ABU DHABI // A thrilled Sebastian Vettel is sorry that the 2009 season is over after he became the first driver to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last night. The victory confirmed him in second place in the championship as he beat his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber by 16 seconds to triumph at Yas Marina.
"It's a shame the season ends now, but it's a perfect day to finish it on a high," he said. The German started second behind pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and ran close behind the McLaren-Mercedes in the opening stint. But he took the lead after the first pit stop on lap 20 and never looked back as he pulled away from Webber, who fell back into a tussle with the world champion Jenson Button for second place.
"We had a very good launch and I was close to out-accelerating Lewis, but he disappeared into the distance with his Kers," said Vettel. "But I was able to stay close enough and we knew we were a little bit heavier and I was always catching up in the last sector. That was the secret. "After that he retired, but it was a fantastic race. I had a gap to Jenson and Mark behind so I was able to pace myself, but the car was fantastic on both tyres. It was a pleasure to sit in the car tonight."
Though he missed out on the world championship, Vettel was delighted with his and the team's form after the slow start to the campaign that had seen BrawnGP dominate with Button winning six of the first seven races. Since the seventh round in Turkey, Vettel has been the form man in the championship. He was unable to haul back the 32-point gap by which he trailed Button after Istanbul, cutting the gap to 11 in the final standings.
"To sum up the season, it is up and down. In the second half we have been very strong, fourth one-two for Red Bull, so congratulations to the team. They have been pushing a lot, working a lot," he said. Securing second in the title race also pleased him. "After Brazil, coming here we knew we had a very, very strong package and the priority was to secure second in the drivers' championship, and we succee-ded," he said. "To do it with victory is the best possible result."
The former BMW Sauber and Toro Rosso driver is now aiming to go one better in 2010 and become world champion. He is confident Red Bull can improve even more on their best season, which has seen them win six races. "It would be very good to continue like that," he said. "Now we face a long winter, there's long break with no testing. Back in the factory the guys are pushing very hard. The cars do not change much until next year, but you cannot refuel, so it is a bit unknown."