São Paulo: We could still be surprised yet…

São Paulo: We could still be surprised yet…

21 November 2012 – This is it, then. The last one of the year. Formula 1 2012 has seemed like two mini-seasons in one, hasn’t it? It began with more than your fair share of chaos and seven winners from as many races. It will end with either Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso being crowned a triple World Champion in Brazil.

The last time we had two drivers battling over a third crown was in the millennium year, when Michael Schumacher beat Mika Häkkinen on that emotional Suzuka weekend which had started with an earthquake. Such extremes are not expected at Interlagos, although a thunderstorm or two is more than possible and could really turn things around; that’s one of the reasons Christian Horner was not able to celebrate the constructors’ title in Austin on Sunday… he knows this could still go horribly wrong.

The first two men in F1 history to fight over a third title at the last race

In actual fact, this is the first time ever that an F1 season has reached its final race with two drivers vying for a third title. If it’s Vettel, he will have won his three at a trio of different locations. If it’s Alonso, all will have come at the same place. Whatever the outcome, one gets the sense that it will be won in dramatic fashion. Vettel could walk it, should he seal pole and not suffer any difficulties, but the consistent threat of rain is more than likely to spice things up at some point.

On paper, this should go to Vettel. All he needs to do is finish fourth and the honours are bagged, no matter what Alonso does. At the same time, Sebastian cannot afford to be overly cautious or become tangled up in somebody else’s accident; the moment with Narain Karthikeyan at Circuit of the Americas, immediately after which Lewis Hamilton stole the lead, demonstrated just how quickly things can change. Should Vettel knock off his front wing and have to pit, sinking to the back of the field, anything from fifth downwards is not good enough if Alonso wins; so while Vettel has the upper hand, he could jettison his various jokers and will be fully aware of it.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Vettel will pick up the title under the following circumstances:

- Finishing in the top four
- Finishing fifth, sixth or seventh if Alonso doesn’t win
- Finishing eighth or ninth if Alonso is third or lower
- If Alonso does not finish on the podium

Alonso is the new three-time World Champion if this happens:

- Winning with Vettel fifth or lower
- Finishing second with Vettel eighth or lower
- Finishing third with Vettel tenth or lower
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

With the exception of Valencia, Hamilton is not to blame for his early demise

The last race of a season is always a time for reflection. Kimi Räikkönen has done a brilliant job to be third in the standings but Hamilton sits 83 points off the lead. In theory, had Hamilton not retired from the lead in Singapore and Abu Dhabi which gifted ten extra points to Vettel, that gap would only be 23 points which means Lewis would still be in the running – and that’s not counting the silly pit-stop errors which cost him so dear at the first handful of races. Yes, you could also argue that Vettel lost out when he broke down in Valencia and at Monza, but my point is that McLaren have made more slip-ups than most and Hamilton’s speed has never been in doubt. Indeed, this weekend he could become the only man to reach Q3 qualifying at all 20 race weekends in 2012. It’s because of these frustrations that a fresh challenge is needed and that is exactly why Lewis is not annoyed to be giving away a fast car as he crosses over to Mercedes-Benz.

So, back to the championship duel. A week ago, I would have said that Vettel will wrap this up in fairly comfortable fashion. Now, it’s not so easy to decide even though he does hold that critical 13-point advantage; there could so easily be a problem which allows Alonso to take full advantage. Judging by recent events, Vettel will qualify at least some two or three positions ahead – perhaps even four or five. But that is assuming it will be dry, which is looking less and less likely as the event draws closer. There is also the Red Bull worry of reliability, which proved a downfall for Mark Webber thanks to yet another alternator failure in America.

Excited yet? You jolly well should be. Such a close encounter is what we all always wish for – unless you support Vettel or Alonso, of course - so place your bets and see if you’re able to sit back and relax. This is just the finish that F1 2012 deserved.

At a glance:

- Interlagos pole position sitters
- Interlagos Grand Prix winners

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The facts: Autodromo José Carlos Pace
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Juan Pablo Montoya holds the track record from 2004

Laps 71

Direction Anti-clockwise

Corners 15

Length 4.309 km / 2.677 mi

First championship race 1973

First winner Emerson Fittipaldi – Lotus-Ford

Lap record 1:11.473 / J.P. Montoya / Williams-BMW / 2004

Local start time 2pm (GMT -2)

Slick Pirelli tyre compounds
Hard (silver markings) & Medium (white markings)

DRS zone
Detection: Apex of Turn 2
Activation: Halfway through Turn 3 until end of back straight

FIA driver steward
Tom Kristensen

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Circuit changes for 2012
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- New debris fences installed on both sides of track between Turns 3 and 4

- Kerb installed on the apex of Turn 15 (final corner)

- Tube inserts placed in tyre barrier on end of wall at pit entry
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Gregory Haines
GPUpdate.net Editor

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Sunday 23 November 2014

  2. 17:54

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday in Abu Dhabi

    F1
  3. Alonso to confirm future plans 'very soon' 17:52

    Alonso to confirm future plans 'very soon'

    Fernando Alonso says he will be able to announce his future plans "very soon", after completing his final race with...

    F1
  4. Stevens pleased to finish debut race 17:26

    Stevens pleased to finish debut race

    Caterham's Will Stevens says he was pleased to achieve his target of finishing his debut Formula 1 race at the Abu Dhabi...

    F1
  5. Vettel: It's been an incredible journey 16:56

    Vettel: It's been an incredible journey

    Sebastian Vettel was left to rue a disappointing end to "an incredible journey" with Red Bull at the Abu Dhabi Grand...

    F1
  6. I haven't finished yet, says Button 16:29

    I haven't finished yet, says Button

    Jenson Button says he did all he could during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to prove that he deserves to remain at McLaren in...

    F1
  7. Massa says 2014 'just the beginning' 15:58

    Massa says 2014 'just the beginning'

    Felipe Massa says the 2014 season is "just the beginning" of a more competitive period for the Williams team. Massa...

    F1
  8. Rosberg: Hamilton deserved to win title 15:37

    Rosberg: Hamilton deserved to win title

    Nico Rosberg says Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton deserved to beat him to the 2014 world title. Hamilton usurped...

    F1
  9. Hamilton hails 'best start' of F1 career 15:21

    Hamilton hails 'best start' of F1 career

    Lewis Hamilton described the start he made at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as "probably the best" of his Formula 1...

    F1
  10. 15:09

    In full: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race result

    F1
  11. Hamilton secures title with Abu Dhabi win 14:49

    Hamilton secures title with Abu Dhabi win

    Lewis Hamilton secured the 2014 Formula 1 title with victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading home Williams duo Felipe...

    F1
  12. 12:38

    Follow the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live!

    F1
  13. 11:10

    Latest GP2 photos: Sunday in Abu Dhabi

    GP2
  14. Coletti takes final GP2 win of 2014 11:09

    Coletti takes final GP2 win of 2014

    Stefano Coletti claimed victory for Racing Engineering in the final round of the GP2 season in Abu Dhabi. Coletti assumed...

    GP2
  15. 10:52

    Revised starting grid for the Abu Dhabi GP

    F1
  16. Red Bull duo to start race from pit lane 10:51

    Red Bull duo to start race from pit lane

    Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo will start Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the pit lane, after...

    F1
  17. FIA confirms drive-through for Grosjean 10:07

    FIA confirms drive-through for Grosjean

    The FIA has confirmed that Romain Grosjean will be forced to take a drive-through penalty within the first three laps of the...

    F1
  18. 09:34

    Latest GP3 photos: Sunday in Abu Dhabi

    GP3
  19. Niederhauser wins season-ending GP3 race 09:33

    Niederhauser wins season-ending GP3 race

    Arden's Patric Niederhauser strolled to victory in the final race of the GP3 season in Abu Dhabi. Niederhauser eased into...

    GP3
  20. Force India to present 2015 livery in Mexico 09:25

    Force India to present 2015 livery in Mexico

    Force India has revealed that it will present its 2015 livery at an event in Mexico at the end of January. It comes after...

    F1
  21. Video of the Day: World record truck jump 05:03

    Video of the Day: World record truck jump

    The Lotus Formula 1 team and partner EMC set a new truck jump world record in spectacular fashion.

    F1
  22. Saturday 22 November 2014

  23. 17:30

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday in Abu Dhabi

    F1
  24. Red Bull drivers excluded from qualifying 17:29

    Red Bull drivers excluded from qualifying

    Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo have been excluded from qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after...

    F1
  25. Red Bull referred to stewards over front wing 16:48

    Red Bull referred to stewards over front wing

    Red Bull has been referred to the stewards after governing body the FIA declared its front wing illegal at the Abu Dhabi...

    F1
  26. Alonso expects 'uphill struggle' in race 16:20

    Alonso expects 'uphill struggle' in race

    Fernando Alonso says he expects to endure an "uphill struggle" on his final appearance for Ferrari in the Abu Dhabi Grand...

    F1
  27. 15:49

    Latest GP2 photos: Saturday in Abu Dhabi

    GP2
  28. Vandoorne dominates in Abu Dhabi win 15:48

    Vandoorne dominates in Abu Dhabi win

    McLaren youngster Stoffel Vandoorne dominated proceedings to claim his fourth victory of the season in the GP2 Feature Race...

    GP2
  29. Stevens left to rue Turn 17 mistake 15:37

    Stevens left to rue Turn 17 mistake

    Will Stevens was left to ponder what might have been after an error tarnished his final lap in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...

    F1
  30. Bottas: Beating Ferrari remains the goal 15:22

    Bottas: Beating Ferrari remains the goal

    Valtteri Bottas says securing third in the Constructors' standings, ahead of Ferrari, remains Williams' target at the Abu...

    F1
  31. Force India confirms 'multi-year' Pérez deal 15:06

    Force India confirms 'multi-year' Pérez deal

    Force India has confirmed that Sergio Pérez will remain with the team next season and beyond, after the Mexican signed a new...

    F1
  32. Hamilton: I'm still there for the fight 14:51

    Hamilton: I'm still there for the fight

    Lewis Hamilton says he is pleased to be "there for the fight" after qualifying second for the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand...

    F1
  33. Rosberg: Pole just a small step towards title 14:38

    Rosberg: Pole just a small step towards title

    Nico Rosberg says pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is just a "small step" towards his ultimate goal of claiming...

    F1
  34. 14:08

    In full: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying results

    F1
  35. Rosberg on pole for Abu Dhabi title decider 14:07

    Rosberg on pole for Abu Dhabi title decider

    Nico Rosberg stormed to pole position during Saturday evening's qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, comfortably...

    F1
  36. Van der Garde leaves Abu Dhabi early 13:31

    Van der Garde leaves Abu Dhabi early

    Sauber reserve driver Giedo van der Garde has left the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix prematurely due to the team contravening the...

    F1
  37. 12:45

    Follow qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

    F1
  38. Horner eyes new F1 engines for 2016 12:11

    Horner eyes new F1 engines for 2016

    Mercedes' rivals are eyeing significant changes to the power unit regulations if the German manufacturer refuses to agree on...

    F1
  39. 11:08

    Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Free Practice 3 results

    F1
  40. Rosberg moves ahead in final practice 11:05

    Rosberg moves ahead in final practice

    Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets during Saturday afternoon's final practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, moving...

    F1
  41. 09:46

    Follow FP3 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

    F1
  42. 08:42

    Latest GP3 photos: Saturday in Abu Dhabi

    GP3
more news