Historic win for Vettel in Abu Dhabi

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Vettel made Formula One history by becoming the winner of the sport's first day-night race.

Around the magnificent £800million Yas Marina circuit, the 22-year- old German captured his fourth victory of the season, and fifth of his career to finish off 2009 in Abu Dhabi in style.

The win guaranteed Vettel second place in the drivers' standings behind new world champion Jenson Button.

The Brawn GP star was forced to settle for third behind Red Bull's fourth one-two of the year, despite a desperate duel with Mark Webber on the final lap.

It was not the spectacular race the organisers would have hoped for, at least not in keeping with the splendour of the surroundings, other than the closing laps and Button's last-lap dice with Webber.

By no means was it a dull race, but in comparison to a thriller of a Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo a fortnight ago, it lacked entertainment value.

Naturally, the setting could not be faulted, and as the field made its way off the line as the sun began to set, F1 history was being made as the sport's first day-night race was under way.

It was expected to be a breeze for Lewis Hamilton following his domination of practice, and most notably qualifying when he was quickest at the end of all three sessions.

But far from sailing away into the distance from the 17th pole of his career, Hamilton found Vettel doggedly determined behind him in the early stages.

On lap 11, shortly before the span of the five-star Yas Hotel that bridges the circuit, Hamilton ran wide coming out of turn 17 which allowed Vettel to close the gap to 0.8secs.

Vettel took full advantage in the first round of pit stops, with Hamilton one of the first in on lap 16, the young German following three hot laps later.

He emerged with a significant cushion, although any hopes of a duel between two of F1's brightest stars under the Middle Eastern night sky swiftly faded.

Moments earlier, Hamilton had been informed of an issue with his right-rear brake that ultimately forced him to retire at the end of lap 20.

Pulling into the garage, it was a sad way for the 24-year-old to relinquish his crown, but for safety reasons it was the correct decision.

Hamilton, who had described his car yesterday as the best it had been all season, said: "There was a problem with the brakes and I couldn't stop the car.

"I was locking, locking, locking and it was harder than ever to drive it.

"It's a shame as it felt so good these last couple of days, but we haven't had many brake problems this year so there you go.

"I still think the whole team should be really proud of how we have recovered this season."

The last sentence was testimony to the woeful first nine races in which he scored just nine points, with the final eight yielding 40, and in three of those he failed to finish.

From that moment on the race belonged to Vettel and Red Bull whose car matched the colours of the 5,800 twinkling LED panels that adorn the Yas Hotel towards the end.

As for Button, he at least finished on the podium for only the second time since the sixth of his wins in the seventh race of the year in Turkey.

That was after another duel, this time with brave Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi after he emerged back on track from his first pit stop.

Standing in for the injured Timo Glock for the second successive race, Kobayashi showed he has little respect for reputations.

Eager to secure a permanent contract for next year, the 23-year-old attacked Button into the hairpin on lap 18, and again down the longest straight in F1 at 1.2km

Remarkably, it was Button who made a mistake, although he had a far heavier car, as he ran slightly wide into turn eight, allowing the one-stopping Kobayashi to duck underneath him.

The second round of pit stops saw off Kobayashi's challenge, but he finished a fine sixth behind the leading trio, Rubens Barrichello in his Brawn and Nick Heidfeld in the final race for BMW Sauber.

Toyota veteran Jarno Trulli had to settle for seventh behind Kobayashi, with Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi claiming the final point.

With Red Bull having won the last three races of the season, Vettel said: "It was a powerful performance.

"I stayed close enough early on (to Hamilton), and knowing I was a little bit heavier, that was the secret, to stay with him.

"I did enough to get past him. Unfortunately he had to retire, but it was still a fantastic race.

"Until the end the car was fantastic and working brilliantly on both sets of tyres. It was a pleasure this evening to sit in the car."

Reflecting on a remarkable season in which he has finished within 11 points of Button, he added: "It has been up and down.

"But this was our fourth one-two, and although it's a shame the year has to end, it's a perfect way to finish it on a high."

Underlining Vettel's comments on the season for Red Bull, Webber said: "We've an incredible team back at the factory.

"It was clear as soon as we saw the car it was going to be a weapon.

"Brawn had a jump on us at the start, with the diffuser situation, but next season there is no reason why we can't start in this position again.

"We're positive for next year, no doubt about it."

Button said yesterday he wanted "a fun race", and that is how it transpired, notably enjoying what he described as "a good, clean fight" with Webber.

Now, though, he can properly celebrate his title triumph as he said: "This is a good way to finish the season.

"Coming away with a podium is a nice way to finish the year. Now I'm going to enjoy myself and celebrate what I've done.

"I just want to enjoy this moment, and then I'll look to the future after that."

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