Sebastian Vettel ensured a winning end to the 2009 season for Red Bull Racing with victory in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, securing second in the F1 championship standings in the process.
After polesitter Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire from the race, Vettel stamped his authority on the first event at the new Yas Marina circuit for his fourth win of the season, while the victory also ensured that Red Bull concluded the season as the team to beat with three wins in the final three events of the campaign.
Vettel had started the race from second on the grid but wasn't expected to go any better in the race, with many tipping Hamilton to drive away from the field after his stunning performance in qualifying. However, despite keeping his lead off the line, the McLaren man was unable to break away from Vettel and Webber behind – with Webber having been lucky to emerge from the first corner unscathed after a tag on the rear left from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn.
Outgoing champion Hamilton did his best to try and break away but Vettel shadowed his every move through the opening stages of the race, with it soon becoming apparent that the Briton would have more of a fight on his hands than paddock observers had imagined before the start.
Running lighter than the Red Bull pair behind, Hamilton was the first man to stop of the leading trio and although he was able to stay ahead of Webber, a series of quick laps allowed Vettel to make his stop and emerge on track ahead of the McLaren. Had Vettel pitted just seconds earlier however, that could have been very different after the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari cruised into the pits to retire only for the Spanish rookie to stop in the wrong pit box; the Red Bull crew quickly sending him on his way as Vettel prepared to make his stop.
As Vettel rejoined in front, Hamilton was warned over the radio that his McLaren may be suffering from a brake issue and within a matter of laps, he brought his car into the pits to retire from the race.
Hamilton's retirement left Vettel free to cruise to victory, but it was a different story altogether for Webber as he came under pressure from new champion Jenson Button in the closing laps. Button had battled ahead of team-mate Barrichello early on as the Brazilian was forced to deal with the loss of downforce from damaging his front-wing at the start and then found himself third once the pitstops had been completed.
Quicker than Webber ahead in the closing laps, Button was all over the rear of the Red Bull as the pair entered the final lap and briefly managed to get ahead under braking, but Webber was able to hold on for second. Third for Button marked only the second time the new champion has finished on the podium since his victory in the Turkish Grand Prix.
Despite the early damage to his car, Barrichello was able to take fourth place, although that wasn't enough to secure second in the championship standings as the Brazilian had gone into the weekend trailing Vettel in the race to finish as runner-up to Button.
In the final race for the team, Nick Heidfeld secured a solid fifth for BMW Sauber ahead of the Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi, with the Japanese rookie again impressive as he snared sixth. Running on a one-stop strategy, Kobayashi ran as high as third during the race and again found himself battling on track with Button as he fought his way ahead of the champion when Button exited the pits ahead of the Toyota following his first stop. Although his pace dropped off when he went to the softer Bridgestone tyres for his second stint, sixth was still a fine result for the former GP2 racer as he looks to secure a race seat for 2010.
Jarno Trulli was seventh in what could well be his swansong with Toyota, while Sebastien Buemi completed the top eight for Toro Rosso after an impressive drive – jumping ahead of Nico Rosberg at the final stops as the Williams' driver ended his time with the Grove-based outfit in ninth. Robert Kubica completed the top ten for BMW Sauber, having impressed early on after battling ahead of Trulli to remain in touch with the front-runners through his first stint before dropping back as the race wore on. A spin while battling with Buemi after the final stops also cost him the chance to end his BMW career with a top eight finish.
Heikki Kovalainen was eleventh in the second McLaren but despite the team failing to score, it was still able to secure third in the constructors' championship as Kimi Raikkonen followed him home in twelfth – leaving Ferrari also pointless from the weekend as Giancarlo Fisichella trailed in down in 16th after another below-par performance and a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
Elsewhere, Kazuki Nakajima was 13th while Fernando Alonso could only manage 14th on his final outing for Renault, ahead of Tonio Liuzzi's Force India. Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean completed the 18 finishers, with Hamilton and Alguersuari the only people not to make it to the finish.
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