The Brazilian grand prix was full of action from beginning to end. The Daily Shift’s Jack Squibb reports…
Formula One arrived in Interlagos, Brazil this weekend for the final race of the season with the drivers championship still to be decided. Saturday’s qualifying session saw Lewis Hamilton claim pole position with his teammate, Jenson Button taking second. Of course though all eyes were on the two time world champions, Vettel and Alonso. Sebastian Vettel would start in fourth while Fernando Alonso could only manage to get up to eighth. However Alonso would be moved up to seventh after the FIA penalised Pastor Maldonado 10 grid places after skipping his post qualification weighing.
The weather forecasted for race day this morning is that there’d only be a small bit of rain but not enough to affect the track and teams choice of tyres. The lights went out and Hamilton got away cleanly while Massa jumped up to second and Alonso moved up into fourth. Vettel had a slow start and it almost proved costly, as he went round turn one he spun after making contact with Bruno Senna and then again as the Sauber went off the track. It looked like the championship leader was out of the race but fortunately for him he was able to continue from 22nd place. As it stood Alonso was in a strong position to win his third World championship even when he dropped down to fourth when overtaken by Webber on the fifth lap.
The track was proving to be difficult to navigate around in damp conditions when Romain Grosjean lost control and went into the barrier while Weber also spun when Kobayashi tipped his wheel. Meanwhile up at the front Button was pressuring Hamilton and eventually took the lead on the eighth lap by overtaking him on the outside. Drivers were into the pits early to change tyres to the intermediates as conditions worsened which was great for Vettel who found himself back in seventh place by the 11th lap.
The race progressed with Vettel back in control of the championship battle again as he moved up to fifth place and closing in on Alonso. Due to so many accidents in the early part of the race the race stewards decided it was best to deploy the safety car so the debris could be cleared. Just before it came onto the track Button had lost his lead to Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
The safety car came back in after four laps and Hulkenberg was able to maintain his lead. Further back Alonso was able to pull away from Vettel who was quickly overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi on the outside on turn one. More surprisingly, teammate Mark Webber attempted to go past him on the inside at the same time but mistimed the move and went off the track.
Hamilton took advantage of Button’s tyres locking up and easily moved up into second place and began to close the gap down on Hulkenberg. The title battle continued when Massa overtook Vettel for sixth place but it was still in the German’s favour to win the championship.
In the tussle for 10th place Schumacher and Raikkonen went wheel to wheel at turn one and temporarily the seven time world champion went ahead but Raikkonen took the position back immediately as they went around turn two. Up at the front Hamilton finally regained his lead when Hulkenberg skidded on turn eight leaving the McLaren driver cruise past him.
Despite the weather conditions not improving Vettel and his pit crew made a bold move by putting the car on slick tyres. The tyres only lasted a few laps when he returned to the pit unexpectedly due to microphone issues and it was clear he needed to change to the intermediate tyres.
The race for first place continued to be an intense battle between Hulkenberg and Hamilton and on the 55th lap it reached it’s peak. Hulkenberg found himself in a position to attempt to overtake Hamilton on turn one but he swerved in the process and went into Hamilton’s front left tyre which caved in on impact. Hulkenberg spun but was able to carry on whereas Hamilton lasted a few more seconds before pulling into the side and retiring. Not the kind of farewell Hamilton wanted after such a long time with McLaren but he’ll now have to move on and look forward to a new beginning with Mercedes next season. The incident however put Button back in front, Massa up to second but more importantly Alonso was now third with 15 laps to go. As you’d expect, Massa slowed down and let his teammate move into second place but there was still more than 20 seconds between the Spaniard and Button and nine laps remaining. Before then on the 58th lap the race stewards had given Hulkenberg a drive through penalty for causing the incident between himself and Hamilton.
Vettel strengthened his prospects of winning the title when Schumacher moved to the opposite side of the track and left the Red Bull pass with ease to take sixth place. Meanwhile an important battle was going on between Marussia’s Charles Pic and Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov. As both drivers were being lapped by Fernando Alonso, Petrov ceased an opportunity and went past Pic. As a result it meant Caterham would move up to 10th in the constructor’s table if they could stay ahead for the rest of the race.
It appeared that the only way Alonso would win the title in the closing stages is if there was another big mistake from Vettel or if Button had some sort of failure in the car. The racing gods were not shining on the Ferrari today when on the final lap Paul Di Resta lost control of his car and went straight into the wall. That meant the safety car had to make another appearance leading the cars around the track for the remainder of the race.
Jenson Button crossed the line to take first place, Alonso drove home in second while Massa completed the podium finishing in third in front of the home fans. Of course the most important result was that Sebastian Vettel finished in sixth and in the process claimed his third consecutive world championship.
Vettel becomes the newest member of the three in a row club alongside Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio. The German also becomes the youngest driver to achieve this feat.
The top 10 of the Brazilian grand prix are as follows:
1. Jenson Button
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Felipe Massa
4. Mark Webber
5. Nico Hulkenberg
6. Sebastian Vettel
7. Michael Schumacher
8. Jean-Eric Vergne
9. Kamui Kobayashi
And that brings the 2012 season to a close in spectacular fashion. After one of the best seasons in the sport’s history Formula One will return in March 2013 for the Australian grand Prix.
Be sure to look out for The Daily Shift’s season review where our motor sport correspondents will talk about their highlights of a memorable 2012 season.