Abu Dhabi is a city on the move. Not content with enjoying one of the world's richest oil reserves, the region has recently thrown itself into a massive programme of development. And one of the jewels in Abu Dhabi's crown is the 5.55-kilometre Yas Marina Circuit, which on November 1, 2009, hosted the country's inaugural Grand Prix. It was also the first F1 twighlight race, with powerful lighting ensuring a seamless transition from day to night.
Located on the spectacular Yas Island, the track is a shining example of modern Formula One circuit design. Boasting top speeds of 325 km/h and average speeds of 190km/h, it features nine right turns and 12 left turns and is one of the few venues on the calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg is the 2016 World Champion, emulating his father Nico's achievement after a tense 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in which he finished a pig-in-the-middle second as winning team mate Lewis Hamilton attempted to back him up as much as possible into the clutches of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's Max Verstappen in an enforced but finely judged masterckass of race craft.
Less than two seconds covered the top four at the chequered flag as Hamilton ignored instructions from the Mercedes pit wall to up his pace in the closing laps. Daniel Ricciardo followed his Red Bull team mate home, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen taking sixth ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.
The start saw the two Mercedes lead off the line, with Hamilton heading Rosberg, as Raikkonen passed Ricciardo for third. Things got worse for Red Bull as Verstappen, in sixth, ran out of room exiting Turn 1 and spun after making light contact with Hulkenberg.
That forced the team to switch the Dutchman to a one-stop strategy as he fell to last place, and would have its effect later on.
Hamilton and Rosberg moved clear until their first pit stops, respectively on the seventh and eighth laps, after which Hamilton led again but with Verstappen having risen to second ahead of Rosberg.
The German was then content to follow him for the next 12 laps before finally slicing by the Red Bull, with a closely-fought but crucial pass. After that he got the throttle down, cutting a 5.8s gap to Hamilton to 3.1s by the time they stopped again, on laps 28 and 29.
That was when Hamilton was forced to try to back up his team mate, as he needed him to finish fourth or worse, and the gap came down to less than a second thereafter as the outgoing champion did all he could to let Ferrari and Red Bull catch up.
When Ferrari kept Vettel out until lap 37 before switching him to supersoft tyres, when everyone else was running softs, the German suddenly became the dangerman.
He passed team mate Raikkonen for fifth on the 41st lap, then set out after Ricciardo, who was having a subdued run in fourth. He passed the Red Bull on lap 47, and that set up the final showdown.
On his worn softs - he had pitted on lap 21 - Verstappen just wasn’t able to get closer than within three seconds of Rosberg as Hamilton continued to lap at a relatively slow pace despite being implored - and at times directly told - to speed up by his Mercedes bosses.
Vettel eventually out-dragged Verstappen’s Red Bull on the 51st lap, and Hamilton, Rosberg and he then circulated nose to tail. They were having kittens at Mercedes, especially as Hamilton told them quite trenchantly that if he was losing the world championship he didn’t particularly care if he lost the race as well.
In the end, of course, he was never going to do that. He did everything that he could, and crossed the finish line 0.4s ahead after 55 laps to score his 10th win of the season, the 53rd of his career - and to lose his world title.
Rosberg kept his cool despite the pressure from Vettel, but said it had been tough.
“That definitely wasn’t the most enjoyable race I’ve ever had!” he admitted. “With Max early on, and then with these guys coming at the end, it definitely wasn’t fun. I’m just really glad it’s over!”
For Vettel, third was a decent way to finish the season, with Verstappen taking fourth from his team mate and the distant Raikkonen.
1:40.279 by Sebastian Vettel (2009)
Ferrari looked to have been out-foxed by their rivals, as Red Bull undercut Raikkonen to gain Ricciardo a place. But by opting to let Vettel run long after his first stop, their man had fresher supersoft tyres in the closing laps with which to chase down and pass Ricciardo and Verstappen. He was close to passing Rosberg too, but was unable to make a move stick. Raikkonen had a quieter race, and came home a distant sixth.
Kimi Raikkonen, 6th
"It was not an easy race for me, the car was pretty ok, but I suffered with the tyres, to make them last. I was constantly trying to keep the fronts alive. After the start I was in a good position, but I struggled with the first set of softs: at the end of the stint they kind of came back and improved, but we kept losing places. When Seb came close to me, I knew that he was on a different strategy and I let him go. Obviously it has been quite a tricky year, far from what we want as a team, but lately we have been working well, doing the right things. Now we need to keep working this way and hopefully next year, with the new car, we'll be where we want to be."
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd
"I think it was an important race for us today: in the final laps, I would have liked to gain two more positions, because the speed was there; but it was difficult to make the move because the car in front also benefited from a tow. Nevertheless as a team we deserve this podium, and I hope it gives some momentum to all of us. It has been a tough year, with lots of up and downs, so I am really happy with this result. About our global performance in 2016, I think we don't need to find any story or invent something. I think we expected more; but after the first half, where we could have scored more points, I think we showed real strength by coming back. In the last couple of Grand Prix we had very good race pace, always enough to match Red Bull, and probably even a bit quicker: but that was not the case on Saturdays, and that made Sundays more difficult. Overall we showed the stamina that the team has. The spirit is unbroken, and I know that we will work hard, because Ferrari deserves to come back. All in all we learned a lot, we made a lot of progress. Today is Nico's day, well done to him. I think you don't win the Championship by luck, and it is a sign of respect to give him this. He is a deserving champion."
"I have finished my career with my head up, the same way I started my
career. I also took a little extra care with the car seeing as it will
now be my car – thank you again to Williams for that gift!"
- Felipe Massa
“My race was short, but I loved everything else. I was really emotional before I got in the car – it was such a special atmosphere to have the whole team and all my friends and family cheer me on my way into the garage. I’m just glad I was wearing my sunglasses at that moment."
- Jensen Button
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||+1.685s||12|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||+5.315s||10|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+50.114s||6|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||+58.776s||4|
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