F1 Abu Dhabi Results and Full Race Report: Vettel’s Strategy Wins the Race, as Hamilton Retires, and Webber Holds Off Button for Second

What Happens When New Tracks Are All the Same

9:44am EST —Sebastian Vettel won the 2009 Abu Dhabi GP after a pit stop strategy gave him the lead over Lewis Hamilton, before the latter had to retire on L17 with brake issues.  Mark Webber held off a determined last-lap charge from Jenson Button to finish second.  Rubens Barrichello and Nick Heidfeld rounded out the top five, as rookie Kamui Kobayashi’s quick driving and one-stop strategy netted him points for sixth position in only his second race.  This win moved Vettel ahead in points, and he finished the season second in the driver’s championship, with Barrichello third and Webber fourth.

Lewis Hamilton started on the pole for Sunday’s inaugural Abu Dhabi GP, after a near-domination of qualifying.  However, he had to get a great start in order to stay ahead of the slightly heavier Red Bulls to his right and behind during the pit stops.  Interestingly enough, all cars starting from eleventh (Raikkonen) back could conceivably turn Abu Dhabi into a one-stopper.

Hamilton led into the first turn as Vettel got off a bit slowly.  Barrichello attempted to get around Webber, but could not.  Kubica made his way around Trulli.  By the end of the first lap Button had passed his teammate as Barrichello began to slip back to Kubica having lost the right front endplate after slight contact with Webber.  Vettel, meanwhile, was  not allowing Hamilton to get away.  At the back, Grosjean had managed a pass on teammate Alonso.  By almost L3 Kovalainen had moved up five positions from his eighteenth place start.  He had qualified thirteenth, but changed his gearbox and suffered a five-place penalty.

L4 had Alonso back around Grosjean, but both were back in seventeenth and eighteenth.  By L5, Webber had taken the fastest lap from Hamilton as Hamilton led Vettel by 1.5 seconds, with Webber another 2.7 seconds behind.  The gap between the front two dropped, then increased by two-tenths.  By L10, Hamilton had re-taken fast lap, leading Vettel (1.7s), Webber, Button, and Barrichello.  On the next lap, Hamilton attempted to increase the gap, but had a small off-track excursion, bringing the gap down to nine-tenths.  Those behind them were also catching up with only a few laps until the stops began.  Webber again took fastest lap on L14 with a 1:40.571.  Two and a half seconds separated the top three, at that point.

Barrichello and Kubica were the first to pit, on L17.  Brawn did not change that damaged front wing as Barrichello seemed to be setting fast times, he returned to the circuit in front of Raikkonen in tenth.  Hamilton pitted on L18, as did Button.  Button rejoined in eighth, just ahead of Kobayashi, who gave him quite a bit of trouble, until Button overshot the turn and lost position to Kobayashi in a brilliant piece of driving from the young Japanese.  Webber, Trulli, Rosberg, and Buemi pitted on L19 as Vettel took the lead, posted a fast time, then pitted.  Just before, Alguersuari had tried to pit, though he overshot his pit attempted to stop in the Red Bull pit and had to pass through.  The very sharp Red Bull boys managed to recognize Alguersuari, get out of the way, wave him through, and process a quick stop for Vettel, who returned to the track ahead of Hamilton.  Hamilton then had to pull into the garage with brake issues, ending his race. “The brakes were not really coming up to temperature, so much.  I was having to be a bit cautious, I was waiting for the tires to come up, but they didn’t,” said Hamilton after retiring.

Alguersuari stopped on the circuit, apparently having gearbox issues. L22 had Vettel leading Webber, Kobayashi (who was likely on a one-stopper), Button, and Barrichello as the top five.  Not yet stopped, Raikkonen led Kovalainen for sixth, making third in the constructor’s championship a dicey battle between the two.

L26 was the same for the top five, though Vettel was gaining a gap on teammate Webber, 8.9 seconds.  In third, Kobayashi was posting faster times than both Vettel and Webber.  Fisichella, the first of the one-stoppers, pitted on L29 from fifteenth.  Raikkonon did so on the next lap as Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa looked on.  Raikkonen rejoined in fifteenth.  Kobayashi pitted from third on L31, rejoining in eleventh, with stops to be made by those ahead of him.

The stops continued as Kovalainen stopped on L32, ahead of Raikkonen’s Ferrari.  L32 also had a drive-through penalty for Fisichella for speeding in the pit lane.  The next lap had Nakajima pitting, leaving only Alonso on track without stopping.  Alonso then had a bit of a fight taking eleventh position from Kobayashi, but Alonso immediately pitted, returning to the track in fourteenth.  L37, before the final round of pit stops for the front-runners, had Vettel leading Webber, then Button, Barrichello, and Heidfeld as the top five.  Vettel had a 10.4 second lead over Webber, who led Button by twelve seconds.  Barrichello was much closer to his teammate, only three seconds behind Button, with Heidfeld just over two seconds behind Barrichello.

Rosberg was the first to stop for the second time on L39, returning to the track in tenth, ahead of Kovalainen.  Kubica was in next, rejoining just behind Kobayashi.  Webber pitted on L41, returning racing in sixth.  Barichello and Heidfeld pitted on L42, as did Buemi.  Barrichello and Heidfeld were close in fifth and sixth on track.  L42 was, perhaps the most exciting lap of the race, as Vettel and Button pitted and Kubica and Buemi had a coming together that resulted in a spin for Kubica.  Vettel maintained the lead, and Button rejoined in third.  The top five with all pit stops made, were Vettel, Webber (back 16.4 seconds), Button, Barrichello, and Heidfeld. Kobayashi was 2.4 seconds behind Heidfeld.

As the laps ticked down, Button was reeling in Webber, taking .5 second off Webber in chunks.  With seven laps left, the gap was down to 2.2 seconds from 3.6.  The gap was 1.3 by the next lap, and Button could see Webber at all points on the track.  With four laps to go, the gap was less than a second.  With one lap to go, Vettel set the fastest lap of the race in the lead, as Button got closer to Webber and both started slide a bit.  On the back straight, Button tried, and tried again, but Webber held him off, barely, in the most exciting driving of the inaugural Abu Dhabi GP on the very last lap.  Neither McLaren nor Ferrari scored points, leaving McLaren in third for the constructor’s championship.

Results for the 2009 Abu Dhabbi GP: (courtesy of the official Formula1 website)
1. Vettel
2. Webber
3. Button
4. Barrichello
5. Heidfeld
6. Kobayashi
7. Trulli
8. Buemi
9. Rosberg
10. Kubica
11. Kovalainen
12. Raikkonen
13. Nakajima
14. ALonso
15. Liuzzi
16. Fisichella
17. Sutil
18. Grosjean


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