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GP Week : Issue 72
lead after the first nine races, Vettel in second, Webber in third and Barrichello in fourth were split by just three points. Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton was back on form in Hungary for the tenth race of 2009, as the work his McLaren team had put in since discovering they were three seconds off the pace in testing was rewarded in their first victory of the season. It capped off an impressive return to form for McLaren and Hamilton after the lying debacle in the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix. But the weekend was also notable for the wrong reasons as Hamilton's 2008 championship rival Felipe Massa was hospitalised after a rogue spring fell of Barrichello's car and smashed into his countryman's helmet. Massa was out for the rest of the year and could consider himself lucky not have been more seriously injured. Rubens Barrichello took his first of two 2009 wins, and his first for five seasons, at the European Grand Prix at Valencia in a race weekend which pretty much consigned Vettel's shot at the title to the history books. Two engine failures for the German in a season in which more than eight engines used would bring on a penalty was bad news indeed. But there was some solace at the next round in Belgium where Button recorded his only non-points finish of the season after being taken out on the first lap. The Spa weekend was an incredible one. Kimi Raikkonen took the race win, which in itself was a pretty huge story after the torrid year the Scuderia had gone through. But with pole position and second in the race, it was Giancarlo Fisichella and Force India who were the stand out news in Belgium. It was the team's best ever weekend for the team. Ultimately, Fisichella's fantastic race saw him promoted to Ferrari for the last few races of the season, but he never recovered his Spa form in a tricky car which even Raikkonen had struggled to contain. Monza was the last time that Brawn ever looked truly competitive and a 1-2 for the team saw Barrichello take his second win of the year from Button. The final flyaways, then, saw the championship finely poised. Hamilton won in Singapore and so it was that with three races left to go Button led Barrichello by 15 points and Vettel by 25 points. Game over? Not quite. A Vettel win in Japan while Button struggled to eighth saw the gap sliced back. The German now sat in a similar position to Raikkonen in 2007. 16 points to make up in two races. It was game on. But then came Brazil... and the rain. After a dismal qualifying session, Vettel drove the race of his life. But it wasn't enough. Button ran home fifth and sealed the world championship with a similarly aggressive and forceful race. It was a performance worthy of a champion. And so to Abu Dhabi, and the fantastic state of the art facility at Yas Marina. It may have been for pride, but Vettel again was in Felipe Massa suffered a freak accident in Hungary, and it kept himm out for the balance of the season. 28