Having never previously led the F1 world championship, Sebastian Vettel
plotted his assault on the summit to perfection, leading almost from start to finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
to claim the 2010 title.
The German did a lot of the hard work needed to overhaul both Ferrari's Fernando Alonso
and Red Bull
team-mate Mark Webber
in qualifying on Saturday, but was wheel-perfect in the 55-lap encounter under the stars at Yas Marina to ruin Alonso's mid-season prediction that he could win the championship for a third time.
Of course, Vettel required his rivals to run into problems even if he won the race, and both Alonso and Webber hindered their own chances by making early pit-stops for fresh Bridgestone rubber. With both McLarens and, unexpectedly, a host of other cars thrusting themselves into the mix, the strategy did not pay off for the championship pacesetters, allowing Vettel the vault from third to first in one sweet bound.
The German had to fend off a fast-starting Lewis Hamilton
into the first turn - the Briton needing a win and a miracle to reclaim the title - but came out in front, as was able to manage a comfortable advantage as the Red Bull
RB6 again proved to be the car to have.
At least, Vettel's RB6 was the car to have, as Webber, having ensured that he held on to the disappointing fifth place in which he qualified, was never able to match his pace in the opening few laps. It wasn't as if the Australian didn't have motivation in his sights, as Alonso - whom he needed to beat - was beaten to turn one by Jenson Button
and slotted in right in front of the Red Bull.
While a straightforward championship battle still appeared to be on, however, an incident triggered by the two Mercedes drivers at the turn 5-6 chicane threw an extra spoke in the wheel. Although Michael Schumacher spun across the pack, his car did not appear to be too damaged - until Vitantonio Liuzzi
was left with nowhere to go and mounted the WO1, perilously close to the seven-time champions helmet.
With both cars, and the resultant debris, needing to be cleared away, the safety car was summoned, prompting several midfield runners - including Nico Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov and Jaime Alguersuari
- all took the opportunity to make their mandatory tyre change.
At that point, it appeared that they may be a good bet for points, but things took an unexpected turn when, on lap eleven, Webber reported that his rear tyres were beginning to give up the ghost. The Australian - who, like Vettel, had run three or four more laps than the McLarens and Ferraris in qualifying - had already touched the turn 14 barrier heavily with his right rear, and pitted almost immediately.
The stop dropped Webber to 16th, crucially behind Rosberg, Petrov and Alguersuari, but, although Ferrari
suffered the same fate when it decided to cover the move with Felipe Massa
- the Brazilian resuming directly behind the Red Bull
- the Italian team repeated the tactic by bringing Alonso in on lap 16.