This is the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, hello and welcome to the final episode of the mini series! We’ve covered all of the season except for one crucial thing - the final race of the year, the championship decider. Here it is then, an ever-so-slightly longer Day 25 - Brazil showdown.
The Interlagos circuit is known for its exceptional fans, the party atmosphere, and providing a great final race - whether the championship is counting on it or not. For 2012, it was all to be decided around the 71 laps of the Brazilian track. Sebastian Vettel had a thirteen point headstart on his only remaining rival Fernando Alonso. The Red Bull driver had enjoyed a resurgence late in the year, a string of victories that were reminiscent of his dominance in 2011. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso had been hanging on for dear life, with an underperforming car and a sheer will to keep in the fight.
We expected Vettel to soar to pole position on Saturday, but either the pressure was getting to him, or he just had a bad day, as McLaren locked out the front row, and Mark Webber qualified third. That left Vettel fourth, but he wasn’t too disappointed - Alonso was down in eighth.
Race day dawned, and just to spice things up, there was a threat of rain hanging over the track as the time ticked closer to lights out. Michael Schumacher paid tribute to his fans on the way to the grid, clutching a flag with ‘thank you’ emblazoned on it. He was ready to participate in his final race in F1 before retiring (again), disappointingly starting out of the top ten.
The race began, and it was only moments before we had chaos. Hamilton had a great start leading from pole position, whilst both the Red Bull drivers got bogged down off the line. Felipe Massa surged forward moving up to second place.
Sebastian Vettel turned in on Bruno Senna, the pair collided, and it spun Vettel around, so that he was facing the oncoming traffic as they streamed past him. By the end of the first lap, Vettel was last, on the radio to his team reporting damage and that he would come into the pitlane. They assured him the car was fine and he should keep going, despite visible damage to the exhausts. Well, actually what they said was they couldn’t fix it, so he might as well stay out and see how it goes.
At the front, the McLarens had regained their 1-2 formation, with Massa falling back down the order to sixth. Fernando Alonso was sitting third. He needed to finish third for any chance of taking the title, but he soon dropped back behind Nico Hülkenberg. Both championship contenders had a lot of work to do.
It didn’t take long for Vettel to start moving up the order, by the seventh lap he was ninth and back in the points. Mark Webber made things a little bit easier for him by colliding with Kamui Kobayashi and spinning round. Romain Grosjean also spun off into the barriers but his incident involved no other... for a change.
Next came an awful lot of tyre strategy - too much to go into here - as the changing conditions of the track evolved. We had wet tyres, a drying track, intermediate tyres, risks being taken, nothing to be lost by some, everything to be gained by others. As the laps drifted onwards, the rain began to return.
In the meantime, Nico Hülkenberg had taken the lead of the race, the German driver a big fan of the Brazil circuit. He had previously taken pole position in Brazil in 2010 after a great drive in the Williams, and here he was in the Force India leading the race. It wasn’t even a complete fluke, for a long while it looked as though he could control the race and take a win. He navigated his way through a Safety Car period - due to debris on the track - and continued in the lead, but it was lost when a flying Lewis Hamilton moved back in front and took control.
The Force India driver wasn’t giving up easily, and as they were moving past some backmarkers, he tried a move that didn’t come off, crashing into Hamilton. Lewis retired from his final race with McLaren with one wheel hanging off. Hülkenberg was given a drive through penalty for his efforts, so his claim on the lead was definitely over.
All the time, Vettel was making his way up the order, we had a spin from Kobayashi and Paul di Resta crashing into the wall, and then it was race over. The Safety Car led the final lap which made it an anti-climactic end, but Jenson Button took victory after a chaotic race. Vettel had managed to move up to sixth, with Fernando Alonso second - not enough to topple the German from the top. Sebastian Vettel became the 2012 F1 Champion, taking his third title in a row, and becoming the youngest triple championship holder.
It brought to an end an intense, crazy, long but brilliant year, and set things up for 2013 nicely too.
That’s all for this episode and for the F1 Advent Calendar 2012 as a whole. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, and thank you for sticking with me right to the not-so-bitter end. All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas and I’ll see you on the flip side!
All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2012
Filed under Mini Series
References Bruno Senna, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Kamui Kobayashi
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