Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Updated: November 17, 5:50 AM ET
Vettel's record-setting season thrilled
Sebastian Vettel seemed to be an unlikely champion only a few races ago.
It was a season that delivered seemingly everything.
The comeback of a seven-time World Champion, the remarkable return of a driver struck down by injury the season prior, past champions in new race seats, and an incredible title battle that went down to the last laps.
Abu Dhabi had everyone guessing who would become champion throughout much of the race, and the title picture only became clear after the sun had set in the Middle East.
Much of the talk entering race day was whether Sebastian Vettel would aid Mark Webber in his title pursuit if needed. It turned out to be the complete opposite scenario, and Vettel drove his heart out in pursuit of the title. By the narrow edge of four points, it was his, as Fernando Alonso could not manage to overtake Vitaly Petrov and finish a final championship charge.
Vettel's season was one of turmoil and vast uncertainty, but he came through when it counted most, as three of his five wins this season came in the final four events. He's now the youngest World Champion in history at 23 years and four months.
Vettel is also the second German to win an F1 crown, alongside Michael Schumacher. His late-season heroics mean that fans have seen the championship lead change hands in the final race of the year in two of the past four seasons, and the margin of victory in the title race has been four points or fewer in three of the last four years.
Incredibly, Vettel had never held an outright lead in the championship standings before Abu Dhabi in his career. He's now done just about everything a young driver can do in Formula One, setting numerous age records in the process. Winning Monaco is one of the few remaining challenges he has not conquered, but several Monte Carlo wins are likely in his future.
The nation of Germany now has eight world titles, all coming since 1994. That's tied for the second most by a single nation all-time with Brazil, and behind only Great Britain.
We likely will look back on this era in F1 with fond memories, as it has delivered some fantastic championship battles. With a sizeable amount of young talent on the grid, the championship fight between the likes of young guns and more experienced drivers promises to wage on for years to come.
Championship margin, last four seasons.
And alas, another Ferrari driver, much like Felipe Massa in 2008, feels the sting of losing out on the title by the narrowest of margins. It is of course no consolation to Alonso, but he can still become the youngest to win a third title next year if he snatches the championship.
Webber is relegated to a third-place finish in the points, still the best of his career. Before his fourth-place finish in 2009, he had never placed better than 10th.
And something to think about as we head into the offseason; in the heart of the Middle Eastern desert, a German driving for an Austrian-owned constructor claims the championship.
His teammate, an Australian, came close to the title. So did a Spaniard, who drives for an Italian outfit, but he could not manage to get by a Russian to keep his championship hopes alive.
The previous two champions, both from England, were among the first to congratulate the new title holder as he emerged from his car. Next year, F1 welcomes India to the grid, and the year after, returns to the United States. Formula One has truly gone global.