Race Notes: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009

Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Date: 1 November 2009
Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit
Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Distance: 55 laps
Tyre choices (red): SS / S / M / H

Coverage: BBC One
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts: David Coulthard (DC) and Eddie Jordan (EJ)
Interviewers: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

For this race I did not have the 5Live audio option on Freeview and the BBC’s streaming version made each of my browsers crash (I tried FF and IE).

Does anyone know why this isn’t called the UAE Grand Prix? Seems strange that after years of naming GPs after countries or territories we’re naming this one after a city. Maybe the locals are trying to promote the place and get one up on their neighbouring Emirates.

Coverage begins at 12pm UK time.

A quick review of Brazil with new World Champion Jenson Button, Muse as backing music, works well. He says the last 3 laps were the longest laps he’s ever driven. Very pleased to get it after 21 years of working for it, 21 years since his Dad put him in a kart.

Live in the paddock. Brawn garage. JB has a ‘World Champion’ sticker on his lid. Coulthard says for them this race is a celebration of a championship-winning year but he doesn’t think they have the pace here to win.

A look of the points: The interest this weekend is that one point gap between McLaren and Ferrari.

Chatting with Richard Cregan, ex-Toyota F1 and has spent the last year or two overseeing the Yas Marina construction project. He says he likes the ‘can do’ attitude of the people in this part of the world.

Quali recap with Lee McKenzie, she points out:
Q1. Grosjean and Kovalainen spun. Alonso was very slow but he seemed to be expecting it.
Q2. Kovalainen then had transmission failure. Raikkonen slow.
Q3 in darkness. Hamilton very fast, Vettel tried hard but Hamilton lowered the bar considerably at the flag. Webber 3rd. Button had vibrations on the brakes.

Grid
Hamilton, Vettel
Webber, Barrichello
Button, Trulli
Kubica, Heidfeld
Rosberg, Buemi
Raikkonen, Kobayashi
Nakajima, Alguersuari
Alonso, Liuzzi
Sutil, Kovalainen*
Grosjean, Fisichella

*Kovalainen had a 5-place drop for a gearbox change.

We go to a review of Renault’s year. A very fast review. Lots of ups and downs with the whole Piquet thing, Grosjean coming in, car sometimes fast and sometimes slow and now Alonso is off to Ferrari.

Review of BMW. Less of a review, more a 20sec montage to music and maybe two sentences after it. This is their 70th and final race and they only had one podium all year.

McLaren. Started with a terrible car and turned it around to become winners. The guys say Kovalainen is expected to leave the team (most of us expect Raikkonen to come in). DC says Heikki is capable of winning, given the chance – he just hasn’t had the chance. (DC has been in the exact same situation against Mika.)

Ferrari. Worst ever start to a season, and the first season without a pole position since 1993. Massa injured, Badoer and then Fisichella in. Both they and we are looking forward to Alonso alongside Massa in 2010, it’ll be a great partnership.

Seems that’s it for the recapping the teams, apparently nobody cares about the rest.
We jump into a skit with Humphrey taking part in his first ever race in a Lotus Elise championship at Silverstone. This is show how hard it is to race, and also to promote GoMotorsport, getting more people involved in racing. (They cleverly used only a .net domain so I had to Google it to find it.) This piece is badly edited – he damaged the front of the car but it has mysteriously repaired itself..

Gridwalk
Martin Brundle and Eddie Jordan on the grid.

Boris Becker: “Amazing, they all say a lot before races how its gonna be but its all true what they say, amazing place.”

350 British marshals are helping here, here’s one of them: “Really good, fantastic experience, thanks to BARC for the opportunity and the ATC for accomodating us. I’ve been doing this 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes, its in my blood so I’ll carry on. We’re all a team.”

Lewis Hamilton: “Great job all week, incredible feeling to be up front at the last race. We’ve got the pace and a good strategy to win. We never anticipated we’d be so fast at the end of the season though that was our goal.”

Mark Webber: “Went pretty well yesterday in quali. Sensational circuit. Predict a good fight with JB, Lewis pretty strong and Seb and I, all three of us. For sure I’m not gonna do anything to hurt Seb’s chances, totally in the team’s interest not to lost too many points on that front.”

Quick chat with cricketer Andrew Flintoff.. but I don’t care. He says this is his first experience at a GP but I swear Brundle has talked to him elsewhere..

Richard Branson, arm in a sling. Says he turned a quad bike over and he just had an operation on the shoulder. EJ thanks him for swearing on TV before when everyone said Eddie would be the first (at the first race, no less).

Jay Kay. Says compared to this race, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do at home. One of the finest tracks in the world. Looking for a Ferrari podium.

Crown Prince of Bahrain: “It is spectacular, it does so much for the sport in the Gulf region.” EJ layers on platitude after platitude on the Prince and Bahrain for introducing the sport to the region. The first race of 2010 will be held in Bahrain on March 14th.

Anthem of the UAE

Shots of the King Carlos of Spain walking on the grid with Bernie. Martin Brundle walks up and chats to him casually, as you do.. Not on mike this time.

Flypast by an Etihad jet. Jake calls it an Emirates jet despite the race being named after Etihad and there being giant Etihad banners all over the place. Sponsorship fail.

Replay of yesterday’s piece with Martin and David racing two-seater F1 cars around the track a few weeks ago when it had just opened.. dust everywhere. Showing us the racing lines.

Ted Kravitz tell us who has improved the most since March. Ferrari are 2.8sec faster, Force India 2.6, Red Bull 2.0, BMW 1.8, Toyota 1.6, Brawn 1.0, with Renault and Ferrari much smaller gains. I recognise the music but I’m not sure what it is..
He also tells us about the fuel weights but it doesn’t interest me.

Lee has found Ron Dennis. He’s in an overview role at McLaren now. He says the team are doing a great job, quick interview because it is time to race.

Hah, the lead-in music is the KLF! 90s classic.
We’re into the FOM intro.

Engines fired.

FORMATION LAP

55 lap race

1.2.3.4.5.hold.GO!

Hamilton leads immediately. Everyone clear and through lap one.

Replay: Webber cuts across Barrichello’s nose and little pieces of Brawn go flying.

BMW and Toyota fighting.. I am having big trouble getting Firefox to stay open without crashing as it loads the 5Live audio feed, so I’m trying to fix that while following the busiest part of the race..

Hamilton building a big lead already!

L5 – Great helicopter shots.
L7 – CGI of the first corner showing everyone’s positions! Not sure it was all that useful in this instance but it will be in future when existing camera angles aren’t enough.

Heikki is told if he can’t pass Kimi, he should save fuel instead. Millions of fans suddenly gather around their TVs to watch the amazing spectacle of guys saving fuel.

L10 – Not that good of a race at the moment, though Webber is fast and catching his teammate.

L13 – Lewis is told he has to pick up the pace, or fall into the clutches of the 1-stoppers.

F1 journalist @WillBuxton via Twitter:
“Apparently the Yas Hotel will be lit up in the colours of the flag of the winning driver at the end of the race.”
That’s crazy!!

L17 Barrichello and Kubica are the first to pit. They succesfully negotiate the tricky pit exit.
Hamilton sets the Fastest Lap.

L18 – Hamilton pits, so does Button. Button beats Kobayashi… no, side by side.. hairpin, and again along the straight, Button brakes too late and Kamui takes the position! He’s a feisty one this new guy, isn’t he?

L19 – Webber, Trulli, Rosberg, and Buemi pit. Hamilton is told he may have a brake problem.

L20 – Vettel pits and comes out in the lead!!

Ted Kravitz says McLaren are clearing a space in the garage!

Hamilton pits. Wow, he pulls into the garage and gets out of the car. We can hear Martin Whitmarsh telling Lewis that ‘the data shows a problem, they might take it off and find nothing but they can’t risk it.’ With that long straight I concur, very big shame though, this basically kills the race stone dead.

L23 – It has all gone quiet again. Rosberg has been told to take risks because Trulli is slow.

Order:
Vettel, Webber, Kobayashi*, Button, Barrichello, Raikkonen*, Kovalainen*, Heidfeld, Trulli, Kubica, Rosberg, Nakajima*, Buemi, Fisichella*, Alonso*, Grosjean*, Sutil*
* yet to make their first (or only) stop

Kobayashi flying!

Hamilton with Lee: “Problem with the right rear brakes, it was too dangerous to continue. Struggling to stop the car.”

Getting dark in Abu Dhabi now.

Brundle is talking about how Kobayashi had a poor GP2 season and Grosjean had a good one, yet F1 is all about absorbing pressure and Kobayashi is doing well with it, Grosjean isn’t.

L28 Gaps opening between cars.. not much going on..

L30 Raikkonen pits.
L31 Kobayashi also in.
L32 Now for Kovalainen, can he beat Raikkonen? Yes, by some margin!

Wow, Sutil and Grosjean are side by side *without crashing*!

It got dark very quickly..

This is one of the most boring races of the season. The images coming through the TV look fantastic but that’s not really enough – we could use some racing.

Kobayashi and Nakajima started next to each other… Kob is now 8th, Nak still where he started.

L42 Kubica vs Buemi, contact, spin! Kubica spins trying to get around Buemi, loses a place to Rosberg while he recovers.

L43 Vettel and Button pit. Seb has a clear lead and Button beats Barrichello!

All done bar the shouting. The only entertainment is watching the decorative lights on the hotel as they change colour. Blue. Orange. Purple. Different every lap, how can you get bored? Umm..

L45, 10 to go.

L49 Button is catching Webber at half a second per lap, but we are running out of laps.

L51 Vettel is only now putting laps on the back end of the field, strong pace from everyone yet still a boring race.. I wonder if that means lapping the backmarkers helps racing?

L52 Fisichella on Grosjean! Grosjean goes across the run-off and will have to give up the place for cutting the corner.
Brundle: “Its hardly going to change our day is it?”
Hah. Snark factor 50.

Button has caught Webber! Mark is all over the place, will he hold on?

LAST LAP

Great fight between Button and Webber, nice and clean, no weaving and Mark manages to hold him off. This is how it should be done. No hard blocking a la Kobayashi in Brazil.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS!
Webber 2nd, Button 3rd.

Vettel screaming on the radio: “Bitte! Bitte! Kate’s dirty sister did it again!”
A reference to the name he gave his car..

Donuts from Vettel but we can’t see it because the director is showing us the crowd, and the hotel again.. it was showing a chequered flag! Not as good as a donut though..

About now @WillBuxton corrects himself when he realises it was a flag they were showing rather than the winner’s colours..

Parc Ferme.

Replay of the donuts. FIA likes to penalise them. Brundle says donuts should be mandatory.

Drivers head upstairs.. Button talking to Webber, swears live on worldwide TV! Despite us being able to hear them all season, the drivers still haven’t cottoned on to that fact..
Legard apologises on behalf of the BBC. I just realised I haven’t mentioned Legard at all in these notes, did I mentally tune him out? Did I still listen and take in the info? I have no idea.

Podium

Anthems for Germany (Seb) and Austria (RBR). Sorry Austria, your anthem is way too long.

Trophies

Back to the guys. 19 weeks, or 133 days until we do it again. DC says, “it was a great bit of action on the last lap. Great spectacle in Abu Dhabi, incredible season.”

Ross Brawn: “It was a great race. There are some things we could learn from the circuit, fabulous place. We haven’t quite got the pace of Red Bull at the moment but we made the best of what we had. Our reliability record is stunning.”

Pit board being held up behind the BBC guys, by a BrawnGP man: “Will you marry me Fatna?”
Hopefully she is race-mad and thinks this is romantic!
Boris Becker is around again.. Get James Corden off my TV screen, he’s not funny.

Conference

Vettel, P1: “Had a very good start, not enough to beat Lewis but it was good, I was surprised. I was able to stay close enough, we were a little heavier. In the last sector the car was a dream today. Nearly went wide at pit entrance, unfortunately then he had to retire but up to that point it was a fantastic race, then we had a cushion to Mark and I could pace myself.”

He’s been drinking his sponsor’s product, I can’t keep up with his fast talking.

Webber, P2: “Made a pretty good launch (start), tried to get back on the inside, got hit quite hard on the left rear and was worried about a puncture, relieved it wasn’t. Seb was just quicker today, especially the last stint. At the end, thought this is gonna be quite tight, we had a slight top speed advantage, we had a good clean fight. Want to thank the team for their patience with what happened (broken leg), my best season, 16 podiums together, very good.”

Button, P3: “Fun race. Lot of understeer on the Prime tyre. Outbraked myself against Kobayashi but he was faster at the point anyway. The last couple of laps were a lot of fun, I was very excited about that battle, Mark is always difficult to overtake and it was clean but on the edge, it was perfect, I really enjoyed the fight. Today was a bonus after the championship in Brazil. Thanks to everyone at Brawn and Mercedes. Congratulations to Seb, sterling pace today and we didn’t have the legs and we couldn’t challenge them. I’m looking forward to coming back to Abu Dhabi.”

Vettel again, what’s next? “We’ll face a long winter with no testing. The guys in the factory are pushing hard. No refuelling next year. This was a special season all round, hopefully next season will be just as exciting.”

And so say we all!

Race Result

Driver Gap Pts
1 Vettel 55 laps 10
2 Webber 17.8sec 8
3 Button 18.4sec 6
4 Barrichello 22.7sec 5
5 Heidfeld 26.2sec 4
6 Kobayashi 28.3sec 3
7 Trulli 34.3sec 2
8 Buemi 41.2sec 1
9 Rosberg 45.9sec
10 Kubica 48.1sec
11 Kovalainen 52.7sec
12 Räikkönen 54.3sec
13 Nakajima 59.8sec
14 Alonso 69.6sec
15 Liuzzi 94.4sec
16 Fisichella 1 lap
17 Sutil 1 lap
18 Grosjean 1 lap
DNF Hamilton Brakes
DNF Alguersuari Gearbox

Another win for Vettel and a deserved one. Even without Lewis’ problems he could well have still won this race, he was fast enough and was catching Hamilton before the retirement.. of course we don’t know how much of that was down to the brake issues.
I like the symmetry of the best four drivers and two teams of the season taking the top four positions in the final race, despite the resurgance of McLaren and Ferrari in the second half of the year.

Drivers’ Championship

Driver Prev AD Total
1 Button 89 6 95 C
2 Vettel 74 10 84
3 Barrichello 72 5 77
4 Webber 61.5 8 69.5
5 Hamilton 49 49
6 Räikkönen 48 48
7 Rosberg 34.5 34.5
8 Trulli 30.5 2 32.5
9 Alonso 26 26
10 Glock 24 24
11 Massa 22 22
12 Kovalainen 22 22
13 Heidfeld 15 4 19
14 Kubica 17 17
15 Fisichella 8 8
16 Buemi 5 1 6
17 Sutil 5 5
18 Kobayashi 0 3 3
19 Bourdais 2 2

The top four drivers hammer home their advantage, yet it is the Red Bull drivers who made the most of this race with a maximum score for them. Surprisingly given recent form neither Raikkonen or Hamilton scored.
Heidfeld asserted himself over Kubica at the last gasp.
Buemi scored a decent haul this year for a rookie and a Toro Rosso driver.
Good to see Kobayashi get on the board, he’s a hot prospect for the future.

Constructors’ Championship

Constructor Prev AD Total
1 Brawn 161 11 172 C
2 Red Bull 135.5 18 153.5
3 McLaren 71 71
4 Ferrari 70 70
5 Toyota 54.5 5 59.5
6 BMW 32 4 36
7 Williams 34.5 34.5
8 Renault 26 26
9 Force India 13 13
10 Toro Rosso 7 1 8

Brawn and Red Bull cemented their significant advantage over the field, with RBR fighting to the last even though the titles had already been wrapped up.
McLaren and Ferrari are unchanged as the ‘best of the rest’.
Toyota are a clear 5th with Williams just losing out to BMW at the final hurdle.
Toro Rosso prove that the last-placed team doesn’t always have to score a flat zero.

Next Event

That’s it for the season! Thanks to the BBC for their coverage, better than ITV’s but still room for improvement in many areas. Thanks also to everyone for reading these and for bearing with the delays in these posts this season due to my studies. The next race is the 2010 Bahrain GP in March.

In the meantime I’ll continue to blog through the winter as it takes my fancy, you may have noticed I don’t really keep to a schedule! Watch out in particular for the F1 car launches in Jan/Feb, but before then I am going to try and catch up on the IRL and GP2 seasons. I’ll also be active on the Twitter account and at Sidepodcast and in blog comments here, there and everywhere.

If you are the type to stop reading blogs during the offseason have a good break and I’ll see you in March, I hope. If you are as obsessed with this stuff as I am, I’ll be back very soon..

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