So here we are. This is it. This. Is. It.
No second chances; no way of regaining points in the next race, nothing else to do but race. Hard.
After qualifying; it would only be a brave person to bet against Alonso. But some might be willing to…two F1 legends for example.
During a great piece by the BBC F1 team Stirling Moss and Murray Walker review the year that was; they choose who they want to win, who they think will win, what they think of team orders and what they think of team dynamics. Mark Webber is their man; the unanimous decision is they both want the Australian to win, after coming to Europe without ‘a bean in his pocket’, they want him to claim the title. On the other hand they look to Alonso to clinch that 3rd title; as he has that precious experience (and great grid position). Again both agree that Sebastian Vettel hasn’t been the best teammate; commenting on his poor choices to drive into other drivers. Walker, with the sting his tail, making it obvious that Vettel would have been champion a long time ago if he hadn’t made those mistakes.
13:00: Formation lap starts.
13:03: Here we go, the last race of the season is underway, are we going to see clashes between the leaders?
Lap 1: Button jumps to 3rd. First lap not even finished and we have a coming together of Schumacher and Liuzzi. The briefest of touches between Schumacher and his teammate Rosberg spin Michael around, most miss him but Liuzzi rides up onto him. No injuries but safety car is obviously out.
Lap 2: Hamilton questioning his car; apparently a touch at the first corner with Vettel has him concerned.
Lap 4: Marshalls are rushing to get the mess cleared up; with the track laid out as it is they can miss turn 6 completely and go from turn 5 to 7.
Lap 5: Hamilton struggling with front brakes. Safety car comes in and Hamilton tries to nip in front of Vettel but doesn’t manage it.
Lap 6: Vettel is in front of Hamilton by 1.2 seconds already, Button behind his teammate by 1.9 seconds.
Lap 7: Kobayashi overtakes Barrichello but it doesn’t stick. You can’t help but be impressed with this guy, he’s almost fearless when he goes for these overtakes.
Lap 8: Vettel continuing his good form and extends his lead to 2.1 seconds; even with the long straights Red Bull is unbeatable. But what’s going on with Webber? Turn 19 and sparks fly from Webber’s front right; he’s alright but shows how uncomfortable he in the car.
Lap 9: Webber just can’t find the pace? Is it the pressure of being in contention or something mechanical?
Lap 10: Hamilton’s making a charge on Vettel; the gap now at 1.7 seconds.
Lap 11: Webber now having problems with his rear tires; this is not the season ender he wanted. Remember Button managed to win the championship from 14th in Brazil. Vettel – 1.1 seconds - Hamilton.
Lap 12: Webber out of the pits and into traffic; he’s been here before. 16th position now behind Toro Rosso Alguersuari and Renault Petrov.
Lap 13: Massa pits now in reaction to Webber; tactics are to hold up Webber obviously.
Lap 14: Massa doesn’t quite manage it and comes out behind Webber. Whoops. Alguersuari makes it hard for Webber to pass…
Lap 15: Woah; Alonso almost plants it in the wall at turn 19 where Webber had issues before. He pits in reaction to Webber…was that the right choice?
Lap 16: Webber is still behind Alonso as the Spaniard rejoins the pack. Radio transmission to Alonso ‘Webber lost a lot of time behind Alguersuari’. Who reckons he’ll have a word in his ear after the race?
Lap 17: Just to mention the others, Heidfeld sets the fastest lap (1:44.982).
Lap 19: Vettel regains that 2.1 second lead over Hamilton. Someone at the BBC has called the champ winner as Vettel.
Lap 21: Alonso stuck behind Petrov, surely with the Renault driver’s recent form that won’t take long. Hamilton responds and closes to 1.8 seconds.
Lap: 22/23: Alonso still hasn’t passed Petrov? He needs to pass him and Rosberg to win.
Lap 24: Vettel getting ready for a pit.
Lap 25: Surely a championship winning pit-stop. Hugely fast and comes out ahead of Hamilton. Fantastic job done by the mechanics. Proof this is a team effort.
Lap 26: Button in the lead; but hasn’t pitted yet. Hamilton asks why he’s so far ahead…’pace through the pit stop’ is the answer.
Lap 27: Alonso still behind Petrov. Red Bull must be in love with this guy at the moment.
Lap 29: The pressure is definitely on Alonso and he goes wide; a mistake here could end it all.
Lap 30: Vettel pulls into the lead comfortably and sets a 1:43.302 lap.
Lap 31: Hamilton is all over Kubica on turn 7 but nothing materialises from it. McLaren are remaining positive; but how are they going to overtake the Red Bull?
Lap 32: Ferrari must be regretting their choice to follow Webber into the pits. Hamilton worried about his front left tire. He’s gently told no.
Lap 34: Vettel keeps going faster and faster (1:42.942) and Kubica holds Hamilton up. Kubica is a massive thorn in McLaren’s side as he’s also stopping Button from pitting. Renault seem to be on Red Bull’s side here.
Lap 37: Vettel sets another fastest lap (1:42.705) and Alonso is in a scary 8th place!
Lap 38: Button pits and Vettel is in the lead; for the rest of the race?
Lap 40: Vettel has a huge 12.1 second lead over 2nd place Kubica; has he wrapped this up already?
Lap 42: Alonso is still behind Petrov. I’m in awe at Petrov’s race here. He has the championship leader breathing down his neck and he’s yet to make a mistake. In fact Alonso has made more mistakes than him. Remember that Petrov failed to finish in Brazil after ploughing into a wall…but has held up Alonso before…
Lap 44: I expected this to be going down to the wire; but Petrov is having a stormer! Alonso told to use his talent to get past him.
Lap 45: Seems that the pressure has ruined Webber’s chances this year; shame as he has been truly impressive over the whole season, Korea was the race that ended his title chances it seems. I hope he takes the bit between his teeth and fights for next season. Would be a huge shame to see him bow out and the controversy of the last couple of races sour his legacy for the general public.
Lap 46: Timo Glock pulls up and retires with a gearbox problem.
Lap 47: Kubica has a tricky exit from the pit lane and ends up in 5th in front of Petrov; providing Alonso and Webber with an extra car to pass.
Lap 48: With all the fuss surrounding Alonso and Webber coming into this race; Vettel has been gifted a free pass from the pressure. All the talk was about Vettel letting Webber pass for the win…that was before qualifying of course. Would we have guessed that Vettel would be leading the championship.
Lap 50: 5 laps left and I need to keep reminding myself to breath. Vettel must have turned the engine mode down by now to cruise and protect the equipment.
Lap 51: Webber told to have a go at Alonso…in attempt to save face perhaps? It would be a brave effort now; but what has he got to lose…would be nice to see him manage this and show Alonso he’s not out of it yet. But the gap is going to be too big now.
Lap 52: Petrov still holding Alonso back; the best race of his season easily. Alonso goes deep into turn 17 but Petrov remains in front.
Lap 53: Without an engine failure from Vettel; he’ll be the youngest World Driver’s Championship.
Lap 54: I can’t imagine the level of rage coursing through Alonso’s veins at the moment; Ferrari’s choice to pit him after Webber handed Reb Bull the double win.
Lap 55: VETTEL WINS! He wins both. A fantastic season for Red Bull, a fantastic race from Vettel, and undoubtably a lot of help from Webber has led to this moment. Webber confused the Ferrari strategy which definitely helped Vettel have a race without the pressure of Alonso being in the chase.
Yas Marina Results:
1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:39:36.837
2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:39:46.999
3. Jenson Button – 1:39:47.884
1. Sebastian Vettel – 256
2. Fernando Alonso – 252
3. Mark Webber – 242
1. Red Bull – 498
2. McLaren Mercedes – 454
3. Ferrari – 396
Read: Full Constructors Results (scroll down)
If this race had been in the middle of the season; it would have been exciting, but not on this excruciating level. We would have been congratulating Vettel on another great race; same with McLaren finding some pace, but the focus would have been on Webber and Alonso. Much like it had been at the start of this race. The pair’s finish was a shocker; a bad strategy call from Ferrari sent Alonso into the pits after Webber pitted with poor rear tires.
But this wasn’t just another race; this was the race. We still congratulate the McLaren’s with finding some considerable pace which launches next season for them with promise. But they really retreat into the background; Vettel’s crucial pit-stop made him the champion he it now, stunningly quick job by his mechanics, they got him out in front of Hamilton. Leaving the Brit asking questions about how he managed it…they’re quicker than you.
So what happened with Alonso? It was looking great for him at the beginning of the race; hold his position and win, simply as that. And it could be that simple; his recent form has been incredible, he could do it. But they underestimated the rest of the field so much that they took their eyes off the front-runners. Granted he got out in front of Webber; but he remained behind Petrov for over half the race, since rejoining from the pits on lap 16 he was stuck. Stuck behind the second driver from Renault. A head in the hands moment for sure.
Overall it’s been a dream year for Red Bull; this is only their sixth year in Formula One and they’ve taken the double. They won the important Constructor’s Championship in Brazil and a week later Sebastian Vettel became the youngest ever World Champion. Phew; what a year…
And that’s it. We’re done. 119 days to the next race…but only a couple before the off-season begins.