By all rights, the finish of the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix mirrored the 2009 championship.
That’s not “original” journalistic prowess and it is painfully obvious, but what was not so obvious is the retirement of what I feel was the team and driver of the year…Lewis Hamilton.
Scoring more points than anyone in the second half of the season, it reminded me of the 2008 performance of Fernando Alonso and Renault: the most improved team and dominant performer in the second part of that season.
Hamilton started the 2009 season like most other teams, well adrift of Brawn GP and Red Bull Racing. His performance, and the performance of McLaren, is nothing short of brilliant. In an obdurate car with inclement regulations, Hamilton and his team clawed their way back to the top of the leader board in the second half of the season, even starting from pole position at this weekend's opulent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Retiring with brake issues, a Hamilton victory was questionable, as Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel passed him during the first pit stop. Nonetheless, he was on pace and looking good for second place. All this Hamilton/McLaren talk has me overshadowing the real star of Abu Dhabi, and that is Vettel, teammate Mark Webber, and Red Bull Racing.
Vettel was on form all weekend and was closely followed by his veteran teammate Webber. Finishing an incredible first and second for the 4th time this year, Reb Bull takes a tremendous amount of momentum with them into the winter season. It is a testament to the hard work and fabulous efforts by the entire team.
Also notable was Jenson Buttons' drive to a strong third position, fighting Webber every step of the way through the final laps. His teammate, Rubens Barrichello, fared worse after losing an end-plate on his front wing when it touched Webber's rear tire at the start. Although Barrichello blames this for a lack of performance, it must be said that his lap times betrayed the actual need for the end-plate to begin with, as he was on pace with the leaders.
Two more mentionable performers: Kamui Kobayashi, sitting in for injured Timo Glock has done a stellar job in the last two races. From a mediocre GP2 performance to setting the F1-world on notice that this young Japanese driver may just be the one they have all been looking for. His pass on the world champion was an exercise in patience and out maneuvering, and was to be commended. This may very well cement him a seat at Toyota next year.
The other? Well I am biased, but I think Nick Heidfeld did a fine job of finishing in the top 10, and completing a season that saw the German faring better than much-touted teammate Robert Kubica.
Be sure to listen to Podcast #131 tomorrow, as we cover the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and F1 news.
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
Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 21
Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 19
So the end of a season is here, and it also is an end to an era. No more Max Mosley, refueling, BMW—Sauber, Fischella, KERS and many other nuances that made the 2009 season an…"interesting" one.