Red Bull finish season in style as Vettel shows mettle
FORMULA ONE ABU:AFTER A stuttering season which saw them sway from dominant to desultory and in the process lose the title fight to Jenson Button and Brawn, Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber signed off their season in style with the team’s fourth one-two finish of the season at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday.
Both drivers had been solid championship contenders throughout the summer as Button’s own title bid wavered but in a miserable streak as the autumn set in which both suffered two retirements on days when Brawn continued to score, the chance of glory slipped away, Button eventually claiming the title in Brazil two weeks ago.
On the strength of yesterday’s Red Bull Racing performance the newly-crowned champion can count himself lucky the season ended in the glittering showhouse that is the Yas Marina circuit. With Vettel winning in Japan and Webber in Brazil the final three races of the year had once again demonstrated that when the mechanical stars were right for Red Bull they were the dominant force of the second half of the season.
That has almost been confirmed in qualifying. Lewis Hamilton though also had a point to prove, a blistering qualifying performance to claim pole ahead of Vettel once again reminding the paddock that McLaren will never be away from the sharp end for long. Hamilton held his lead through the opening corner of the race and as the cars emerged onto the long back straight, a push of the KERS button sent him rocketing away from the chasing Vettel and Webber.
“I got a good start and was very close to Lewis which was surprising,” said Vettel. “Then on the straight he pushed the button and that was it. But I was able to stay close and in the last sector the car was a dream, so I was always catching him. That was the secret – to stay with him.”
By the time the leading trio went into the first pit stop window Vettel had done just that, the gap ahead to Hamilton only 1.2 seconds.
Fuelled slightly heavier, Vettel had two laps longer on track than the McLaren driver and used them well enough to emerge in the lead.
That should have made for an interesting second-stint battle, but within a few laps, Hamilton was out, a brake problem forcing him to steer back to the pits to retire.
Thereafter Vettel was unstoppable, opening a 16-second gap to Webber after his second stop and cruising to a fourth win of the year. “I’m very proud,” Vettel said of taking second in the championship. “Congratulations to Jenson and to Brawn, I think they truly deserved it and over the season they did a better job. After Brazil, coming here, we knew we had a strong package and the task was to take second and we succeeded. To do it with win is a fantastic result.”