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Brazilian GP: Button wins chaotic race, Vettel triple World Champion

By Berthold Bouman

Jenson Button, McLaren - Photo: McLarenDuring a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Jenson Button won the race for McLaren, and Sebastian Vettel won the 2012 World Championship by finishing fifth and became the youngest triple-champion ever in Formula One. His rival Fernando Alonso finished on the podium in second place, but it wasn’t enough to grab the title.

Race winner Button said, “I want to congratulate the whole team. This is the perfect way to end the season. We have had ups and downs and to end on a high bodes well for 2013.”

Rain was expected, and there was a light drizzle just before the race started, but nothing to worry about and all drivers started on the slicks. The first corner at Interlagos is always tricky, but this time all cars came through unscathed. But at the end of the long straight, it all went wrong for Vettel. He was hit by Bruno Senna, who really didn’t do anything wrong, the German spun and was 24th and last — while Hamilton and Button were leading the race.

Alonso made good use of the opportunity and took third place with a little help of Felipe Massa. But the track became wetter, and this time it was Alonso who made a mistake and he missed the first corner, he ran wide and fell back to fourth place, just behind a flying Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India.

Alonso then also had a charging Mark Webber in his rear view mirrors, but on the seventh lap Webber was forced into a spin by Kamui Kobayashi, at the same time Romain Grosjean crashed out of the race after he had lost control of his Lotus in the difficult wet conditions. Meanwhile, at the front Hamilton and Button were dicing for first place, a battle at the time won by Hamilton.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel

But while the rain came down harder, Vettel did the impossible, and was already back in sixth place after nine laps. Webber was the first to pit, and he left the pit lane on the intermediates, the rest of the field soon followed and also left the pit lane on intermediates, Vettel rejoined in 18th place, Alonso in 12th.

Button, now in the lead as he hadn’t pitted like the others, reported the rain had stopped, and he stayed out on the slicks, Hulkenberg did the same. Webber wisely decided to let his team mate Vettel pass him instead of fighting him, and got a big thank you from his team for doing so. Vettel carved his way through the field again, and by lap 16 he was fifth again.

At the front Hulkenberg was now dicing with Button for the lead, both were still on the slicks. Not much later Hulkenberg wrestled his way past Button, and the talented German was leading the race. Hamilton was the first to pit for a second time as the intermediates soon were completely worn out on the now dry circuit. He left on the hard tyres, Alonso also pitted, but he went out on the medium tyres.

Also Vettel and Webber had to pit to change to the slicks again, Vettel rejoined the race right behind his rival Alonso. But because there was a lot of debris on the track, left by Senna, Perez, Maldonado and Grosjean, the safety car came out as Rosberg had run over some carbon fibre parts and had damaged his rear tyre — the German had to limp back to the pits for a new set of tyres.

The Safety Car intervention was not ideal for leaders Hulkenberg and Button, who lost their 45-second lead they had built up by not pitting for rain tyres. When the Safety Car disappeared into the pit lane again, Hulkenberg was able to keep his leading position, but Vettel was napping and Kobayashi took his fifth place. Webber ran wide at the first turn, and fell back to 14th place, at the same time Hamilton got past Button and took second place.

But Vettel still had problems, Massa was able to overtake him and the German was then seventh, Alonso was fourth. Still treacherous on-track conditions and after 40 laps most drivers were still slipping and sliding around the Interlagos circuit. Vettel was still trying to get past Kobayashi, but his tyres were going off very fast and he could barely keep his car on track. At the front, Hamilton got closer and closer to Hulkenberg, the latter made a small mistake, spun and Hamilton was leading the Brazilian Grand Prix again.

With 20 laps to go Vettel was called in for a tyre change, and rejoined the race in tenth place on the medium slick tyres. But the game changed again, Hulkenberg decided to overtake Hamilton, the German was a bit too eager, missed his braking point, hit Hamilton and the Briton was out of the race with a broken front suspension.

Race winner Jenson Button

Race winner Jenson Button

An interesting development, as Alonso was now third, Red Bull saw the danger and called Vettel in again, this time he left the pits on the intermediates, but his pit stop was a disaster as his mechanics were not prepared for the unscheduled stop and he lost a lot of time and places as well. Alonso, meanwhile, also had problems and to be on the safe side he also pitted for the intermediates, he rejoined in fourth place, while Vettel was eighth, still right on course to take the 2012 title.

But the situation changed again, Hulkenberg was given a drive-through penalty, which meant Alonso was third again, and Vettel was seventh, again just enough to win the title. But Massa was ahead of Alonso, and he could, of course, just move over to let his team mate pass. And indeed, whether it was Massa who was slowing down, or Alonso who was going faster, with nine laps to go Alonso passed the Brazilian and was second.

But also Vettel got some help, Schumacher moved to the side and Vettel was sixth. But it wasn’t over yet, Paul di Resta spun his Force India at the last corner ahead of the start-finish straight, hit the barriers hard and the Safety Car came out again, as di Resta had left a trail of debris on the track.

The Safety Car effectively ended the race for the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, as there were only two laps remaining, and overtaking was not allowed when the Safety Car went into the pits again. Thus Button cruised to the finish line and won the race, Alonso was second, a very brave Massa was third, but Vettel took his third successive World Championship’s title.

Vettel was elated after the race and said, “It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now even for myself. I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn’t feel it. It was an incredible race.” About his crash with Senna he said, “When you get turned around for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the M25 — it is not the most comfortable feeling.”

And he added, “I was lucky no one hit me but the car was damaged and we lost a lot of speed, especially when it dried up. Fortunately it started to rain again and I felt so much happier.” Asked about the course of the 2012 season he said, “A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks, but we did not get distracted by that and kept going, and all the guys [his rivals] gave a big push right to the end.”

Alonso said after the race, “I’m very proud of the team. We lost the championship before today, not in Brazil, this is a sport after all. When you do something with your heart and do it 100% you have to be proud of yourself and your team and we’ll try again next year.”

Brazilian GP: Race Result
Pos Driver              Team                 Laps  Time        Grid
 1  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes     71    1:45:22.656   2
 2  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari              71    +2.7          7
 3  Felipe Massa        Ferrari              71    +3.6          5
 4  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault     71    +4.9          3
 5  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes 71    +5.7          6
 6  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault     71    +9.4          4
 7  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes             71    +11.9        13
 8  Jean-Eric Vergne    STR-Ferrari          71    +28.6        17
 9  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari       71    +31.2        14
10  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault        70    +1 Lap        8
11  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault     70    +1 Lap       19
12  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth    70    +1 Lap       22
13  Daniel Ricciardo    STR-Ferrari          70    +1 Lap       15
14  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault     70    +1 Lap       20
15  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes             70    +1 Lap        9
16  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth    70    +1 Lap       21
17  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth         69    +2 Laps      24
18  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth         69    +2 Laps      23
19  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes 68    +3 Laps      10
Ret Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes     54    Accident      1
Ret Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault         5    Accident     18
Ret Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1    Spin         16
Ret Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      0    Accident     11
Ret Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        0    Accident     12

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