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SEBASTIAN VETTEL of Red Bull became the youngest ever F1 Drivers’ World Champion by winning last Sunday’s (14 November) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Welcome to the club Seb!

Vettel, who took the title at the age of 23 years 134 days, won the 55 lap race in a time of 1:39:36.837 (114.324 mph). The two previous World Champions, Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Jenson Button (2009) (both McLaren) came home in second and third places respectively. Hamilton also set the fastest lap of race, a 1:41.274 (122.673 mph). The two drivers who lead the title race going into the final Grand Prix of the season, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Red Bull) could only finish down in seventh and eighth places respectively.

When the race got underway Vettel kept his first place by easing out Hamilton into the first corner, but Alonso lost his third place to the fast starting Button, who could still play a vital part in deciding the championship.

Here we go!

While all this was going on up front, tragedy almost unfolded before our eyes. Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) was following his former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello (Williams), with his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg alongside him. On the exit of Turn 6 Rosberg and Schumacher came within inches of each other and Schumacher spun 180˚ and was now facing oncoming traffic. He tried desperately to spin around, but was hit head on by the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Force India climbed up the front of the Mercedes and only just missed Schumacher’s head. It looked worse in real-time and from the camera angel I saw it at, I honestly thought Michael Schumacher had been killed. But to my great relief, his head moved naturally in the cockpit, and before too long he and Liuzzi were walking back to the pits together. This crash naturally brought out the Safety Car for yet another appearance this season.

Michael! You are too old for this S***!

The race was back on at the end of lap 5 and just as he had done so many times earlier in the season Vettel shot off into the distance leaving his fellow title challengers to eat his dust. Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov had taken advantage of the early SC to get their pit stop out of the way and immediately began to pass other cars on old tyres.

On lap 11 Mark Webber radioed the Red Bull pit wall telling them that he had lost the grip in his rear-tyres. We saw that he was struggling for grip when he had hit the Armco at Turn 19 a few laps earlier. The Red Bull pit crew raced into the pits and Webber came in and had his tyres changed. The Australian rejoined the race in 16th place behind Toro Rosso’s Jamie Alguersuari who let him through with no trouble. This is probably because he was driving the Red Bull ‘B team’s’ car.

Alonso dived into the pits at the end of lap 15 to have his tyres changed and found himself behind Petrov’s Renault in 12th place, but more importantly he was in front of Webber who needed to beat Alonso to have any hope of winning the title.

The millions watching the race now expected Alonso to breeze past Petrov who was still a rookie and under pressure to keep his drive for 2011. But the young Russian’s Renault was proving to be as wide as the Iron Curtain and Alonso was starting to get fidgety. By lap 23 he was so fidgety in fact that he put off braking into Turn 11 too long and instead of passing Petrov, went off and would have lost his place to Webber if the Red Bull was any much closer. While all this was going on Hamilton pitted. The front three of Vettel, Hamilton and Button had seen their tyres come back to life and were still charging around the track. Hamilton rejoined the race behind the Renault of Robert Kubica who like Petrov would prove to be virtually impossible to pass.

Race leader Vettel pitted at the end of the next lap, letting outgoing World Champion Jenson Button inherit the lead. Vettel came back out on track just ahead of the third placed Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and the Kubica – Hamilton fight. This swung the odds massively in Vettel’s favour. He was in a net first place (Button was yet to pit) and all the other title challengers were stuck behind Renaults!

Button pitted at the end of lap 39 and Vettel re-took the lead. The McLaren driver came back out in fourth place behind his team-mate Hamilton who was still behind Kubica, who didn’t pit until the end of lap 46. All the while Petrov was still preventing Alonso and Webber from getting to where they needed to finish.

Not even those ill-gotten seven points in Germany were going to help Alonso pass Petrov.

Vettel crossed the line at the end of the 55th and last lap first – his third win in the last four races – with both McLaren’s second and third. But he still wasn’t World Champion yet and his radio went silent. As we saw at Brazil in 2008 it isn’t over until the last car crosses the line, and Red Bull didn’t want him to get his hopes up. Further back Alonso tried one last ditch dive up the inside of Petrov but failed, and it was confirmed that Vettel won the title.

The 23 year-old German burst into tears when he was told over the radio that he had realised his dream. What a feeling that must be.

Alonso spoiled the mood slightly after the race by angrily waving his hands at a bemused Petrov on the slowing-down lap. Yes you may have been faster Fernando, but unlike Massa, Petrov wouldn’t move for you. And why should he have? In my opinion, Petrov’s drive in this race was the best of the season, and he totally deserves a 2011 race seat.

With regards to our new Champion, the right man won I cannot deny it. Vettel won five races, took ten podiums finishes, took 10 pole positions and set three fastest laps. He would have won in Australia but his brakes failed on him, he would have come in the top two in Turkey if he didn’t have himself and Webber off and he would have won in South Korea if his engine didn’t blow up. Remarkably this is the first time in his career that Vettel has even led the drivers’ championship. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Schumacher congratulating Vettel after the race.

But, will he defend his title next year? That is the question.

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – Final Standings

Pos

Driver

Constructor(s)

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champion

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

256

2

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

252

4

3

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

242

14

4

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

240

16

5

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

214

42

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

144

112

7

Nico ROSBERG (GER)

Mercedes

142

114

8

Robert KUBICA (POL)

Renault

136

120

9

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

72

184

10

Rubens BARRICHELLO (BRA)

Williams

47

209

11

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

47

209

12

Kamui KOBAYASHI (JAP)

Sauber

32

224

13

Vitaly PETROV (RUS)

Renault

27

229

14

Nico HÜLKENBERG (GER)

Williams

22

234

15

Vitantonio LIUZZI (ITA)

Force India

21

235

16

Sébastien BUEMI (SUI)

Toro Rosso

8

248

17

Pedro DE LA ROSA (ESP)

Sauber (1-14)

6

250

18

Nick HEIDFELD (GER)

Sauber (15-19)

6

250

19

Jamie ALGUERSUARI (ESP)

Toro Rosso

5

251

20

Heikki KOVALAINEN (FIN)

Lotus

0

256

21

Jarno TRULLI (ITA)

Lotus

0

256

22

Karun CHANDHOK (IND)

HRT (1-10)

0

256

23

Bruno SENNA (BRA)

HRT (1-9, 11-19)

0

256

24

Lucas DI GRASSI (BRA)

Virgin

0

256

25

Timo GLOCK (GER)

Virgin

0

256

26

Sakon YAMAMOTO (JAP)

HRT (10-14, 16-17)

0

256

27

Christian KLIEN (AUT)

HRT (15, 18-19)

0

256

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – Final Standings

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

World Champions

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

498

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

454

44

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

396

102

4

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

214

284

5

RENAULT (FRA)

Renault

163

335

6

WILLIAMS (ENG)

Cosworth

69

429

7

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

68

430

8

SAUBER (SUI)

Ferrari

44

454

9

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

13

485

10

LOTUS (MAL)

Cosworth

0

0

11

HRT (ESP)

Cosworth

0

0

12

VIRGIN (ENG)

Cosworth

0

0

More F1 2010/11 blogs will follow between now and Christmas.

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