Sebastian Vettel led Mark Webber in a Red Bull 1-2 sweep as the team completed its domination of the final part of the 2009 season by winning the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The result also confirmed Vettel as championship runner-up behind Jenson Button (Brawn), who took only his second podium of the second half of the year in third, right behind Webber after a fraught late battle. Polesitter Lewis Hamilton had to retire early with brake problems.
The outgoing World Champion had been tipped to dominate following his absolute command of qualifying and much of practice, but looked vulnerable from the outset. He was unable to get away from the two Red Bulls, and had difficulty slowing his McLaren from the early stages, even before his team radioed him to warn of a right-rear brake issue. The Brawns were also able to match Hamilton's pace, with Rubens Barrichello falling behind Button on the opening lap after losing a chunk of front wing in a Turn 1 brush with Webber.
Hamilton stayed ahead of Webber at the first stops, but Vettel ran two laps further than the McLaren and was able to emerge with a comfortable lead – despite a pitlane scare when Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari accidentally pulled into RBR's area just as Vettel was approaching. The Spaniard was hurriedly ushered back out and then retired on track with a gearbox failure.
Two laps later Hamilton became the race's second retirement, McLaren deciding that it was unsafe to allow him to continue with the brake problem and ordering him back to the garage. That left Vettel free to cruise to an untroubled victory, with the German stretching away from teammate Webber and winning for the fourth time this year.
As Button rejoined from his first pit visit he was attacked by one-stopping Toyota rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who forced the World Champion to defend heavily; but he then slipped past as Button ran wide at Turn 8. Kobayashi looked like he might challenge for a shock podium in his second race, becoming the fastest man on track as he approached his stop. But his pace faded on full tanks and he fell behind both Brawns and Nick Heidfeld's BMW to sixth by the time the final stops were complete.
Having made sure of third place, Button mounted a late charge after Webber's second position. The gap had been up to 12sec in the middle stint, but the flying World Champion was on Webber's tail with six laps to go – only to hit the usual turbulent air obstruction.
On the last lap, Button managed to get in Webber's tow on the long back straight, but was kept to the outside under braking for Turn 8. He attacked again on the run down to Turn 11, but still Webber was able to hug the racing line and brake late enough to squeeze home in front.
Heidfeld gave BMW Sauber a pleasing sendoff by hassling Barrichello through the second half of the race and taking fifth. His teammate Robert Kubica had starred early on, muscling past Jarno Trulli (Toyota) on lap one then tagging along with the leaders. But he lost time battling with Heikki Kovalainen's one-stopping McLaren after an early stop and was demoted by both Heidfeld and Trulli, then dropped to 10th with a late spin while battling with Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi, who went on to claim the final point ahead of Nico Rosberg's Williams.
Kovalainen could only progress to 11th following his qualifying misfortune, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari, while even an enormous fuel load could not get Fernando Alonso higher than 14th in a muted farewell to Renault.
Giancarlo Fisichella's Ferrari race stint – and potentially his Formula 1 career – also ended on a low. He made some progress from the rear of the grid with a fast start, but a pit speeding penalty dropping him back to 16th.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Yas Marina, United Arab Emirates;
55 laps; 305.470km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1h34:03.314
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 17.857
3. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) + 18.467
4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) + 22.735
5. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 26.253
6. Kobayashi Toyota (B) + 28.343
7. Trulli Toyota (B) + 34.366
8. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 41.294
9. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 45.941
10. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 48.180
11. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 52.798
12. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 54.317
13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 59.839
14. Alonso Renault (B) + 1:09.687
15. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes (B) + 1:34.450
16. Grosjean Renault (B) + 1 lap
17. Fisichella Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
18. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap
Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:40.279
Driver Team On lap
Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 21
Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 19
World Championship standings, final:
1. Button 95 1. Brawn-Mercedes 172
2. Vettel 84 2. Red Bull-Renault 153.5
3. Barrichello 77 3. McLaren-Mercedes 71
4. Webber 69.5 4. Ferrari 70
5. Hamilton 49 5. Toyota 59.5
6. Raikkonen 48 6. BMW Sauber 36
7. Rosberg 34.5 7. Williams-Toyota 34.5
8. Trulli 32.5 8. Renault 26
9. Alonso 26 9. Force India-Mercedes 13
10. Glock 24 10. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 8
11. Kovalainen 22
12. Massa 22
13. Heidfeld 19
14. Kubica 17
15. Fisichella 8
16. Buemi 6
17. Sutil 5
18. Kobayashi 3
19. Bourdais 2