Sebastian Vettel is the 2012 world champion! His sixth place in the season finale at Interlagos was enough to give him a three-point lead over Fernando Alonso, who finished the race in second place.
Both drivers have had great seasons, but it was Seb who came through at the last race. This, despite dropping to the back of the field on lap one after he was hit by Bruno Senna at Turn 4. His recovery drive was impressive, worthy of a multiple world champion.
After the race everyone at Red Bull Racing donned “V3TTEL: Three-time world champion” t-shirts and the champagne flowed in their hospitality area. Team principal Christian Horner walked around the pit garage giving team members one of his giant bear hugs and even F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone joined in the celebrations.
Vettel’s championship t-shirt wasn’t the only party shirt doing the rounds. McLaren’s employees were wearing their rocket red t-shirts in deference to Jenson Button’s superb race victory and the Mercedes mechanics were wearing t-shirts with the words “Thank You Michael” written on the front and the stats of his superb 21-year career on the back. With the F1 fraternity planning on a few celebratory drinks later in the evening, no doubt the clothes got more outrageous as the night progressed!
Elsewhere in the F1 paddock there were lots of celebrities milling about after the race. ‘Wedding Crashers’ star Owen Wilson was a guest of Ferrari and legendary Brazilian footballer Ronaldo was at Williams F1, and there were more world champions than you could shake a stick at. Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Seb Vettel, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton is as impressive a list as you’re likely to find. Between them that lot have won 24 world titles!
So one of the most unpredictable seasons in F1 history comes to an end. There were eight different winners and the youngest triple world champion in the history of the sport was crowned at the end of the year. Seb clinched his most recent title at the still tender age of 25 years and 145 days, and it also made him one of only three drivers to have clinched three consecutive world titles (along with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher).
Thank you for joining us on Paddock Cat’s yarns this year; it’s been a blast. See you in Melbourne!
Everyone finds inspiration from different sources, and Fernando Alonso raised a cheer in the Ferrari pit garage today when he placed a picture of Enzo Ferrari on a tool chest alongside his F2012. The founder of the Scuderia is still much revered in the corridors of Maranello and he would no doubt have loved Alonso’s never-say-die attitude to this year’s world championship.
Having said that, Enzo would probably have had no qualms in telling Fernando – as he did all of his drivers – “my cars win races, my drivers lose them.” Fernando might have a thing or two to say about that after his performances this year, but the Commendatore always had the last word.
And it was a competitive start for Ferrari in the scorching heat of Intertagos today, with Felipe Massa looking the most competitive of all the runners over a long run. The bumpy nature of the track seems to suit the F2012, and it seems easier on its tyres on the abrasive circuit than some other cars.
Vettel, meanwhile, seemed happy with his day’s work. He ended the second session second fastest, but it’s only tomorrow – in qualifying – that the championship contenders will show their true colours. It’s a truly mouth-watering prospect, particularly if the forecast for rain turns out to be true.
Elsewhere in the paddock it was a day of announcements concerning next year. Esteban Gutierrez was confirmed as Nico Hulkenberg’s team-mate at Sauber and Charles Pic was confirmed as one of Caterham’s drivers. That leaves Kamui Kobayashi without a drive, with Force India the only viable option for the attacking Japanese driver.
Mercedes AMG Petronas kicked off Michael Schumacher’s swansong in a positive way. Their cars were both in the top seven in session two after both cars had tried development parts for 2013 in what was unofficially the last test session of the year.
Despite Friday being the busiest day of the weekend for the team, the Mercedes squad took time out to present team principal Ross Brawn with a birthday cake. He turned 58 today, so many happy returns! (And please can we have some of your cake?)
This is it: the world championship decider. Who’s going to be the youngest triple world champion in history: Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel?
If form has anything to do with it, Vettel will have the rub of the green at Interlagos. He holds a 13-point advantage going into the weekend and he’s finished on the podium in each of the last six races, winning four of them. If he finishes on the podium here, the title will be his – irrespective of Alonso’s final finishing position.
But the Spaniard just won’t give up. His Ferrari isn’t quite as fast as the Red Bull, but he refuses to let such a detail interfere with his title assault. Time and again this year he’s dragged the last ounce of performance from his F2012, and that’s been enough to keep him in the title hunt. He has a good record at Interlagos too; he clinched both of his world titles at the track in 2005 and ’06, and the rain predicted on Sunday could turn the season finale into the kind of lottery in which Alonso thrives.
The title rivals looked relaxed when they arrived at the track on Thursday morning. Seb had travelled straight to Brazil after last weekend’s United States Grand Prix, whereas Fernando had flown to New York to close the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street for sponsor Santander. But rather than viewing this sponsor commitment as a chore, he was in awe of the NYSE.
“It’s an incredible place,” he said. “It was a fantastic feeling to close the stock exchange on Tuesday in front of a global TV audience of 300 million. It was a cool thing to do.”
When Fernando eventually got to the track, he walked into his room to find good luck messages from lots of different Ferrari clubs around the world. “It’s great to have everyone’s support,” he said. “Ferrari is a big family.”
Both Vettel and Alonso were in Thursday’s pre-race press conference, but rather than sitting next to each other, they had Michael Schumacher splitting them in the front row. Maybe the seating plan was aimed at preventing a brawl between them, but that was never likely to happen; they’re far too in control to let their emotions show in such an environment.
Not that it made any difference to the media. Virtually all of the questions were directed at Fernando and Sebastian, despite this being Michael’s last ever grand prix and the other drivers in attendance being the winner of the last race, Lewis Hamilton, and local heroes Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna.
Soon it will be time for the talking to stop; let the best man win!
Oh, and if anyone was looking for Kimi Raikkonen at the track today, they would have struggled to find him. He told Lotus that he wasn’t going to turn up at Interlagos until tomorrow. Because he can.