Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi 2010 (c)Getty Images/Red Bull Photofiles

Abu Dhabi, Nov 14th- In the closest of  World Championships, four drivers held the key to being crowned F1 Driver World Champion 2010.  In a flag to flag victory, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel led a faultless race to become the youngest ever new world champion, after a gripping Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The final season podium was a fitting tribute also to the past two champions who flanked Vettel,  Hamilton and Button 2009 outgoing champion.

The 23-year-old Red Bull driver chalked up his fifth win of the season while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the pre-race favourite for a third title, struggled home seventh.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates on podium in Abu Dhabi (c)Getty Images/Red Bull Photofiles

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull– ”I’m speechless. I don’t know what you are supposed to say in these moments, it has been an incredibly tough season for myself and all of us, physically and mentally. We always kept believing in ourselves – no matter what people said – in the team and in our car. I kept believing in myself and today was a special day all round. I got up this morning and tried not to think about anything; I tried to avoid contact with people and just tried to do my own thing. I knew all I could try to do was win this race and do my best.”

Vettel, added the drivers’ title to the constructors’ championship which RedBull won the previous weekend in Brazil, ending up with 256 points to Alonso’s 252. In the end, Webber finished eighth and was third overall.

“The car was phenomenal today; the start was very tight with Lewis (Hamilton), and I had some graining in the first stint, but then the car stabilised and was a dream. To be honest, I didn’t know anything until I passed the chequered flag. I was wondering, because my race engineer Rocky was trying to give me advice every lap to help me carry the car home and I was thinking ‘Why’s this guy so nervous, we must be in a bloody good position!’ Then crossing the line he came on the radio and very silently said ‘it’s looking good, we have to wait until all the cars finish’. I was thinking ‘what does he mean,’ as I hadn’t seen the screens – I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get any distractions during the race and focused on myself. Then Christian came on the radio and screamed at me that we had won the World Championship”

Opening lap Schumacher is struck by Tonio Luizzi - Photo credit to Alan Boyter at vendetta

In the opening lap Mercedes Michael Schumacher, previous seven times world champion, spun and was struck hard by Force India’s Vitantonio Luizzi who landed on top of Schumachers car, missing Schumachers head by inches, both were unhurt but had to retire. Webber pitted for harder tyres on the 11th lap, with Alonso four laps later now falling midfield behind Petrov.

Mark Webber RedBull – 8th- “It was a big day and we had the chance to do something incredibly unique, but in the end it didn’t turn out for us. Earlier in the race we knew we had to roll the dice and go for it with the strategy, but it left us exposed and Fernando (Alonso) covered us. I tried my absolute hardest and we did everything we could, but in the end it wasn’t enough. You’ve got to take your hat off to Sebastian, he’s done a great job all year and to lead the Championship at the last race, he’s got the timing right and I fully congratulate him on the World Championship. I was in with a chance of winning the Championship until the last race, so I must have been doing something right and in the end there are a lot of positives. I feel I have driven very well for most of the season and that’s the most important thing to me. This weekend didn’t turn out and it’s a shame, but it’s a good time to reflect in the next few weeks and look back at the highs and the lows but that’s the way the sport is sometimes. There have been quite a few emotions over the last couple of weeks; when you come so close to the top and just miss out, it’s a shame, but I tried my absolute hardest and I have great guys around me. I think two championships for the team is not bad and I’ll be fighting again next season.”

Lewis Hamilton stopped on the 23rd lap, and Vettel the 24th. This  put Button into the lead, but as Vettel resumed the chase behind the outgoing champion 2009, Hamilton was stuck behind a ‘yet to pit’ and extremly aggressive Robert Kubica who was on a long opening stint for Renault on the harder tyres. Kubica lasted till only 8 laps from the end when he finally pitted.

Going into the final eight laps Vettel had a comfortable lead, around 10 seconds clear of Hamilton, with Button following.

Lewis Hamilton, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – “We’ve ended this year on a high – to get both of us onto the podium and to clinch runner-up spot in the constructors’ world championship represent a great achievement for the whole Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. “I was able to match Sebastian’s [Vettel] pace in the early part of the race – but, after my pitstop, I was stuck behind Robert [Kubica]. It was just impossible to get past him – he made no mistakes – so it wasn’t possible to resume my attack on Sebastian. But that’s the way motor racing goes sometimes. “The team has been pushing so hard for the whole season – I’m so proud of everyone. Now, though, I’m already looking ahead to next year, when I hope our car will be even better, so that we can do battle at the very front from the first race of the season. “There are 15 weeks to go until the 2011 season starts – it can’t come soon enough!”

Jenson Button, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes-

“It’s been an exciting year for Formula 1. We’ve all had our ups and downs, including the new world champion Sebastian. But he’s a very talented driver and he thoroughly deserves his success. “It was nice to be on the podium with the new world champion, and with Lewis, who was of course the 2008 world champion. Our main aim today was to clinch second place in the constructors’ world championship, and we did that comfortably. “During the year I’ve had some very good Sundays but some difficult Saturdays – and that’s something I’m going to work on over the winter. Overall, however, I’m very happy with my first season at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.

Vettel is only the second German, after seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, to win the world title.

The FIA F1 Drivers end of season group photo. Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday 14 November 2010.