Sebastian Vettel becomes F1’s youngest world champion
Sebastian Vettel became the youngest world champion in Formula 1 history as he secured his and Red Bull’s first drivers’ championship title in Abu Dhabi.
The 23-year-old had the perfect weekend. He was quickest in free practice on Friday and Saturday, and led from the start with a faultless race to win the title by four points ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Vettel’s biggest challenge in the race came from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who at 23 years and 307 days, won the 2008 world championship in the final race of the season in Brazil. But the German had enough time in hand over the Briton after he and team-mate Jenson Button were frustrated behind the late-pitting Robert Kubica to finish make it a trio of world champions on the podium.
“I am a bit speechless to be honest,” Vettel said afterwards. “I don’t know what you’re supposed to say in this moment. It is unbelievable. I went to bed and kept thinking about the race, about what might happen. I had some good imaginations and a good feeling.
“It has been an incredible journey, to lead the championship after the last race is unbelievable, he added. “It’s been extremely intense and a tough season mentally.”
Ferrari had the opportunity to hand Alonso his third world championship with the Spaniard leading the championship going into Sunday’s race, but a poor decision from the Italian team’s strategists to react to a pit stop by Mark Webber left the two-time world champion behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who according to Alonso “protected like it was the last lap, in the last race in the championship, fighting both for the championship, so he was very aggressive”.
Alonso added: “The Renault is very quick on the top speed so it was a frustrating race behind him. But this is a sport, this is motor racing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Congratulations to Red Bull and Sebastian but next year we will try again.”
Hamilton had a mathematical chance of winning the championship, but needed all three rivals to finish outside of the points to secure his second title in three years, a feat that seemed unlikely. With Vettel imperious at the front, McLaren’s drivers took the remaining podium places to secure second place in the constructors’ championship.
“It has not been the most spectacular season for us, but huge congratulations to Red Bull and Seb,” said Hamilton. “He did a fantastic job this season.
“For us it was a great end of season result. This year, me and Jenson pushed hard. Next year will be a better year.”
Nico Rosberg finished fourth for Mercedes as team-mate Michael Schumacher signed off his comeback season with a retirement after a spin on the opening lap before Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi ploughed into the seven-time world champion.
Kubica finished fifth ahead of team-mate Petrov as Renault signed off the 2010 season with an impressive double-points haul, while Red Bull’s second team Toro Rosso finished ninth with Jaime Alguersuari equalling his best finish this season ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who rounded out the top 10.
Incredibly, Vettel had not led the championship standings going into the final race, and Alonso’s failure to get past Petrov will come as a bigger blow for the Spaniard, who benefitted from team orders in the German Grand Prix in June.
It is a remarkable double for Red Bull, winning in only their sixth season in the sport. “It’s unbelievable,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. It’s been a very emotional week for this team.
“It’s the first time Sebastian has led the world championship and he’s done it when it counted, at the last race of the year.”
Vettel deserves the championship as arguably the most consistent driver throughout the championship with 10 poles and five race wins.
Alonso also collected five race wins, but for Ferrari and McLaren it’s back to the drawing board to overcome the Red Bull dominance next season.
And with Mercedes also threatening to return to the glory days experienced as Brawn GP in 2009 with a vastly improved car for Rosberg and Schumacher, the 2011 championship is already gearing up to be another very special year for Formula 1.