Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth victory of the season under the artificial lighting of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after a flawless drive that confirmed the Red Bull star as championship runner-up behind Jenson Button.
Vettel was made to work hard for his victory in the opening laps of the 55-lap grand prix, hounding pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and then taking the lead following the first round of pit stops. Hamilton had been expected to run away with the race after qualifying on pole by over six-tenths of a second, but race day saw the outgoing champion unable to pull out the gap required to ensure he retained the lead in the first round of stops.
As Hamilton pitted on lap 18, Vettel put in some blistering laps to take the lead and just three laps later Hamilton was back in the pit lane to retire his McLaren with a braking problem. Vettel went on to control the pace at the front of the field, even recording the fastest lap of the race on his penultimate lap, to finish 18 seconds clear of team-mate Mark Webber.
The final laps of the race saw Jenson Button close rapidly on second placed Webber, but despite several attempts to make the pass on the final lap, the 2009 champion was forced to settle for third position after another spirited drive in his Brawn.
Rubens Barrichello finished in fourth position in the second Brawn, losing position to his team-mate early in the race. The Brazilian veteran, soon to be confirmed as a Williams racer for next season, had an eventful opening lap as he and Webber made light contact into the first turn, but he was ultimately unable to keep pace with Hamilton, the Red Bull duo and Button at the front of the field.
Nick Heidfeld finished fifth in what was BMW Sauber's 70th and final grand prix, while team-mate Robert Kubica dropped back to finish in tenth position following a late incident trying to pass Sebastien Buemi for position. Heidfeld's four points gained with fifth position moved the team ahead of Williams and into sixth position in the championship.
Kamui Kobayashi again shone for the Toyota team in what is just his second grand prix start, claiming a sensational sixth position and making best use of a one-stop strategy. The Japanese racer ran as high as third and made a crucial pass on Button mid-race to ensure that when he made his one and only stop, he emerged from the pits ahead of team-mate Jarno Trulli. Kobayashi has certainly done enough to claim a seat with the German-based squad for next year.
Sebastien Buemi took the final point for Toro Rosso after another strong drive, finishing ahead of Nico Rosberg in the leading Williams and Kubica.