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Abu Dhabi; The Formula One Season Finale

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On: Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 12:05PM | By: John Welch

Abu Dhabi; The Formula One Season Finale

The Formula One season ended on Sunday, under the watercolor Abu Dhabi sunset. Sebastian Vettle dominated the second portion of the race, clinching his fourth victory of the season. Lewis Hamilton took pole postion during qualifiying Saturday afternoon, but he never felt comfortable during the race. Hamilton's McLaren was a bear under braking, and he retired shortly after his first pit stop. The right-rear caliper failed, attributed to the complexity of the McLaren brake set-up: Brembo calipers clamp Akebono rotors in the rear, while the front brakes are manufactured by Carbon Industries. Most teams use only one of these suppliers for all four brake assemblies.

After three years in the sport, this was the first DNF related to a mechanical failure for Lewis Hamilton. Ever. McLaren builds a tank of a GP car.

So that's the result, but so many more interesting things happened during Sunday's broadcast. The astounding architecture of the United Arab Emirates, the last race for BMW/Sauber, Alonso and Raikkonen choking away final races with their current teams, and how exactly can you hold a major motor racing event in a country that outlaws drinking?

The Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE: As if Abu Dhabi wasn't lavish enough, along come some piston-crazed sheiks and princes, and they decide to build a little racin' track. Only it isn't little, it's big enough to partition the track and run two separate races, simultaneously. Not 1/4 mile Bandelero/go-kart races either; both tracks would be at least 1 and 3/4 mile. The back stretch of the Yas Marina F1 circuit is the longest in the sport, 3/4s of a mile. The helicopter shot over this straight is breath-taking. The ability to recognize the effects of drafting and compare the cars relative to each other was unprecedented. A Mercedes engine has 20 bhp on the Renault. After this race, that fact is indisputable.

There is a schwanky hotel stuffed between two marinas in the center of the track. This hotel has a massive structure covering its roof that can best be described as a 'blanket' of crazy florescent tube/lightbulb things. This structure can be programmed to display a kaleidoscoping panorama of colors and pictures; after a little more development it will be essentially the worlds largest HDTV, able to display video in stunning detail.

The Yas Marina Hotel. For scale, those yachts in the foreground range from 50 feet to 150 feet in length. That's one enormous tv screen.

That isn't even the most massive roof on the property. Behind the track sits the Ferrari World theme park, the worlds largest indoor theme park. There are twenty-two carnival rides inside, on top of acres of Ferrari-themed displays and rides..

Alonso and Raikkonen; uncompetitive cars for the season lead to an uncompetitive final race: Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were disappointing on Sunday. Raikkonen finished 12th, and Alonso 14th.

Both drivers will be leaving their current teams next year—Alonso leaving Renault to take over Kimi's Ferrari seat, and Kimi doing who-knows-what?! The Finn is said to be asking for 30 million dollars next year. That's insane considering new World Champ Jenson Button is being stonewalled over 13 million dollars. If Brawn GP can't afford 13 mil to keep the hottest driver in the world, who is going to cough up 30 for the lackadaisical, unmotivated Finn?

To be fair to both Raikkonen and Alonso, their teams gave up on them as much as they gave up on their teams. The Renault has been consistently inconsistent all year, and Ferrari stopped development on the F60 five races ago. Hopefully both drivers will fare better next year, assuming they're both competing in F1.

Mark Webber and Jenson Button; a duel to the finish: Some drivers were not content to just sit back and watch the season pass before their eyes. Over the course of the last nine laps, Jenson Button and Mark Webber engaged in a duel for second position that rivaled some of this year's scraps for first.

Jenson was never able to overtake Webber, but both drivers fought tooth and nail for the cameras. By the second to last lap it appeared that Webber had overworked his tires attempting to flee from the World Champion. Button was able to sneak around the outside of Webber's RedBull/Renault on more than one occasion, but just couldn't make a pass stick. Both drivers displayed excellent patience and avoided running each other off of the track. In the end, Webber was able to hang on to his second place, and with his teammate Sebastian Vettle, secured another 1-2 finish for RedBull racing.

Kamui Kobayashi, a sixth place for Toyota and possibly a job for next year: Kamui Kobayashi was very impressive on Sunday, and Toyota's management noticed. The Japaneses rookie drove a great race, even stalking and passing Jenson Button in the middle of the race.

Toyota Sporting Director, John Howett had this to say: "We have to really seriously consider him now after this good strong result."

Kobayashi is driving in place of Timo Glock, who was injured at the Italian Grand Prix.

Farewell to BMW/Sauber: Sunday marked the final race for the BMW/Sauber team, in its current iteration. Speculation around the paddock suggested that the BMW engine could possibly be the most powerful and useable engine; unfortunately it was a case of too little, too late.

Nick Heidfeld, who has raced for the Hinwil, Switzerland-based team on and off for seven years, became very emotional by the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"It now becomes very emotional," said Heidfeld, 32, after finishing fifth in Abu Dhabi. "During the last laps I had to pull myself together in order to keep my concentration."

It wasn't all piss and vinegar for Heidfeld however; Peter Sauber had a surprise for him after the race. "As a thank you for Nick Heidfeld's seven years of great commitment to the team in Hinwil, Peter Sauber is
giving him a Formula One car from this era," the team said.

That's a hell of a lot better then a cheapo watch or some stupid wall plaque. The AutoShopper had better, at least, hand out run-down delivery vans after years of loyal servitude. I'm not holding my breath.

And thus we end the 2009 F1 campaign. The year brought many new and exciting experiences, and also some new and frightfully awful ones. Crash gate comes to mind. The drivers and teams will be vastly different next year, and there will still be techinical changes. The teams have agreed to shelve KERS for the 2010 season, as well as outlaw refueling during the race. Four new teams will join the grid, maybe more. Some teams may leave; Sauber, Toyota and Renault are rumored to be at their wit's end. It will be the last year for Bridgestone as the offcial tire supplier of F1.

Congratulations to Jenson Button and the entire Brawn GP staff. They took what was essentially a bankrupt, dead team and turned it into a winner. Hopefully 2010 will be as exciting as 2009. Or perhaps more exciting; we could have the championship decided on the last lap of the last race such as we did in 2008. That wouldn't be such a bad thing.

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RoadKill | 3:18PM (Mon, Nov 2, 2009)

pretty soon there will be National Lampons Abu Dhabi Vacation...

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