Leader until yesterday Webber finish eighth; strong contender Alonso ends at 7th but emerges overall second; Hamilton springs surprise by racing to second in Abu Dhabi, seven times world champ Schumacher’s comeback season ends with a smash on the opening lap
ABU DHABI, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Germany’s Sebastian Vettel sobbed with joy after becoming Formula One’s youngest world champion on Sunday with a pole to flag victory in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 23-year-old Red Bull driver lapped up the pressure under the Yas Marina floodlights to chalk up his fifth win of the season while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the pre-race favourite for a third title, struggled home seventh.
Vettel, adding the drivers’ crown to the constructors’ championship won the previous weekend in Brazil, ended up with 256 points to Alonso’s 252.
“Thank you boys, unbelievable,” gasped the German over the team radio, the tears flowing behind the visor after he took the chequered flag.
Team principal Christian Horner spared him no emotion: “You are the world champion. Enjoy it. You are the man,” he bellowed from the pit wall.
“I love you,” said Vettel in reply.
Alonso, who was the overall leader before the start, paid the price for an early pitstop that dropped him to 13th.
The Spaniard then spent lap after lap trying in vain to find a way past Renault’s steely Russian Vitaly Petrov while Ferrari held their breath and hoped for the rookie to make a mistake under pressure. It never happened.
“It’s critical to pass, I know you are doing your best,” team boss Stefano Domenicali told him over the radio as early as lap 16.
“Use the best of your talent, we know how big it is, use it,” implored his race engineer Andrea Stella 26 laps later with just 13 remaining and the title hopes trickling away into the night. Australian Mark Webber, Vettel’s team mate, was eighth. He had been the first of the contenders to pit and also became bogged down in traffic in a race full of frustration for the 34-year-old.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who had to win in Abu Dhabi to have any hope of the title, finished second and was first to congratulate Vettel after they had stepped out of their cars.
Team mate and outgoing world champion Jenson Button took third place.
While Vettel celebrated, seven times world champion Michael Schumacher’s comeback season ended with a smash on the opening lap when his Mercedes spun and was speared by Force India’s Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.
The great, who last stood on the podium as a Ferrari driver in 2006 and is the only other German to have won the title, was fortunate to escape serious injury as the car ploughed into the side of the stationary Mercedes and rode up over the airbox just behind Schumacher’s head.