The Battle in the Desert: The 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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There are few things as breathtaking as Formula 1. The sights, sounds, and excitement are enough to make anyone’s breath catch in their chest. The moment the lights go out and the reverberating monsters that are the cars are turned loose, fans across the globe find themselves on the edge of their seats, watching, waiting, and praying for their favorite and driver and team.

Rarely has this been more the case than at the 2010 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi in which four drivers came into the race with a chance to win the Drivers’ Championship. Fernando Alonso, in a Ferrari, was in first place with 246 points. Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were next with 238 points and 231 points respectively. Lastly, driver Lewis Hamilton was in contention with 222 points total creating a sense of heightened excitement as the weekend commenced. Furthermore, the press had been worked into a frenzy regarding the topic of team orders, especially as they related to Red Bull and their drivers. Ferrari was also under scrutiny as they had ordered Felipe Massa, over the team radio, to allow Fernando Alonso by during the German Grand Prix, opening a debate on the validity and acceptability of team orders. Before the first cars had been rolled from their pit stalls to the track, tension was running high.

Three practice sessions, lasting 90 minutes each, kicked off the weekend. Vettel was consistently fastest with Hamilton, Alonso, and Webber in an ever changing order behind him. Qualifying was run on Saturday in perfect, dry weather and saw Sebastian Vettel take his tenth pole of the season with a time of 1:39.394. In so doing, Vettel gave Red Bull their 15th pole of the season and became only the seventh driver to have won ten poles. Hamilton sat on the grid next to him, with Alonso third and Jenson Button fourth.

Race day dawned bright, clear, and dry. Conditions were perfect for racing, with the air at a comfortable 84 degrees Fahrenheit and the track a warmer 91. The flag dropped and Vettel shot forward, holding his position through the first corner. Hamilton, Alonso, and Button trailed right behind him, pushing harder with each rotation of their tyres. Schumacher spun his car, catching Liuzzi in the process and taking them both out of race and bringing out the safety car. It was lap six before the pace car came back into the pits and the drivers were turned loose. Many drivers had issues during the race due to the hard charging pace. Webber brushed the Armco and had to return to the pits for a repair.  Furthermore, Alonso nudged the Turn 19 corner himself and had to pit, rejoining the field, just as the cars were about to come back, and more importantly, just ahead of Webber. Alonso drove like a man possessed. His determination to reach the front of the pack was palpable to everyone and his precision was perfection to watch. Throughout the race positions were traded amongst drivers. Each driver was pushing hard, seizing every opportunity to get ahead and garner the all-important points in a championship so tight that it was hard to breathe.

On lap 39 Button went into the pits and Vettel regained control of the field. The world waited to see what team orders, if any, would be issued by Christian Horner and Red Bull. None, however, were issued and the racing was excellent as a result. Leader was a position Vettel would not end up relinquishing and he went on to became the Youngest Championship Winner. He also became the first driver since James Hunt to lead the championship only after the final chequered flag dropped. As it fell, Alonso was only four points behind him and Webber was only ten points behind to place him in third.

The 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was more than just a race. It was moment in time in which the whisper of racers from long ago could be heard in the thundering of the engines as they roared around the track and shattered the silence of the desert, creating a new champion, the likes of which racing had not seen in quite a while. More than that though, it had revealed that good racing was created when racers were turned loose to masterfully guide the power of the beasts they sat in  to create a drive that was nothing short of a living, breathing work of art.



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