You might remember Vettal as the driver who was fined for speeding in the pit lane within 10 seconds of arriving in Formula 1. Three and a half years later the fiercely determined driver has become the youngest ever Formula One World Champion after a storming race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Vettel came out champion of a historic four-way title showdown race at the last round in the Middle East to shade Lewis Hamilton's record by six months. Lady Luck may have provided the opening that Vettel needed at Abu Dhabi to be crowned the 2010 Champion, but tactical errors on the parts of Ferrari and McLaren also made sure that Vettel became champion. After Michael Schumacher spun out and Liuzzi became collateral damage on lap 1 bringing out the safety car, Nico Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov quickly pitted for tyres and ended up ahead of both Webber’s Red Bull and Alonso’s Ferrari when they made their scheduled stops. Even though the German was doing his part by roaring away at the head of the field, his fate hung in the balance.
The Spaniard, thrown down to 12th by a Ferrari strategy, only had to finish fourth to hold position and take the title. Ferrari gambled Alonso could pit early, covering Red Bull's other racer Mark Webber, and still roar up the field in the remaining 40 laps to his appointed place. But they hadn't considered Petrov.
Lap after lap he defied the double champion's attempts to pass with the Ferrari even skidding wide once in frustration. "What was I supposed to do? I know I am not in the battle for the world championship but I am still racing for important points," said the Russian. Even desperate radio messages from Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali to their man were to no avail. "It's critical to pass. I know you'll do your best," he urged. Then we heard: "Use your best talent, we know how big it is." There was no facility to order the man in front aside as they had done so controversially in Germany.
Alonso's dreams of a third title ebbed away and died. When the chequered flag came out he was three agonising places from where he needed to be. Similar misfortune struck Hamilton, who needed to win at any cost to keep his title chances alive. A mistimed pit stop meant that he was stuck behind Robert Kubica’s Renault for a long time till the Pole finally made his stop with under 10 laps to go. But none of that takes away the fact that Vettel drove an amazing race from start to finish. The emotion of being World Champion clearly overcame Vettel as he spoke to his team on the pit radio on the slowing down lap. 2010’s Formula One season has certainly been full of excitement, drama and intrigue, let’s hope the 2011 season continues the same way.