It was an unscripted end to one of the most unpredictable seasons of Formula 1 racing in recent times. As a tearful Sebastian Vettel crossed the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi, the 23-year-old became the youngest World Champion in the history of the sport. However, the German was unaware of the fact that he had just made history. He revealed that the Red Bull team had kept him in the dark about being the champion, until after he crossed the chequered flag.
To be honest I did not know anything. I wondered. In the last 10 laps my engineer Rocky (Guillaume Rocquelin) was giving me advice to help me get the car home. I wondered why he was so nervous. I thought we must be in a good position, then he said 'it's looking good', I didn't know what he meant. I just focused on myself and they came on the radio and screamed that we have won the world championship, he said.
Perhaps that was the best thing to do. No point in making the young driver a nervous wreck and piling pressure on him.
Before the race, Vettel had his job clearly marked out. If he was to win the title, he had to finish first and hope that standings-leader Fernando Alonso finished below fifth. As events panned out, that is exactly what happened.
Vettel started from pole after a commanding display in qualifying, with Hamilton second, Alonso third, Button fourth and Red Bull's other title hopeful - Mark Webber in fifth.
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Button's terrific start saw him burst ahead of Alonso, pushing the Spaniard down to fourth ahead of Webber. However, a collision between a Schumacher and Liuzzi in lap 4 saw the safety car come out. Four laps later, once the debris was cleared, Vettel burst forward to open up a considerable lead.
Webber would have had his own hopes up, being just eight points behind Alonso. However, the top two wrecked their hopes after an ill-timed early tyre change, from which they never really recovered. Webber pitted on lap eight, to change to harder tyres, while Ferrari who clearly saw Webber as Alonso's prime threat brought in the Spaniard in lap fifteen for a similar tyre change. However, it left them both far behind with Alonso 11th and Webber on 12th.
The decisive moment came when Vettel, who was surging ahead of the pile with a 28-second lead at one point, pitted and came out second behind Jenson Button who was yet to pit. Once Button went in, Vettel regained the lead and from there on the German looked in no danger as he sufficiently maintained his car to become the youngest Champion.
I'm a speechless to be honest, I don't know what I'm supposed to say. It's been an incredible year, we always kept believing in the team, and the car, and I kept believing in myself. I'm speechless! The car was phenomenal. The start was crucial, and it was very tight with Lewis, but after that it settled down, he said.
Afterwards, Fernando Alonso, who would have won had he finished first or second, said, This is sport - sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Next year we try again.
It was very good for me, especially after two years of some difficulties, coming back to winning races, fighting for the championship. I'm sure with this team it is very possible to fight for championships in the future, so I am happy, he said.
Vettel's Red Bull teammate and title contender Mark Webber added his adulation for the young star saying, Congratulations to Seb and to the team, two world championships, that's not a bad season. There're quite a few emotions when you just miss out. It's a shame.
I tried my absolute best, I had great guys around me, and in the end it wasn't quite enough. It didn't go my way in the end, but that's sport.
Lewis Hamilton, who wouldn't have harbored many hopes for the title even though he still in contention mathematically, finished second while fellow McLaren driver and the out-going champion Jenson Button finished third. Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, while Alosno and Webber grabbed the last points places, which will be no consolation for them.
By becoming the youngest Champion in F1 history, Vettel has earned the respect of many. Though it is unclear whether he will still remain with Red Bull, the team will do all they can to hold on to the young star who promises many more titles.