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The 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one of the most epic season finales, played on the scene of the Yas Marina Circuit. With four drivers still in contention for the championship heading into the final race, three of them had a real chance to achieve it.

The Championship Contenders

Fernando Alonso held an 8 point lead in the standings coming into Abu Dhabi. Driving for Ferrari, the Spaniard had won five races during the season and seemed to have the upper hand. Mark Webber sat second in the championship, also with five wins under his belt for Red Bull. Webber trailed Alonso by 8 points, meaning he needed to win the race with Alonso finishing third or lower to take the title.

Sebastian Vettel, Webber’s Red Bull teammate, was third in the standings, 16 points behind Alonso. Vettel had won four races in 2010 and needed to outscore Alonso by 16 points to be crowned champion. The final contender was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. The 2008 champion had won three races and sat 24 points off the lead. Hamilton needed to win the race and hope his rivals all faltered badly.


In Saturday qualifying, Vettel edged out Hamilton to claim pole position by just 0.031 seconds. Alonso lined up third on the grid ahead of Jenson Button in the second McLaren. Of the title contenders, Webber had the most difficult qualifying session. He could only manage fifth on the grid, behind teammate Vettel and the two McLarens. 4 Championship contenders lined up on the first 5 spots on the grid. That Saturday evening, and whole Sunday morning, everyone was buzzing and visualizing different scenarios for the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix start and opening lap.

The Start

As the lights went out, Vettel converted pole into an early lead. Hamilton stayed second while Button got a strong start, jumping past Alonso into third. Further back, Michael Schumacher attacked teammate Nico Rosberg and spun, collecting Vitantonio Liuzzi. The safety car was deployed, with six drivers opting to pit under the safety car conditions.

The Alonso and Webber Charge

On lap 11, Webber made an early pit stop from fifth place, struggling with grip on his super soft tires. He emerged deep in the field behind several cars that had already stopped. A few laps later, Alonso also pitted after brushing the wall. Like Webber, Alonso rejoined behind traffic.

Both Webber and Alonso became stuck behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault, unable to find a way past. This effectively ended both drivers’ title hopes, as neither of them was able to go past the Renault. The previous layout of Yas Marina was making it quite difficult to overtake, as the final sector had no opportunities, and it was the last year before introduction of DRS, which would help on the straight line. Meanwhile, Hamilton pitted from second place on lap 18, coming out ahead of the Alonso/Webber group. Vettel stopped a lap later, retaining the lead.

The Race to the Flag

Button finally made his pit stop on lap 39, giving the lead back to Vettel. Hamilton ran third at this stage behind Robert Kubica’s Renault. The McLarens eventually passed Kubica following his late stop, securing a podium finish.

Despite the McLarens pressuring late on, Vettel managed the gap expertly to take victory and with it claim his first world championship. Hamilton was second ahead of Button, with Alonso only managing seventh behind the Renaults of Kubica and Petrov.

Fernando Alonso (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Standings

With the chequered flag waving, the final order of the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was:

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Jenson Button
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Robert Kubica
  6. Vitaly Petrov
  7. Fernando Alonso
  8. Mark Webber
  9. Jaime Alguersuari
  10. Felipe Massa
  11. Nick Heidfeld
  12. Rubens Barrichello
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Kamui Kobayashi
  15. Sebastian Buemi
  16. Nico Hulkenberg
  17. Heikki Kovalainen
  18. Lucas Di Grassi
  19. Bruno Senna
  20. Christian Klein
  21. Jarno Truli
  22. RET Timo Glock
  23. RET Michael Schumacher
  24. RET Vitantonio Liuzzi

Final Championship Standings

In winning the race, Vettel secured the drivers’ title with 256 points. Alonso was a close runner-up, 4 points behind after being stuck in traffic during his critical pit stop phase. Webber slipped to third in the final standings with 242 points.

In the constructors’ championship, Red Bull had already sealed their maiden title before the finale. McLaren cemented second place ahead of Ferrari, with Mercedes fourth and Renault fifth.

Broken records

Vettel’s victory made him the youngest ever world champion at just 23 years old. The finale marked the first time four drivers had a chance of the title at the last race. Vettel would go on to enjoy great success with Red Bull before moving to Ferrari years later.

For Alonso and Webber, Abu Dhabi 2010 marked their best chance of a title win slip away. Strategic errors cost both veterans in the race. Hamilton, who won his first title in similar thriller, during the 2008 Brasilian Grand Prix, would have to wait until 2014 and the Mercedes era for another championship despite a mostly flawless drive.

The 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix provided a dramatic end to an enthralling season. Vettel’s march to glory was momentarily delayed behind Button, while Alonso and Webber’s fightback attempts were halted by traffic after their stops. This allowed strategy to come to the fore, defining both the race and championship.

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