The 2012 Formula 1 season enters the final round with the title still up for grabs – the 29th time in the sport’s history.
Sebastian Vettel holds a 13-point lead over Fernando Alonso, but an epic title battle from 2010 in Abu Dhabi proved that those leads can be very easily wiped out in a single race. That time, Alonso lost a 15-point gap in the final race, and squandered the championship.
With that in mind, the title is certainly still up for grabs. Let’s have a look at how each driver can win the championship this weekend:
It’s a lot easier for Vettel. The easiest way for him to wrap up his third consecutive title on the trot is to finish in the top 4. Even after that, there’s not too many complications:
- If Alonso only takes 2nd place, Vettel only needs 5th, 6th or 7th.
- If Alonso takes 3rd place, Vettel needs simple an 8th or 9th-placed finish.
- If Alonso does not achieve a podium, Vettel only needs to take a single point – assuming that the Ferrari takes 4th instead. Any other situation, and the Red Bull automatically wins.
A 13-point gap is sizeable, but not indestructible. After struggling massively all year in a dog of a car, Fernando knows that he will have to jump at the slightest opportunity if he is to claw the 2012 title back into his hands.
However, the odds are against him:
- If Alonso wins, Vettel would have to finish 5th or lower.
- If he takes 2nd place, Vettel would have to finish 8th or lower.
- If he finishes on the podium, Vettel would have to score just a single point (or less) to lose the title.
Flashback to 2010
Over 2 years ago, I wrote a similar article on the 2010 title battle. There, I said that Vettel winning the title was improbable, but certainly within reach.
The maths behind this article are certainly much less complicated, but that doesn’t make this title battle any less interesting!
Variables on track
Remember, this is the Brazilian Grand Prix we’re talking about. The Interlagos track is extremely unpredictable, and occasionally throws up some insane races. See 2003 and 2008 for more information.
- Rain is always a factor here – there is a 60% chance of rain on race day. This may push the race in Alonso’s favour, as typically Vettel has not driven well in the wet here before.
- First-lap incidents – The paving over of turns 1 and 2 has not gone down well with fans or drivers, but the treacherous Senna S sequence may still catch one of the frontrunners out. One of the title contenders being taken out here would end the championship showdown before it even began.
- Red Bull’s alternator – Several incidents so far this year with the Red Bull alternator could turn the championship on its head. The team are opting to bring a newer-spec model to this Grand Prix, and it is unclear how much testing this model has seen.
- Felipe Massa – A recent surge in form has resulted in Massa’s contract with Ferrari being extended, and Felipe may be keen to stay on friendly terms with the team by assisting Fernando. Massa typically drives very well at this track, so it mightn’t be out of the question to see him surrender the lead to his teammate.
As to what will actually happen… we’ll have to wait until Sunday for that!