Race of the Year: Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 leads at the start of the race. Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012.

Dec.23 (Grand Prix 247) The last race of the season – the Brazilian Grand Prix – was in our books the best race of the year and served to crown a season of amazing races. There were more heart stopping moments, overtaking, crashes and incidents than ever before – involving all the top guns and thus fittingly the final race of the season was simply outrageous in terms of high drama and pure adrenalin inducing moments. In the end Jenson Button won the race, Sebastian Vettel clinched the title and Michael Schumacher called it quits, but those couple of hours in Brazil were unbelievable!

Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34 hits Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 at the start of the race.Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012.Red Bull’s Vettel became Formula One’s youngest triple world champion, at the age of 25, after a wet and chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix roller-coaster won by McLaren’s Button (behind the Safety Car). The German, needing only a fourth place to be assured of joining the greats as the first driver to win his first three titles consecutively, finished sixth after fighting back with a damaged car from last on the opening lap. It proved enough after his sole title rival Fernando Alonso, needing victory, crossed the line in his Ferrari in second place with Brazilian Felipe Massa third.

“You’re a triple world champion. You’re the man. You are a triple world champion,” shouted team principal Christian Horner over the team radio as Vettel crossed the finish line after what he said later was the toughest race of his career.

The team could not hear his reply, or his choked sobs of joy, because the radio was faulty and had been only incoming for most of an afternoon that threw one obstacle after another at the champion.

World Champion Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme with Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1.Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012.Vettel ended the season with 281 points to 278 for Alonso, who would have been the youngest triple champion at 31 had results fallen his way. Kimi Raikkonen was third overall for Lotus on 207 in his comeback year.

“It’s very difficult to find the right words, especially after the race,” said Vettel immediately afterwards. “I think everything that could go wrong, went wrong. To limp home, under the Safety Car [conditions], I didn’t know if it was enough…we had to really fight until the end.”

On a day when the Brazilian weather produced a thriller to stand the test of time against some of the sport’s great races, it seemed the gods were on Alonso’s side almost as soon as the start lights went out. Vettel was squeezed from fourth place, fell back into the pack and was caught in a collision with Bruno Senna’s Williams that spun him around, helplessly facing his speeding rivals.

Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012.“There is visible damage, it is not the front wing, we cannot fix it,” he was told as he rejoined the chase with the whole race ahead of him.

Four laps later Vettel was assured the data looked good but a concerned-looking Red Bull technical head Adrian Newey had a photograph of the damage taken at the driver’s pitstop to get a closer look from the pit wall.

Alonso, Vettel’s only title rival who had 13 points to make up, looked like he could steal it as the championship pendulum swung both ways over the 71 laps at Interlagos.

The Safety Car was deployed twice, there were crashes, collisions, botched pitstops and constant uncertainty about the weather with black clouds overhead, occasional rain but not the torrential downpour many had feared.

“We lost the championship before today – not in Brazil,” said Alonso, who agreed with others that it was one of the hardest races he had ever driven. It was a lot of risk every lap to crash and have an accident. We could not afford that for sure because we needed a podium finish to have any chance so it was a very delicate situation.”

Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012.

Button, who also won the first race of the season in Australia, took his career tally to 15 wins. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had led from pole position but could not shake off his team mate, who made a wise decision to do a long first stint on slicks along with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.

Hamilton’s last race for McLaren before he joined Mercedes ended when he and Hulkenberg collided on the 54th lap as they came up to lap back markers into turn one. Hulkenberg, who had led for much of the race and skidded into a blameless Hamilton, was able to rejoin but was given a drive through penalty that ended his hopes of a podium finish and seemed harsh given the treacherous conditions.

“I am happy for the team that we got a win and feeling good for the future. I feel numb, a little bit like I did in 2007, it is mixed emotions at the moment,” Hamilton said, referring to the title he missed, in his first season in Formula One with McLaren, by a solitary point when he finished seventh in Brazil.

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, Tim Goss (GBR) McLaren Chief Engineer, race winner Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari celebrate on the podium.Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012.

Mark Webber finished fourth, ahead of Hulkenberg in fifth in his last race for Force India before moving to Sauber. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher took seventh place for Mercedes in his last race in F1, moving over to allow his friend and compatriot Vettel to take sixth and join him as one of only three drivers to win three titles in a row.

The two Germans embraced each other at the finish, with Red Bull staff swiftly donning ‘V3ttel’ T-shirts as the champagne celebrations kicked off with Vettel also making a point of hugging Alonso and Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.

“I’m finishing off and he’s clinching his third title. I’m very proud of him and he’s a good friend of mine and lets see what happens in his future,” said Schumacher.

Out of the points, Caterham celebrated 11th place for Russian Vitaly Petrov that lifted them back ahead of Marussia into 10th place overall in the championship – a finish worth millions to the team in prize money.

“Disappointed doesn’t even come close,” said Marussia principal John Booth.

As mentioned in the intro: this was an amazing race, perhaps one of the most thrilling in the history of the sport as there was something at stake for everyone on the day.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Not Bernie

    An amazing drive from Vettel. Worthy world champion, and put him right up there with all the greats of F1, if he weren’t already.

    And he’s still learning. Still improving. Because it was a very difficult start to the season for him, and he managed to overcome all of those initial problems to drive supremely in the last few races.

    As long as Red Bull can keep giving him a car able to be at the top long may it continue.