica, who had yet to pit, continued to hold off Hamilton while Alonso’s championship hopes faded by the lap as the Ferrari driver continued to languish behind Petrov.

Poland’s Kubica finally made his stop at the end of lap 46, coming out ahead behind fourth-placed Rosberg but ahead of Petrov and Alonso, ending the Ferrari driver’s title dreams and handing the title to Vettel.

“Thank you, I love you,” said an emotional Vettel over his team radio as he took in his achievement.

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