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All 24 drivers pose on the starting grid for an end-of-season Formula One portrait before the start of yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
All 24 drivers pose on the starting grid for an end-of-season Formula One portrait before the start of yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

F1: A pity the drama had to end

And what a finale it was in Abu Dhabi, with Schumacher smiling after his crash and Alonso shaking a fist at Petrov.

Um, New Delhi, is that Indian Grand Prix just about ready? Is there any chance you could have it up and going in, oh, about two weeks?

It might sound a trifle unreasonable, I know, but it's just that this delicious Formula One season really should not have to do us the disfavour of concluding. This rambunctious romp ought to wind on and on for at least another few weeks, fooling us with its fluctuations and flooring us with its serial disbelief. Maybe they ought to keep the points and have it run over two seasons.

After all, the season that wound up making stars of Abu Dhabi and the Yas Marina Circuit wound up telling us something strange about the people who as of yesterday morning picked Fernando Alonso to win the drivers' championship.

We thought these forecasters had engaged in predictability, in dullness, in chalk, given that Alonso had the eight-point lead on one driver and the 15-point lead on another.

Actually, given this riveting season, these forecasters turned out to be wild, thrill-seeking, daring.

Given the way this thing went, the four contenders rushing to the finish, the championship from the driver who never led the standings through the year, it made the best sense that the 19-instalment puzzle would present something completely unforeseeable for its finale.

You know, something like the gifted, two-time champion Alonso spending much of the day stuck behind the afterthought Vitaly Petrov, whose sixth-place finish marked his best of the year. Something like Michael Schumacher climbing out of a horrific crash on the sixth turn, then walking off from his comeback season with an enormous grin as he waved to the audience.

Something like the early pit-stop permutations that sent a most everybody reeling into confusing corridors of strategy. Something like the improbable juxtaposition of Alonso shaking a fist at his nemesis Petrov - Petrov! - while Vettel hops up the podium as a third-place driver who has just vaulted clear into first and first forever.

Then, just as the young, blond and gloriously toothy Sebastian Vettel seared toward his second win in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, out onto the track flew a dislodged chunk of the car belonging to Jarno Trulli. It sat there as if to menace, and as Vettel made his way around his penultimate lap, the following thought came to mind, just as it had enough times to make a season stirring:

No!

Sports events are best when they can deliver that No! but Vettel being Vettel, he deftly swerved to avoid it. By the time he came back round he had sorted out the obstacle so drifted nowhere near. Then the other cars Vettel needed to stay in front of Alonso missed it, too.

So the whole 19-race, 18-country, multiple-leader saga wrapped up as the best events do, with not only the nerve endings frayed but with the contrasts of unmitigated joy and near-miss woe, the woe being just as valuable as the joy as nobody could sort out one without the other.

It ended with a 23-year-old German who looks like he might be the guy making you a cappuccino at the coffeehouse sobbing audibly inside his helmet while still navigating the track and shrieking, "I love you," toward his boss. It ended with that boss, Christian Horner, saying, "It's unbelievable," and marshalling that disbelief when he said of his Red Bull-Renault team of the green age of six, "This is the best team in the world."

And it ended with Luca di Montezemolo, the Ferrari president, confessing rather manfully, "Our morale is low after the conclusion to this season, but that's sport," and with Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari principal, saying, "There is great sadness at this moment."

If people used to dub this game boring during the Schumacher years, well, the year 2010 has stood up as the Un-Schumacher Year. It leaves a whole sport going forward with two enviably young champion drivers in Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, plus the ravenous two-time champion Alonso, plus the 2009 champion Jenson Button besides and maybe even that old warhorse Mark Webber back for another grind not to mention more catfights.

It is so full of possibilities and crosscurrents that it would be swell if it kept on going about two weeks hence. Maybe New Delhi, with recent experience at pulling together last-minute preparations, could help out. After such a sterling, palpitating day in Abu Dhabi, you mean we really have to wait for Bahrain?

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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