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Brundle on a 'brilliant' F1 season

Sebastian Vettel

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 90 seconds

Martin Brundle column
By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

The 2009 Formula 1 season has been fascinating, unpredictable and very watchable; we've had six different victors and a British world champion - I've loved it.

There have been a thousand different moments that have made this season so exciting and it is difficult to pick a favourite among them.

I enjoyed Mark Webber getting his first grand prix victory at the Nurburgring, Jenson Button's overtakes and seeing him take the world title in Brazil, and team boss Ross Brawn - an old mate of mine - crying at the end of the race.

Qualifying has been absolutely thrilling. The issue of how much fuel the cars have in qualifying needs to be sorted out as there is no race refuelling, but I hope they don't change the knock-out format next year.

The Abu Dhabi circuit is very well thought through and looks amazing especially at night. Why, then, did we see a fairly boring race?

The lowlight was Felipe Massa getting a whack on the head during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and there were a few too many scary shunts on track.

People kept coming up to me in airports saying: "Who's going to win this weekend?" And I'd say: "I haven't got a clue." It's been a brilliant season - you just didn't know what was going to happen next.

It all ended with Abu Dhabi making its bow on the F1 calendar.

There are three distinct sections to the Yas Marina circuit. The first one has a stadium-feel to it as the crowd are right on top of the track.

Then there are two long straights, which are interrupted by a suitably tight chicane which closed the cars up nicely.

The final part is a street circuit and a marina rolled into one with the 18,000rpm engine exhaust notes reverberating off the buildings and boats.

There's not a bump on the circuit and the kerbs are low so it's not that challenging for the cars in terms of reliability.

Abu Dhabi also has the longest straight in F1 at three-quarters of a mile but it only rates sixth in terms of how much time the cars spend at full throttle.

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button

Abu Dhabi GP - Top three drivers interview

There are, though, three good overtaking spots - down at the hairpin, and at the end of both long straights.

The drivers were also all treating the unique underground pit-lane exit with great caution.

There are 55 laps at 100 seconds each so it was a hectic race in the desert heat despite the night-time finish, and they all looked pretty sweaty when they got out of the cars.

As a whole, the circuit is very well thought through and looks amazing especially at night.

Why, then, did we see a fairly boring race?

Well, there was a clear distinction between the performances of the teams.

The McLaren cars had the advantage of the Kers power-boost system, which helped them hit top speed faster, while the Red Bulls were better through the slow corners.

After qualifying on Saturday, it looked like Lewis Hamilton had it in the bag for McLaren but he wasn't fast enough in the race and clearly had a braking issue from early on.

The driver market is so upside down at the end of the season in a way I've never seen in all my 26 years in the sport - less than half the grid is settled for next year

The cars weren't really close enough to deliver a classic race, which we might have had if Hamilton hadn't retired.

He dropped into the middle of the Red Bulls following his first pit stop and it would have been interesting to see if he could have come back at eventual race-winner Sebastian Vettel.

As it was, Red Bull tied up a one-two with Vettel leading home Mark Webber because they were a chunk faster than Brawn, at least until Webber started to struggle on the softer tyres in the final stint.

But there were some good fights down the field. Novice Kamui Kobayashi had a dig for Toyota and Button on Webber at the end was pure textbook stuff - great attacking and great defence.

Technically the place was challenging but the older, classic tracks provide their own unique tests.

When a driver has mastered Silverstone's classic Copse corner at 195mph or taken Eau Rouge flat out at Spa, he feels he is really making a difference and doing something special.

That's when you think: "I survived, I got through it and it'll be here again on the next lap." They are headline corners.

Formula One world champion Jenson Button

Button's last-lap duel with Webber

A driver wants to pit his wits against the ultimate challenge and some of those big corners are like climbing Mount Everest.

That is what the drivers really love but they will also enjoy the technical tracks like Abu Dhabi because they know that there is more time to be won and lost in a hairpin than there is at 130R at Suzuka and other great, fast corners.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix drew the curtain down on 2009 and now the focus on 2010 begins.

We are going to see a different style of racing next season because there will be no refuelling during the race.

It's going to be interesting to see who can get the long-wheelbase, limousine version of an F1 car, built to take 220 litres of fuel, working first.

There are also four new teams waiting to join the grid and that is going to be an adventure for them, and for us as we watch their progress.

What is most bizarre is that the driver market is so upside down at the end of the season in a way I've never seen in all my 26 years in the sport.

JAKE HUMPHREY'S BLOG

Less than half the grid is settled for next year. The world champion hasn't got a job yet - he will have, but Button still doesn't know where he is driving.

There are also engine issues to be resolved. What engine Red Bull will be using next season is only first among them.

The level of uncertainty is extreme and there is a lot to be resolved over the winter. It may be the end of the season but, as ever, the interest and intrigue in F1 never stops.

Martin Brundle was talking to Sarah Holt



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see also
Button vows to improve next year
01 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel wins as Hamilton drops out
01 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Bridgestone to end F1 tie in 2010
02 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Mandelson demands British GP fix
01 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Kobayashi set for full-time seat
01 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Why Button is a worthy champion
19 Oct 09 |  Formula 1


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