Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel has been crowned the 2012 Formula 1 world champion, after an exciting and dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo. The German, who finished sixth, is now the youngest driver in the history of the sport to claim three world championships. Title rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari drove a magnificent race in changing weather conditions to claim second place, but ultimately fell three points short of his third world title. McLaren's Jenson Button won the race at the Interlagos circuit, to take his third race win of the season.
Elsewhere on the grid, Alonso's team mate, Felipe Massa saw a strong finish to the season, with third at his home race. The Brazilian, who was born in Sao Paulo, had a difficult start to the season and picked up only 25 points from the first 11 races of the season but rallied to claim 97 from the remaining nine races. And that late season spurt went a long way towards helping the Italians claim second place in the constructors' championships. Red Bull had already secured top spot in race to be the best team, when Vettel claimed second place in the last race, at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Vettel's team mate, Mark Webber, took fourth place, 0.8s ahead of a charging Nico Hulkenberg in fifth for Sahara Force India. And amid all the championship drama, the German enjoyed a fantastic race for the rapidly improving Indian outfit. Hulkenberg pulled off a superb overtaking manoeuvre on Button, going into Turn One, early on to take the race lead on Lap 19, when cars up and down the grid were sliding around looking for grip.
Hulkenberg looked supremely confident for most of the race, despite the greasy surface and the changing weather conditions. Unfortunately, mistakes on Lap 49 and Lap 55 cost him what would have been an absolutely incredible first ever win for driver and car - he misjudged his line through one of the corners and slid off, handing the lead to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and then, in a desperate bid to regain the lead, knocked the British driver off the track through Turn One, earning himself a drive-through penalty that ruined his race-winning chances. Nevertheless, fifth place was a fantastic achievement.
Vettel claimed sixth after a topsy-turvy race that saw him pushed down to 22nd after the opening lap. The German started the race fourth, on the dirtier side of the start-finish straight, and the lack of grip showed at the race start, as both Ferraris squeezed past him into the first corner. Worse still, coming out the opening sequence of corners, he was caught up in a tangle between Williams' Bruno Senna and Sauber's Sergio Perez, with the former running into the side of Vettel and damaging bodywork. Red Bull were immediately on the radio with their driver but they were forced to tell him to stay out and continue, the damage could not be repaired without significant loss of time.
He may have been driving a damaged car, but it didn't show. Vettel immediately banged in a fastest lap and was running strongly in sixth before he stopped for intermediate tyres. That dropped him back down the order to 17th but the German would not be denied his championship and fought his way back through the field, to claim the points he needed.
Seventh place went to seven time world champion and ex-Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher, who has now retired from the sport, for the second time in his career. And the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top ten.
Drivers Championship (Top Three, Final Places)
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault) 281 points
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 278 points
- Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) 207 points
Constructors Championship (Top Three, Final Places)
- Red Bull Racing-Renault - 460 points
- Ferrari - 400 points
- McLaren-Mercedes - 378 points