Hat-trick hero! Vettel rains supreme in Brazil after taking title by three points from Alonso
23:37 GMT, 25 November 2012
Sebastian Vettel entered the realms of Formula One's all-time greats after becoming the youngest ever three-time world champion with a stunning recovery drive in a thrilling season finale.
As Lewis Hamilton's McLaren career ended in the disappointment of yet another retirement and Jenson Button signed off the season with the joy of victory, Vettel held his nerve in treacherous conditions to claim his third successive title despite the best efforts of Fernando Alonso.
In what must surely rank as one of the most dramatic seasons in the history of the sport, the title decider around Sao Paulo's historic Interlagos track certainly did not disappoint.
The main man: Sebastian Vettel won his third consecutive Formula One title in thrilling circumstances
Following in my footsteps: Vettel emulated boyhood hero Michael Schumacher in winning three-straight crowns
Bernie Ecclestone had claimed before
the race that he did not want the forecasted rain to fall. But for once
F1's ringmaster did not get his wish.
The Brazilian clouds spat, dried and
then poured to produce a grand prix of the very highest drama which
required Vettel to fight back in a damaged car after a
heart-in-the-mouth opening-lap incident.
Shell-shocked by the magnitude of his
achievement, Vettel said: 'It is what we have been working for since I
joined the team. You do this job not because you care what is written on
the cheque but because you love the excitement of Formula One. Whatever
could go wrong did go wrong, but we always kept believing. There was no
point getting angry.'
No miracles today: Ferrari hail Fernando Alonso after a quite remarkable season saw the Spaniard miss out on the title by three points in a vastly inferior car to the Red Bull
That said, Vettel still found time to
appear to question the dubious tactics employed by Ferrari in Austin
last week when they sabotaged Felipe Massa's gearbox to boost Alonso's
'You are always the first one to know
if you are cheating or cheating yourself,' said Vettel. 'A lot of
people tried to use dirty tricks and we never got irritated or
distracted by that.'
Alonso, having already rejected that
he and his team were guilty of anything untoward, was left to reflect on
what might have been once more, having missed out on the title in the
final race on two previous occasions.
'I feel very proud of my team and the
season,' said the Spaniard. 'I don't think we lost the title here in
Brazil. We lost it at some races where we were unlucky. But when you do
something with your heart and at 100 per cent you have to be proud and I
will be back next year.'
Crunch time: Nico Hulkenburg loses control of his car on a slippery track and collides with Lewis Hamilton on Lap 55
Sorry end: Lewis Hamilton's McLaren career ended in frustration
At one stage it looked as if
matters would be going Alonso's way when, after a poor start, Vettel
turned in on Bruno Senna's Williams at Turn Four and was sent spinning
into the oncoming traffic after picking up damage to his left sidepod.
But as well as building a rapid car,
Red Bull design guru Adrian Newey built a robust one. And after gunning
his machine in the right direction, Vettel set about ensuring this would
still be his day.
Fate then threw everything it could
at the German: changeable weather, a safety car, wrong tyre calls,
broken radios and bullish moves by rivals. But never once did Vettel
take his eye off the prize.
Meanwhile, as the German continued his charge, so events at the head of the field only served to increase the drama in Brazil.
They think it's all over: Sebastian Vettel spins on the first lap after a collision with Williams' Bruno Senna, prompting a remarkable comeback performance
Nico Hulkenberg and Button bucked the trend by staying on slicks, the Force India driver even pinching the lead.
Then Hamilton thrust himself into the
picture, passing Button before taking advantage of Hulkenberg's spin to
move to the head of the field. But there was to be no fairytale ending
Trapped between two back markers,
Hulkenberg tried to go up the inside of Hamilton into Turn One only to
lose the back end and clout the departing McLaren star's front left
The damage was terminal and a
dejected Hamilton could only trudge back to the pits through the rain at
the scene of his greatest triumph, his 2008 world title.
Early drama: Sebastian Vettel span on the first lap, forcing the Red Bull driver to the back of the race
'It's mixed emotions at the moment,' said Hamilton of his McLaren sign-off before moving to Mercedes.
'We were leading and we didn't get
to see through the race. I always like to see through the race. But I'm
also excited for the future, having a new start next year and then
hopefully, at some stage, I'll have a little bit of luck.'
Leading the way: Lewis Hamilton leads the pack into the Senna S on the opening lap
Meanwhile, as fast as Alonso could
climb through the field, eventually finishing second after being waved
through by Massa, so Vettel responded and poignantly took retiring
countryman Michael Schumacher for sixth place.
The final lap became a victory parade
for Vettel as a hefty crash by Force India's Paul di Resta brought the
safety car out once more, Button crossing first after a race he
described as one of his toughest.
In a spin: Mark Webber loses control of his Red bull after a collision with Sauber's Sergio Perez
It's all over: Pastor Maldonado departs the track after crashing to conclude a disappointing weekend