The 2012 World Drivers’ Championship will be decided this Sunday at the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil on Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso by 13 points as both drivers strive for their third F1 titles.
If Vettel wins, he will be only the third driver in F1 history to win three consecutively, joining Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. Alonso would also be joining a select team; along with Fangio and Schumacher, only Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna have won three WDCs since the start of the modern era in 1950.
If Vettel finishes in the top four, he wins the title. For Alonso to take his third, the Ferrari driver would need to finish on the podium while his opponent finished eighth or worse—rather an unlikely scenario considering how steady Vettel had been, and how reliable is the Red Bull chassis. Only the Renault engine’s alternators and KERS systems have caused red Bull any worry this season, and Vettel has finished all but one race.
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner told Formula1.com, “We just have to approach the race as we have the previous 19. We have to go there, attack the weekend, and get the best out of ourselves; the car, the strategy, the drivers, and reliability.”
Vettel, while confident, knew that the season won’t be over until the checkered flag flies. “The weekend starts tomorrow morning and not on Sunday, so really we have to go step by step, trying to do everything to ensure that we get the maximum result,” he told Formula1.com. “Historically we’ve been very quick here, historically we know also it’s quite a place where a lot of things can happen so we need to be sharp in the moment and see what we can get.”
Alonso was realistic in assessing his chances. “This is a sport and anything can happen until the checkered flag so we will try to do the best race we can and, as I said, cross the line on the podium which gives us more than 13 points and see where Sebastian crosses the line.
“If we win, we will be very happy but we know that we need some strange combination of results; if we don’t win, we will congratulate him and we will try next year. Nothing really surprising.”
Vettel seemed unconcerned even though rain has been predicted for race day. “In terms of general preparation we do what we can. Weather-wise, it’s Sao Paulo—things can happen quickly and the weather can change a lot here, so… I asked Pirelli yesterday if they have all the containers here with the rain tires, and that’s the case, so I don’t think we have to be concerned.”
That has to be a record for blasé: so long as we have rain tires, everything will be fine.
Probably though in the back of his mind Vettel is thinking of Montreal in 2011, when he lost concentration in the rain on the final lap and gave away the race win.
Sunday will also be Lewis Hamilton’s last race for McLaren, the only team he has raced with since he was a teenager in karting. Hamilton would dearly love to leave the team on a high note.
“I’ve had some great experiences racing in Brazil—I won the world championship here in 2008, of course, but I can also remember having strong races here, especially in 2009 when I finished on the podium.
“I think we showed in Austin that we have an incredibly quick car, particularly in race-trim, and I’d love to have a clean weekend, a trouble-free qualifying and then have a good run at scoring some strong points on Sunday,” he said.
“Traditionally, it’s not been a circuit where we’ve been at our strongest, but I think this year’s car has often been strong at tracks where we wouldn’t normally have been up there, so I think we have a chance to go for the win.
“Of course, Brazil will be the backdrop for the championship showdown—and it’s a great track upon which to end the season on a high. I’m not putting my money on anybody, but I hope we have a fantastic contest and may the best man win.”
Brazil will also mark the end of an era—the end of the Formula One career of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, the most dominant driver of his day. His three-year return to the sport didn’t net him significant success, and the 43-year-old driver says his enthusiasm is about gone—he has no desire to be a backmarker.
“My departure from Formula One will probably be less emotional for me this time than in 2006, when we were still fighting for the championship and everything was much more intense,” he explained. “This time round, I will be able to pay more attention to my farewell and hopefully savor it too.“I have had fantastic years in Formula One and a lot of support from fans around the world, and I wish to particularly thank them for that.
“Of course, I would be happiest if I could say goodbye with a strong race, and I am sure we will be doing everything we can to make it happen.”
The Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil starts at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 25. Tickets for the season finale are available through Formula1.com.
The race will be televised live on Speed-TV in the U.S. with qualifying also live on Speed on Saturday at 11. Formula1.com will host live timing and coring for both sessions.
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