LS Sport’s Sam Heath takes a close look at the F1 Season and Sebastian Vettel third World Title.
The 2012 Formula 1 World Championship went down to the wire in Brazil at the weekend. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull narrowly held off the charge of Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari to claim his third consecutive title. Vettel now joins an elite group of triple world champions, and is the youngest at 25, but it could have been Alonso had things gone slightly differently.
When the season burst into life in Melbourne, McLaren were fastest and Jenson Button took full advantage to take his third win in Australia ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. A monsoon greeted the drivers in Malaysia where Alonso drove a superb race in a car that was still 1.5 seconds off the pace to hold off an inspired Sergio Perez. Meanwhile, Vettel was caught up in an incident with backmarker and failed to score. In China, Nico Rosberg led from pole to take Mercedes’ first victory since returning to the sport. Vettel finally ignited his title charge with his first win of the season in Bahrain surrounded by political unrest.
The biggest surprise of the season was Pastor Maldonado’s win in Spain to celebrate Frank Williams’ 70th birthday. Maldonado was closely followed by Alonso who extended his lead at the top. After seven different winners in the first seven races the top teams re-established their dominance. Alonso became the first double winner of the season when he took victory at the European Grand Prix while Vettel and Hamilton both failed to score after retirements.
The summer saw Alonso, Hamilton, Webber and Button all take victories and even with a non-score in Belgium after Romain Grosjean’s reckless driving Alonso looked firm favourite for the title. Asia hosted four races and Red Bull introduced several updates to their car enabling Vettel to take four victories in a row and usurp Alonso at the top of the standings after a first lap accident forced him to retire in Japan. Kimi Raikkonen took victory in Abu Dhabi after two years away rallying ahead of Alonso and Vettel, the German drove superbly after starting from the pit lane. Austin hosted a return to America after a five year absence and didn’t disappoint. Hamilton passed Vettel in the closing stages meaning the title would be a fight to the finish, with Vettel holding a thirteen point lead over Alonso.
The final race in Brazil was enthralling. After qualifying well, unpredictable weather and a spin on lap one left Vettel last and it looked like Alonso would be champion. Some superb driving and more unpredictable weather meant that Vettel managed to claw himself up to sixth place which was sufficient to retain the title, even with Alonso finishing second to Button in the McLaren. Alonso drove superbly in a car that was never the fastest but at the end of the year it was Vettel and the might of Red Bull who emerged victorious again.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher retires for a second time after an unsatisfactory comeback with Hamilton replacing him as he ends his fourteen year association with McLaren. Will Vettel take his fourth title in 2013 or will Alonso be hungrier than ever after this season’s disappointment? It looks likely the fight will once again be between these two unless someone else can challenge them. 1. Sebastian Vettel: Red Bull – 281 2. Fernando Alonso: Ferrari – 278 3. Kimi Raikkonen: L-Renault – 207 4. Lewis Hamilton: McLaren – 190 5. Jenson Button: McLaren – 188 At the time of writing, Ferrari intend to contest Vettel’s historic third world championship win. They maintain that Vettel performed an overtaking manoeuver within a yellow caution zone, if this proved true then Vettel will receive a 20 second penalty. This will push him down to 8th place in the Brazilian GP and cost him the entire world championship.