Brazilian Grand Prix review
After a cracking year of motorsport, DAVID HOOPER reviews the blockbuster of a finale to the 2012 Formula 1 season in Brazil.
THE drama of the 2012 Formula 1 season continued all the way to the last lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, but at the end of what has been a quite remarkable season, it was German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel who made history by winning this year’s drivers’ title and became only the third driver in the history of F1 to win three back to back world titles.
In doing so, Vettel became only the third member of a highly exclusive club of drivers to have won back-to-back triple world championships, the other two members of that club being the great Juan Manuel Fangio and Vettel’s great friend and mentor Michael Schumacher.
He also became the youngest driver ever to win three world titles, beating the great Ayrton Senna’s achievement by an incredible six years!
It was a thrilling finale to the season, but as the lights went out, Vettel got off to a slow, too cautious start. Massa hooked his car up beautifully and sailed past the two Red Bulls and challenged Button for second place on the first corner, while Hamilton made good his get-away from pole position.
Alonso also got a good start and got the jump on the two Red Bulls into the first corner, but there was contact between several cars at turn four, the result of which was Vettel being spun around after being tagged by Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus and then rolling backwards down the hill. Bruno Senna also hit the Red Bull firmly as the rest of the field streamed past. Vettel’s car was damaged. We thought it was all over, but incredibly, Vettel still had all four wheels on his car.
The incidents came thick and fast and following a complaint on the radio from Alonso about the amout of debris on the track, a safety car was called to allow the marshals to get their brushes out. Rosberg had already limped back to the pits with a shredded tyre.
The safety car came in on Lap 29, with Hulkenberg in the lead, chased by Button and Hamilton.
Kobayashi dived up the inside of Vettel while Webber went around the other side of his teammate, but ran wide and lost several places.
Kobayashi then began to pressure Alonso, but couldn’t get too close.
Hulkenberg made good his restart, but Lewis Hamilton then got passed Button, who locked up under braking.
Massa tried his luck against Paul Di Resta, but couldn’t get past.
Alonso was now sitting in fourth place and starting to hassle Button, but Kobayashi had other ideas and sailed past Alonso with DRS open moving Alonso down to fifth.
Alonso retook fourth place under DRS on the stat finish straight, while Raikkonen went wide down the hill.
Vettel was now in sixth place with Massa in close quarters behind, with the Ferrari having to go slightly wide on the slippery surface.
Massa then found his way past Vettel, but the German didn’t defend too hard, taking the long view.
In his last grand prix, the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher was running down in 11th at the half-way point of the race and being pressured by his old adversary, Kimi Raikkonen, in his Lotus.
The damaged floor on the rear left of Vettel’s car was clearly affecting its handling, as the car visibly twitched under braking into a corner.
On lap 38 the rain began to fall again, and Di Resta tried an overtake and spun the car, promoting Schumacher up into the top 10.
There was a clear dry line appearing now, but the weather still looked like it would play a big part in this enthralling chamipionship decider, while Schumacher and Raikkonen showed how closely two world champions can race, with hardly any visible daylight between their two cars as the two jostled for position.
On lap 47 Vitaly Petrov touched a white line and spun his car, crucially losing a couple of places, as lap times began to fall as the weather started to dampen the track again as the drivers now had to contend with worn tyres.
On lap 48, Hulkenbarg touched a white line under braking and spun his car, allowing Hamilton to retake the lead of the race, as the teams tried to decide when or whether to make their last tyre stop of the race, but which ones should they use. Red Bull boss Christian Horner was trying to do his bit as a weather man, inspecting the sky for himself from outside his pit canopy trying to get an insight into the weather.
On lap 52, Rosberg pitted for intermediate tyres as the track got wetter. One or two others followed suit while the leaders tried to stay out.
Vettel pitted for softer compound slick tyres on lap 53, but it was the wrong tyre choice and he was back in the pits a couple of laps later for inters.
Raikkonen reverted to his rallying days and took a bit of tour around the infield, before spinning his car around and rejoining the track.
As Hulkenberg tried to retake the lead from Hamilton, the two collided as the the back end of Hulkenberg’s car broke away and tagged Hamilton’s front left wheel, leaving it pointing in the wrong direction and Hamilton out of the race, his last for McLaren.
It was a racing incident in slippery conditions, but a shame for Lewis, but this collision promoted Alonso back up to second place, while Vettel, who had made the wrong call on tyre choice, was back in the pits for a set of intermediates. Red Bull had got it wrong, and this left Vettel out of position for the result he needed to take the championship.
Alonso was struggling on his slick tyres and nearly lost the car and had to tip-toe back to the pits for a set of intermediates as the conditions worsened.
Vettel was now back on it and forced his way past Kobayashi mecilessly pushing the Japanese driver wide. Alonso rejoined the circuit behind Massa, who was doing a great job of helping Alonso, but now the pressure was back on Vettel.
Button pitted from the race lead for intermediates and then battled back through some traffic to stay in front.
On lap 58, Alonso was running in third and Vettel in seventh, but a bit of bodywork flew off his damaged Red Bull as the conditions grew steadily worse.
It was now raining heavily, and Michael Schumacher, the old rain master, was up to sixth place, but gifted his fellow German and Race of Champions team-mate Vettel the place, moving out of the way to help Vettel’s bid for the title.
Button was leading comfortably with five laps to go, and had clearly backed off the pace out in front. Alonso was running in second, but 20 seconds behind Button.
Kobayashi, hoping to convince someone to give him a drive for next season, was closing in on Schumacher, but Kobayashi spun his car, losing a couple of places, after diving down the inside of the veteran German.
But there was one last twist to come – Paul Di Resta lost his car at the top of the hill and smashed into the barrier, destroying his Force India and bringing out the safety car for the second time.
So the drama of 2012 continued to the very last lap of the season as the race finished under the safety car, but it was Button who crossed the line first, followed by Fernando Alonso in second place, with Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari in third, but Vettel crossed the line in sixth place to become the youngest triple world champion in the history of the sport.
An emotional team boss, Christian Horner, congratulated his equally emotional driver, who had done just enough to finally beat the superb Fernando Alonso.
As the cars pulled into parc ferme, Michael Schumacher congratulated Sebastian Vettel as the photographers fought for their shots of the world champ getting out of his car, but as the celebrations began, a crest-fallen Fernando Alonso looked on glumly out of his helmet.
He had done everything he could have done and had dragged an underperforming Ferrari up the field all season with a combination of dogged determination and brilliant consistency. Not once this year has he had the best car, or the fastest car on the grid, so perhaps he deserved the title more than Vettel who finally won it by just three points, but it wasn’t to be this year.
It was the first time two Ferrari drivers had been on the podium this season and Massa was in tears as he walked out, having driven a brilliant race and done everything he could to help Alonso, but there was a consolation for the Ferrari team, who beat McLaren to second place in the constructors’ championship.
So that’s it until next year, but what a thrilling end to a classic year of Formula 1 racing.
We’ll be back with more F1 features before the start of the 2013 season, so keep an eye on wheelworldreviews.co.uk, and follow Tom Wilkinson on Twitter #TWF1 for the latest gossip.