So there we go then. It all ends much as it started, with a dull race that promised so much.
It should have been fantastic. All five of this year’s title contenders where up the sharp end of the grid after qualifying three. Vettel putting in an electric performance to take the pole by the knats proverbial testical from Hamilton. Webber choked on the big occasion as he has done on so many occasions over the years and ended up behind Button AND Alonso. How could he win the championship from there?
When it came to the race we’d all forgotten that last year’s race was a horrible dull affair with cars in a long procession and precious little spectacle to be seen. And so it proved again this year. Off the line and Button got the drop on Alonso to take third whilst Webber despite previous history managed to avoid hitting anyone or anything to sit behind Alonso, something he was destined to do for a very long time.
Meanwhile, Rosberg made a move on Schumacher and so surprised the disappointing German seven times world Champion that he spun in the middle of the chicane and then Liuzzi with nowhere to go attempted to mount the stricken Mercedes in a very forceful way. The result was a lengthy pace car period whilst the work experience marshals watched each other dither around trying to get Liuzzi's car off the top of Schumacher’s car. There was a bit of half hearted pulling of pieces and comedy attempts to clean up with the only two brooms in Abu Dhabi, before racing was allowed to continue.
I say racing but what we actually got was almost an hour and a half of dull tedious chess. Webbers had cooked his tires behind Alonso so had to make a very early stop for new boots. Which prompted Ferrari to take their eyes off the main challenge of Vettel and follow Webber into the pits. After the usual slick pit work, Alonso dived out in the exhaust smoke of Petrov. Normally a reliable cove to crash before half distance but this time amazingly that, after also changing his tires early, was driving a fine race. Thus had no need what-so-ever to get out of Alonso’s way.
And that, as they say, was that. Hamilton and button tried to take the race to Vettel, but he was having none of it and pretty much cruised to the win. Leapfrogging both Webber and Alonso in the table and taking his first World F1 Drivers Championship. Redbull does indeed, it would appear, give you wings. (If you’re German and had been brought up on the stuff since birth).
An early pit stop was how it all ended. But we did get to see a Driver take the chequered flag and take the main prize for a change. It’s kind of nice when that happens. Rather than finishing in the middle of the pack and winning by default as so often happens.
So Vettels wins in Abu Dhabi. The thorny question of “does Vettel deserve the drivers’ championship” I’ll have to ponder for a few months. Was he the best driver of the year? No not really for me, he crashed too often in unforced situations and I still maintain that he can only win when he’s at the front of the field. Luckily for him the Redbull has been the class of the field and given him ten poles this year. Even Webber with five poles couldn’t fail to be a championship contender. So to win from yet another pole is kind of what Vettel has done all year. If he didn’t crash or hit someone, he won. This is pretty much what you have to do.
Lewis gets a deserved 2nd place with a car that was at best 5th best behind the Redbulls and Ferrari’s. He never gave up and has raced when all looked lost for him. Great wins in Spa, and Canada and a gifted win Turkey kept him up there and if he hadn’t got all Leary in Monza he would have had a better shot coming into Abu Dhabi. But this is only his 4th year in F1 and the 3rd time he’s been a title contender. The next few years are going to be fantastic as Vettel and Hamilton fight it out to be the best there is.
3rd for Button who’s retained his credibility with great wins in Australia and China when the changeable conditions played into his hands, he didn’t seem able to take the fight to the others with poor qualifying performances all year. But he didn’t disgrace himself with some storming runs to pick up points when all looked lost. Considering that the Media was planning the memorial service when Hamilton buried him, he’s done a good job to be nobody’s number two this year.
Rosberg grabs 4th with yet another good solid drive, much the same as he’s been doing all year. He showed Schumacher how to do it all year and hasn’t been phased by the ex world champions attempts at mind games. Jolly well done to him, Redbull would do well to grab him when Webber throws his final hissy fit and storms off.
Kubica in 5th had “problems” in qualifying and didn’t make it to Q3. The problem being he’s rubbish. The last of my top division drivers, okay he’s all right and in a better car would probably get podiums and stuff, but he’s like Boutsen all those years ago, fine now and again but he’s no world champion. If Massa flounces off I think he’d be mad to hide in Alonso’s shadow at Ferrari, but he may feel he has more of a chance to prove himself over there.
6th for Petrov who doesn’t hit anything for a change and made Alonso look very ordinary all evening. I don’t think he’ll be back next year because he’s not really achieved much this year. He’s got a bit of Russian money behind him, but not enough for a top team to bother with. He may well end up in a Force India or one of the tail end Charlies, but his Renault days are numbered I suspect.
7th for Alonso, oh what could have been, someone at Ferrari HQ is going to get the kicking of their life on Monday morning. They had to cover what Webber was up to, if he got ahead of Alonso they would lose the title and if Vettel won with Alonso lower the 4th he’d lose the title. Webber was the closest challenger so it made sense on paper to cover what Webber did to avoid that scenario and hope there was enough time to get back to 4th. Except they missed the fact that Petrov and Rosberg had already changed their tires and were not inclined to get out of the Ferraris way. Queue much forehead slapping as they realised Alonso was going to be stuck in the midfield.
I didn’t mind Alonso winning it all to be honest. I like Ferrari and had no problem with the team orders thing in Germany. All the other teams do it to a greater or lesser extent, it’s just Ferrari aren’t too sneaky about it. It’s a team game, it’s always been a team game and the tiny fine Ferrari got from the FIA is an admittance that it was a stupid rule anyway. In the end it didn’t matter, something Massa will no doubt point out in his resignation letter. Redbull didn’t seem to feel the need for blatant team orders and they had two drivers with a shout. Rather than one strong shout and a rather pissed off second driver. Oh wait hang on!
8th for Webber who hasn’t delivered since Hungary. Ultimately he hasn’t been the best all season and only took the points when Vettel got it wrong. He seemed to complain endlessly all season that he wasn’t being given the same equipment or a fair crack of the whip, whilst Vettel just kept quiet and got on with it. The remark in Silverstone about being a number two driver goes against the evidence I saw. The team has been pretty fair all season to both drivers. Yet Webber has felt the need to tell all and sundry that he’s having to do it all with a comedy eye patch, an arm tied behind his back with no food and only 5 cylinders and it’s all soooo unfair boo hoo. Truth is he made it difficult for himself and felt the need to blame others as he didn’t deliver. I’m sure he’s a really nice bloke, but he lost this all himself.
9th for Alguersuari, in a Torro Rosso of all things!
Finally 10th for Massa. The German win that was stolen from him didn’t matter in the end. Which isn’t going to make him feel any better is it? It’s been a long and difficult season for the likable Brazilian, but the fire wasn’t in the eyes after Germany, maybe even from China when Alonso carved him up into the pits. He must have seen the writing on the wall that Alonso had arrived and the team was no longer his. Which he must have suspected would happen all along. I don’t think he’ll stay for much longer, he must know that Alonso would never play second fiddle to a team mate, look how that turned out at McLaren. Alonso now owns Ferrari and that means Massa either goes back to being understudy as he was to Schumacher and Kimi or move on to ... I don’t know, Renault perhaps.
So that’s the season then.
These 5 have fought hard in what has been a tremendous season. The Redbulls have without doubt been the best car all year, I still question its legality, but we’ll never know what they were doing. Maybe it was all within the rules and in a few years I doubt any one will remember wobberly floors and suspicious ride heights. The racing has been at times exceptional and at others extremely dull. But you’ve not know from race to the next just who was going to take the ultimate prize. The FIA has managed to keep its oar out of things with the Drivers Steward being a great success and no stupid penalties getting in the way of the racing.
Next year see the return of KERS and Pirelli as the sole tire supplier after a 20 year absence. New for 2011 will be adjustable rear wings, although how they’re going to work has yet to be finalized.
But for now we can reflect on the youngest world F1 Champions and a new name on the Constructors cup. Redbull have finally arrived and put their mark on the sport we all love so much.