Daily Archives: November 25, 2012

Button wins, Vettel triumphs in Interlagos epic

The Brazilian Grand Prix has played host to many incredible races over the years, and 2012 was no exception. After a crazy race that saw several downpours, three different race leaders, and a shocking first-lap crash, Sebastian Vettel presevered to finish 6th, and seal his third world championship in a row.

Incredibly, Nico Hulkenberg led a sizeable portion of the race, but accidentaly crashed into Lewis Hamilton, ruining either’s chances of taking a final win for their team. Jenson Button held on in the closing stages in tricky conditions, and led home Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

This was a race that will be talked about for years to come. Here is the breakdown:

Disaster for Vettel?

It was a taste of Brazil 2007 at the start – the championship leader slipped down at the start, while the challenger pushed through. Vettel found himself down in 5th, but worse was to come at turn 4. A fiesty Bruno Senna clumsily dived down the inside of the Red Bull, and clattered into the side of his car. Sebastian was spun around, while Bruno’s race was ended on the spot.

The clash left Vettel 24th, and seemingly in huge trouble for his championship aspirations. Meanwhile, Alonso was 4th, and his teammate was up in 2nd. Being pressurised by Mark Webber on lap 2, Fernando pulled an epic move, taking both positions at turn 1.

Despite his advantage, though, he made a slip on lap 5, sliding wide at the Senna S and just about holding off Webber. Unbeknownst to the cameras, Vettel was preparing an epic comeback…

Rain-filled chaos, part 1

Nico Hulkenberg made a decent start, and was able to pass Mark Webber soon after the start. After another slip from the Ferrari on lap 6, the Force India was able to inherit 3rd.

Just when it appeared as if the frontrunners were beginning to settle in, the rain threw a spanner in the works. Light rain began to fall on lap 7, and the drivers began to struggle. Webber spun, while Jenson Button began to pressurise teammate Lewis Hamilton for the lead of the race.

After Romain Grosjean spun out of the race, it became clear that the track was too damp for dry tyres. Lap 11 saw the majority of the field pit, while Button and Hulkenberg made the brave decision to stay out.

The focus then shifted back onto Vettel, who had astonishingly made his way all the way up to 6th before the stops. He easily passed Webber with little resistance, and within several laps he had fought his way back into a points position.

A surprise leader

Up front, the Force India of Hulkenberg would not let go of Button’s McLaren, and amazingly jumped past Jenson on lap 19.

In the next few weeks, the intermediate-shod drivers slinked back into the pits, admitting they made the wrong call regarding the weather. Further back, shards of carbon fibre found their way onto the racing line, causing a puncture for Nico Rosberg.

Alonso went onto his radio to complain of the dangerous track, and the safety car was promptly called out to clear the debris.

Hulkenberg and Button promptly received their free pit stop, while the order settled down. Nico still led, ahead of Button, Hamilton, Alonso, and then Vettel, who had dispatched of yet another train of drivers.

Rain-filled chaos, part 2

At the restart, Hulkenberg impressively pulled away, while Button made a move on Hamilton for 2nd place.

Kamui Kobayashi raised plenty of eyebrows, as he battled for a drive next season. The Japanese driver bolted past both Vettel and Alonso for 4th position, before succumbing to the Ferrari a few laps later.

Felipe Massa helped Alonso’s chances, but passing Sebastian for P6. The damage to the Red Bull after lap 1 was noticeable, but didn’t result in a chronic lack of pace.

In his final race, Michael Schumacher had his hands full defending 11th place against Kimi Raikkonen. After nearly being collected by Paul di Resta, the Lotus driver squeezed past the Mercedes, closely followed by the second Force India.

However, the rain was back again. By lap 42, consistent drizzle had dampened the track again, and the times began to slip away again.

Battles at the front and back

At the front, Hamilton began to close on the slowing Hulkenberg. In the slippery conditions, the Force India driver had lost his confidence, and on lap 49 put a wheel onto the white line, spinning and handing the lead to Lewis.

At the back, a battle was forming to decide which team would take 10th place in the constructor’s championship. A single 12th place would suffice, and it was being fought between Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov and Marussia’s Charles Pic.

Petrov held 12th for as long as he could, but spun entering the middle sector, and handed the place back to Pic on lap 47.

Despite the darkening clouds, Vettel opted to take on another set of slicks on lap 52. His actions were mirrored by Daniel Ricciardo, while Nico Rosberg took on the intermediates.

Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, slipped wide at turn 12, took the escape road, only to discover that it didn’t lead back to the track as planned. Cue a hasty retreat:

 

Rain-filled chaos, part 3

Hulkenberg attempted to retake the lead on lap 55, but disaster ensued. He lost control entering turn 1, clipped the McLaren, and spun around. Lewis’s race was over, and a drive-through penalty for Hulkenberg ruined his heroic drive.

The worsening conditions made it clear – Vettel had made the wrong call. He dashed back to the pits for inters, but had lost crucial track position. He emerged from the pits in 12th place with it all to do again.

There was no debate amongst the frontrunners this time – all of them immediately pitted by lap 56. After Hulkenberg’s penalty, Alonso was elevated to 3rd, but Vettel was able to claw his way back to 7th.

Button now held an enormous lead over Felipe Massa, who was being caught sharply by Alonso. Within a few laps, a 5-second lead was annihilated, as Massa understood the situation, and allowed his fellow teammate past.

Meanwhile, Vettel wasn’t satisfied with his situation, catching and easing past Michael Schumacher, who similarly posed no threat to the Red Bull.

A tense battle for 12th continued, with Petrov zipping past Pic as the two were being lapped by Alonso.

Despite his searing pace, and attempts to close a 20-second gap to Button, Alonso surely had a sinking feeling in his stomach. With Vettel 6th, the title was out of his grasp.

Premature end to a classic race

Kamui Kobayashi made another attempt to make an impact on the race, doing his best to pass Schumacher for 7th. But, a spin only proved to dampen his sprited charge.

With the race entering the penultimate lap, any hopes for a Brazil 2008-style finish were dashed, as a crash for Paul di Resta brought out the safety car.

After weaving through the debris, Button crawled home to take a triumphant win, while Sebastian Vettel sealed the championship with 6th place. Fernando Alonso was visibly gutted, having lost out on his third title for the 3rd time in the final race of a season.

Di Resta’s sudden retirement meant that Petrov was elevated to 11th, which sealed Caterham’s 10th place in the constructor’s championship. Oddly enough, this works out better for Charles Pic, whose new team next year will enjoy extra FIA funding because of this result.

But the man of the day – and year – was Vettel. Having taken everything that Interlagos could throw at him, he charged through the field countless times to become the youngest ever triple world champion.

And so ends another classic season. In a dog of a car, Fernando Alonso did himself and Ferrari proud, but the best driver/car combination was clearly Vettel, who returned triumphant after a disappointing start to the season. Today’s classic race will cement Vettel’s reputation as one of the fastest drivers in Formula 1 history.

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