2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (formally the I Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) was the seventeenth and final Formula One motor race of the 2009 Formula One season. It took place on November 1, 2009 at the 3.45-mile Hermann Tilke-designed Yas Marina Circuit. It was the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and also the first ever day-night Grand Prix (starting at 17:00, with sunset at 17:43 on raceday). The race was won by Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull, with polesitter Lewis Hamilton (driving for McLaren) having retired due to a brake failure.
Jenson Button had secured the title of World Champion in Brazil, but only two points separated the second-placed and third-placed Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello. Likewise Brawn GP were declared Constructors' Champions in Brazil with Red Bull second, but third position overall was still undecided between McLaren and Ferrari.
This would be the last race in Formula One for Nico Rosberg at Williams and for Robert Kubica (replacing Alonso at Renault in 2010) at BMW Sauber. This would be the last race for Nick Heidfeld until the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.
In keeping with FIA regulations that state the practice and qualifying sessions must be run under the same conditions as the race, the practice sessions were run in the late afternoon and early evening so as to simulate the transition between day and night.
The sessions were dominated by the McLaren team, with Lewis Hamilton spending most of his time on or near the very top of the timing sheets He set the early standard in the first session, producing a fastest lap of 1:43.939. Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen struggled initially, but eventually set the fastest time of the second session – 1:41.307, two-tenths of a second faster than team-mate Hamilton. – and retained his pace in the third.
At Ferrari, both Kimi Räikkönen and Giancarlo Fisichella struggled, spending most of the weekend at the bottom of the timing sheets, though a pair of last-minute one-lap charges by Räikkönen saved the team from total embarrassment. Fisichella was less than impressed with Yas Marina's underground pit exit, claiming it was both very difficult and dangerous, despite it remaining incident-free.
Robert Kubica stopped on the circuit halfway through the second practice session with a suspected engine failure. The Pole, down to the last of his eight racing engines, was running with a used engine at the time, thus preventing the need for him to take a grid penalty. Nick Heidfeld spent most of the sessions at the tail end – at one point unable to explain why he was over two seconds slower than Kubica – until his final runs in the last session, which elevated him into the top ten.
Like Ferrari, Renault struggled all weekend. Unlike Ferrari, neither Fernando Alonso or Romain Grosjean were able to do much about it, simply unable to find speed around the circuit. Alonso, however commented that the Yas Marina circuit was enjoyable, stating that there was always something to do.
Kamui Kobayashi continued to impress in what was only his second outing for Toyota, frequently out-pacing team-mate Jarno Trulli, and at one point setting the third-fastest lap time. However, Kobayashi's program for the weekend consisted mostly of doing dummy qualifying runs, while Trulli was focusing on pace over an extended period, meaning the difference between the two drivers was not as great as it appeared to be.
The Toro Rosso drivers continued their trend of being the very first out in the early sessions. Sébastien Buemi demonstrated that his pace in Japan and Brazil was no one-off, and he spent most of the practice sessions near the top of the timing sheets and was the first person to break the 1:40.000 barrier in the third practice session. Jaime Alguersuari was less receptive to the circuit than others and was over-shadowed by his team mate until a hydraulics problem sidelined him for the duration of the third session.
Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel also had strong sessions, hinting at a pace that would eventually show itself in qualifying. After Hamilton set a time a second faster than anyone else in the third session, it was Vettel who led the rest of the field in making up the gap, however both drivers would finish outside the top ten.
Williams' Nico Rosberg echoed Alonso's sentiments that he liked the circuit, stating that every corner was 'unique'. However, both he and team-mate Kazuki Nakajima had an inconsistent weekend, alternating between the bottom end of the top ten and running as low as fifteenth.
Force India's Adrian Sutil commented that he preferred Abu Dhabi over Marina Bay in Singapore as it was easier to see around the Yas Marina circuit. After being limited by brake problems early in the first session, he eventually took to the circuit. Like team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi, his occasional bursts of speed were soon overrun by the other drivers.
Jenson Button spent most of first practice exchanging blows with Hamilton, responding to each of Hamilton's fastest laps with one of his own. The trend continued into the third session with Button prevailing, setting a 1:40.625, two-thousandths of a second quicker than Hamilton. Rubens Barrichello had a relatively anonymous string of practice sessions, finishng within the top ten on each occasion, but never quite having the pace of his team-mate.
Lewis Hamilton was the fastest in the first qualifying session, becoming the first man to set a lap time of less than 1:40.000 with a 1:39.873. Fellow Briton Jenson Button was the only other driver who came close, with his best lap time half a second slower than Hamilton. For the third race of the season – after Luca Badoer in Valencia and Spa – a Ferrari qualified in twentieth and last place, with Giancarlo Fisichella finishing one second behind Kimi Räikkönen and two behind Hamilton. Joining Fisichella in an early elimination were the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi and the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean after Jaime Alguersuari relegated Alonso to fifteenth place in the final few minutes of the first session.
Hamilton once again topped the second session with another lap time under 1:40.000, though this time Sebastian Vettel was able to break the same barrier as well, the only other person to do so all weekend. By the time the second session had come around, night was falling over the circuit, and with it the track temperature dropped. Despite the cars carrying less fuel in the second session, the difference in lap times between Q1 and Q2 was noticeably smaller than at other races, with many of the drivers struggling to improve upon their first-session times. Heikki Kovalainen came to a halt on the circuit with a gearbox failure, which would afford him a five-place penalty for the race. Elsewhere, the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen was eliminated, as were Jaime Alguersuari and Kazuki Nakajima. Kamui Kobayashi was also eliminated after qualifying twelfth, just one place behind his starting position in Brazil.
The third session was unique in that once the drivers left the pits, they stayed out for the duration; in previous races, they have gone out once at the start and once at the end, or simply waited until the final few minutes to set a time. This was attributed to the tyres, as it took several laps for the drivers to get either compound up to a working temperature. Lewis Hamilton remained in the pits while the other nine took to the circuit. The lap times started falling as the drivers did several laps, with Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli exchanging lap times before Hamilton emerged and took the provisional pole. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber both went faster, only for Hamilton to secure a front-row berth on his final lap with a 1:40.948 and leaving Vettel and Webber second and third respectively. Rubens Barrichello slotted into fourth, while Button edged out Trulli for fifth. The BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld took seventh and eighth, followed by the Williams of Nico Rosberg in his final race for the Grove-based team, and Sébastien Buemi taking tenth on his twenty-first birthday.
Lewis Hamilton led the race from the start, but did not open a singularly impressive lead as was expected, and Vettel stayed within a few seconds of him during the early phase of the race. There was contact between Rubens Barrichello and Webber in the first corner, with Barrichello losing a part of his front wing, which hurt his pace to begin with. The first lap was otherwise clean.
Vettel leap-frogged Hamilton during the first round of stops before the McLaren pit wall reported that Hamilton had a problem with his right-rear brake. Hamilton was forced to retire the car after eighteen laps, as it was unsafe to continue given that the circuit contained three very large braking areas. It was briefly suggested that the problem may have been a faulty data logger that was showing a problem, but McLaren was still obliged to retire the car. The only other retirement of the race was Jaime Alguersuari during the pit stops. His in-lap had been slow and he made the mistake of pulling up in the Red Bull pit instead of the Toro Rosso garages. With Sebastian Vettel due in that lap, Red Bull were forced to send him back out. Alguersuari later claimed that when he was ready for the stop, his team were not. The Red Bull and Toro Rosso garages were located next to one another, with the pit crews in similar uniforms. Alguersuari retired when he returned to the circuit.
From there, the race remained relatively incident-free. Jenson Button exited from his stop to find the Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi, who was running on a one-stop strategy. Button, in a heavier car and with tyres that would take several laps to break in, was powerless to stop Kobayashi from simply driving around the outside of him at the giant hairpin at one end of the circuit. Kobayashi would run as high as third during the race before his stop, and would ultimately finish sixth, collecting three World Championship points in only his second race. His performance in Brazil and Abu Dhabi in particular impressed Toyota's management enough for him to be seriously considered for a full-time race seat in 2010 (although it subsequently transpired that Toyota withdrew from Formula One before the start of the 2010 season). Fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima finished in thirteenth, making him the only driver to race in every Grand Prix of the season without scoring a single point.
Elsewhere, Giancarlo Fisichella was given a drive-through penalty and finished his final race for Ferrari a lowly sixteenth, ahead of only Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean. Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen – also in his final race for the Maranello-based outfit – had a similar struggle from eleventh on the grid, finishing down in twelfth behind fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen. Ferrari's failure to score points meant that the team conceded third place in the Constructors' championship, closing their worst season since Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger drove for them in 1993.
The final few laps saw Jenson Button begin to rapidly reel in the second-placed Mark Webber, whose rear tyres were steadily beginning to lose grip. Button caught up with him with six laps to go, and the final lap was one of the hardest-fought of the season. Both drivers made an error going into the chicane and hairpin, and while Button attempted to make a move on Webber going down the back straight, the Australian defended his line into the switchback. The move meant that Button had the racing line and came out of the ninth corner nose-to-tail with the Red Bull. Button drew alongside Webber in the run down to the bottom corner, forcing Webber to take a defensive line again, but the Red Bull driver held his line and managed to pull the car up in time and held on for second place despite a minor error at turn fourteen.
At the front of the field, Sebastian Vettel won the race by seventeen seconds, securing the runner-up position in the championship from Barrichello, who went on to finish fourth ahead of Nick Heidfeld in BMW Sauber's final race. Kobayashi was sixth, scoring his first career points, with Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli taking seventh, and Sébastien Buemi closing out the points-scoring positions in eighth, four seconds ahead of the Williams of Nico Rosberg, also in his final race for his team.
This was the last race to feature pit stops for refueling, which had been re-introduced in 1994, as the regulations for 2010 had banned them. Jarno Trulli made the final refueling stop on lap 42. This was also the last race to use the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points scoring system, introduced in 2003 and the last race to date for drivers Fisichella, Nakajima, and the constructors Toyota, BMW and Brawn GP.
Cars that use the KERS system are marked with "‡"
- 1.^ – Kovalainen dropped five places on the grid, after his gearbox required changing after a failure in qualifying.
Cars that use the KERS system are marked with "‡"
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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2009 Brazilian Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix
|Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Next race:|
2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
| Preceded by
2008 Singapore Grand Prix
| Formula One Promotional Trophy
for Race Promoter
| Succeeded by|
2010 Korean Grand Prix