Thank goodness, I can breathe again! This race must have aged me considerably. I have never been so on edge and never enjoyed an F1 race less than I did with the Brazillian GP 2012. And yet, when it was over – sweet release and pure joy to see a deserving champion prevail. Lets gets into the good stuff, shall we.
Kimis weekend was compromised from the get go. FP1 was hampered by an ignition coil, meaning he got about half the running time as the rest of the field. FP2 was good, but the final practice session was halted pretty much right away when his engine blew to smithereens. So hardly any time to work on qualifying setups, and that showed. At least it happened in practice and Lotus are able to swap to one of his other used engines without penalty.
The quali session had mixed conditions and proved very tricky. Especially for Grosjean in the other Lotus. Well, that was not down to conditions really. More to general stupidity. Q1 and the frenchman comes up on Pedro de la Rosa in the HRT on the main straight. And for some bizarre reason he thinks he can overtake on the inside of the long left bender. Everyone and his boss knows that is used as an apex to minimize turning. But Romain goes for it – and contact. Parts fly and qualifying is effectively over for the other Lotus.
Kimi gets to Q3, whereas the Ferrari drivers just scrapes through in 9th and 10th. He opts for one run in the final session and that was only good enough for 9th. Later bumped up to 8th because of Maldonados penalty. Maldonado now being the lucky owner of a dubious record. The most penalized driver in a season. Ever. Congrats Maldonadon’t!
Up ahead, things are mixing up for the championship. Hamilton bags another pole position. With 7, he has the most of the season. Could have been 8 if not for the penalty in Spain. Vettel on 2nd then? Not so. Button goes well around Interlagos and slots in behind his teammate. Webber also gets the better of his teammate in 3rd. Vettel makes a mistake on his first run in Q3 and probably plays it a little safe in his final run, not to ruin that
as well. Still, better than his mainrival Alonso back in 7th.
So the stage is set for a real thriller! In 2010, the difference was 15 points between the two. Now its 13. Another smaller drama for Kimi fans would be if Kimi could keep his 3rd place in the WDC (even if he himself says it doesnt matter) and if he can possibly finish every single lap of a race season. He has already broken the record for most completed laps in a season. Well, enough chit chat. The cars are lined up and it has just started to
drizzle. Oh boy..
Lights out and what is that I see? Is Webber actually pushing Vettel a little? He most certainly is.. There is a time and a place, Webber. And that was more than half a season ago, before you were completely obliterated by your teammate. Again. Because of this, Vettel has to lift for Webber before turn 1 and go cautious in the Senna S and thus slips down to 7th while Alonso has another rocket start and takes 5th. Applause for Vettels
teammate. The biggest douche in the entire lineup.
Down in turn 4 all hell breaks loose. Kimi is having the mother of all lockups behind Vettel and is merely centimeters from plowing into the back of him and taking him out of the race. That would have put me in a peculiar situation, wouldnt it? Luckily, we are talking about Kimi Raikkonen here. The man that seems to be made of reflexes. Here is what pretty much every other driver would have done: Held their foot down on the brakes and rammed the car in front. What Kimi does is release his brakes a fraction of a second before impact so the wheels get rolling again – and thus are able to jerk the car away from impact. Just miliseconds before disaster. No superlative is big enough for that acheivement. That was downright masterful.
There is no time to marvel at that because the sum of all fears has happened before my eyes. Vettel backwards in the middle of the pack with debris and cars all around. I could have broken down and cried at that moment. However, I am not Felipe Massa, so instead I let out a roar of “NOOOOO!!!” which makes my wife jump about 2 feet in the air from the sofa. By some miracle, Vettel gets going again. Watching the replays makes me wonder how that car was able to roll, let alone race. I send my thank yous and proceed watching with my heart beating out of my chest. That was lap 1. How will I survive 70 more laps of this?
It doesnt help seeing Webber racing like a numbscull and letting Alonso slip up into 3rd position. By the way, this was enabled by some great driving from Massa. Behaving exactly like a teammate should under these circumstances. I realize that with these positions, Alonso is world champion and I get horrid visions of an off season filled with “mm yes, best driver won. mm yes. quite.”
Vettel is not one to give up without a fight. The team informs him of his stricken car and turns his engine down to prevent overheating. Not the best of odds from the very back of the grid. Nothing to do but grit your teeth and get on with it.
And he does. While Webber keeps displaying abysmal racing, losing positions, Vettel is charging up through the grid. Up ahead, Alonso starts making some mistakes. By going wide in turn 1, Nico Hulkenberg slips into 3rd position and all of a sudden Vettel is world champion again as it stands.
As I am paying attention to the championship battle, my heart nearly stops as I see a Lotus heading for the wall with tremendous speed. Oh, its just Grosjean. Nevermind.
Au revoir big pants.
Webber spins and now he is the Red Bull at the backend of the grid as Vettel is up to 8th position on lap 8. With a stricken car. Brilliant! The team is nervous and pleads with Vettel to consider that it is a long race. The rain increases and it prompts most of the front running cars to pit for intermediates. Button and Hulkenberg in front opted not to. Hulkenberg has excelled before in these conditions and on this track. Remember his pole
position in 2010. And he is gaining on Button at this point. Sensationally he makes a pass on Button for the lead and does it beautifully. Great stuff!
After the pitstops, Vettel has caught up with Webber and after a couple of laps, Webber finally gives the position to his teammate. This to applause from the Red Bull garage. However, the shift to intermediates has not worked out. The track is too dry and they are overheating so they have to pit once again. Kimi was sadly one of the people that opted for rain tires. As a result, he is in 12th position after his second stop. Quickly advancing
Because of this, Alonso is a full minute behind Hulkenberg and Button. And we hear him complaining on the radio that there is a lot of debris on the track. And suddenly the Safety Car comes out. Hmm… Granted, there was debris on the track. But still. Nice way to eradicate that huge lead. When the restart gets underway, I have another jaw drop. Webber is trying to overtake his teammate after the restart into turn 1. Of course he
botches it and runs wide. But why Webber, why? That is not what you need to do now? Race your teammate who is trying to win a championship. Are you kidding me?? The inferiority complex is strong with this one.
What he should have been doing was mixing it up at the front – and crucially staying ahead of Alonso. But that is something he has failed to do pretty much all season long. So why start now I guess. Well, you get no respect from me. Thats for sure. Here is a good article by Mark Hughes. He is too kind on Webber, but saying pretty much what I have underlined several times this season. That he is a pretty crappy teammate:
The race settles in a bit after that. Alonso is 4th, Vettel is 6th behind Kobayashi – eventually slipping to 7th behind Massa. And yet obviously champion if it stays like this. But what is this? Kimi gets a run on di Resta but the Force India is mighty quick on the main straight. And Kimi has to try and outbrake him instead. Not easy on a slippery track and he unfortunately runs wide and concedes 2 positions down to 12th. He gets by him
later though as di Resta spins on lap 38.
The good thing about this happening is that it lead to a fantastic scrap between two champions. Kimi is hot on the heels of Schumacher and gets a tow down the straight and it is the closest wheel to wheel action I can recall having ever seen! Literally centimeters apart they dice it out through the Senna S. I jump to my feet in excitement and yell in pure ecstacy! Now that is how you race! Woo-hoo! Poetry. Fair and precise by Schumacher. Ballsy, hard and fair by Kimi. I take everything back about you being too nice in wheel to wheel in Korea. All of it. All hail the Iceman in his awesome comeback season! Yes, its only for 10th position, but that is some damn good racing! BOO-YAH! Michael, you will be missed for moments like these.
Overtake of the race? Check for Kimi. Comical relief moment of the race? Chalk that one up for Raikkonen as well, as he goes on a lovely excursion off track after he ran wide at Juncao. The first thing I thought when I saw that was: “Thats it. Kimi has had enough of this shit. He is gonna park it right there and find a lawn chair.” Seriously. I did. But then he nimbly spins around and goes back. And then I got what he was trying to do. Its a part of the old track that has been closed off. But you could use the escape route and reenter the track up ahead. Kimis luck would have it that there was a gate there – and it was closed. That incident lost him so much time that it led to him being lapped and thus finishing every single race lap this season. But one. Oh well.
Vettel is still playing it safe behind Kobayashi. Up ahead, Hulkenberg is doing a stellar job keeping the McLarens behind him. However, Hamilton now in 2nd is closing in. After a drying period, the rain is picking up again. And people are starting to spin here and there. Not helped by pretty worn tires all over. Sadly, Hulkenberg is one of them and Hamilton pounces and retakes the lead that he held earlier in the race. Was that the end of a potential fairy tale story?
Just as I had calmed my nerves a bit, Hulkenberg gets feisty and tries a move on Hamilton in turn 1. The slippery track catches him out and smacks him into the front wheel of the McLaren. Hamiltons car is done and Alonso moves into 3rd position and the championship lead as Vettel has to make an extra stop for intermediates! At this point I am ready to leave the room. But Alonso also has to pit and Vettel moves up through the field as others pit and suddenly he is the championship leader again. My poor nerves. Hulkenberg gets a drive-through for his clash with Hamilton. Very harsh in my opinion.
Less than 10 laps to go and Massa gives way for Alonso to take 2nd place. Massa has driven a fantastic race. A lot more pace than Alonso. He practically has to ease off to let Alonso catch up. Ferrari does the only thing they can and hopes for fate to step in and take care of the rest. Vettels stricken car could potentially fail at any moment. Not to mention that it is starting to get very wet. Worse than before. Vettel is 7th and that is good enough to win it all. With 1 point. If something happens to Button though, Alonso is back in the lead of the championship. The nailbiting is intense. At least for me.
Good guy Schumacher doesnt make it hard for Vettel and he slips into 6th position. The race laps dwindle down. Button is a lonely figure up ahead – 21 seconds ahead of Alonso. Kimi is in 11th and out of the points for the first time since China. But that changes on the second to last lap as Di Resta crashes heavily from 9th and Kimi moves into 10th. But more importantly at this stage, the race will finish under the safety car and I slowly realize that Vettel and Red Bull has done it again and snatched the title from Fernandos hands! Huge and well-deserved congratulations to him.
What is there to say. It was a wild race. And it has truly been an epic season. Kimis comeback has been a shattering success. I wont go too much into that now as I may do a season recap during the off-season. Just to pass the time a little 😉
I really think McLaren and Hamilton could have won this championship. But reliability issues mostly put a stop to that. I cannot remember the last time I saw such a fast and yet unreliable McLaren car. Oh wait. I can. 2005. Through the course of the season the silver car has been the fastest and yet flawed. Kimi knows all too well how that feels. And I cant help sympathize with Hamilton as he now goes to Mercedes. I highly doubt their car will evolve into a regular race winner next year. You never know of course. But 2014 could be another story.
But getting back to the race. I didnt mention it at first but Vettel made a mistake with Senna. He cut across in a sharper angle than normal and it could just as well have cost him the championship. Lady luck shined upon the Red Bull team as it did in 2010. And I suspect that in 2013, the RB9 will be another race winning car from the Milton Keynes based team. Anyway – Vettel did it. He became the youngest 3-time champion ever. And that is now forever out of reach for Alonso. 4th youngest too is out of reach. And 5th. And so on. But not for Vettel. Who can stop him? I like him. Personally, the only driver I would want to stop Vettel is Kimi. So Im obviously hoping for that next year.
Alonso has not been faster than Massa in the last two races. Is Massa really coming back into form? We know he can be seriously quick. The question is, will he be allowed to? If he is, then he has to from the very first race next season. I suspect that if Alonso gets ahead of him with just a single point, then its back to the waterboy role again. I am really starting to root for Massa. It would be a sunshine story if he could upset the inter-team balance of Ferrari by sheer performance. I fear it wont happen. Or rather – it wont be allowed to happen. But one can dream.
So – who was the last Ferrari champion? Oh right. That freakishly fast Finnish guy that was put to pasture for money and team politics. Well, at least it paid off for them. Or wait a second.. It didnt. Sure, they had some great wins and drives. But their trophy closet is still filled with those trophys from 07 and 08. The following years are filled with air. Luckily they have the legendary, best car developer in their stall. Going on 3-4 years now. But – shouldnt that have come into effect a long time ago? Especially considering that Massa is being used as a test mule for parts for Alonsos car? Hmm, thats odd? Well, best of luck to you. It may all change next year. As Alonso once said: “As long as the car is not red, I wish you the best!” No wait, that was.. Yea: “As long as the car is not red, I wish you the best!”
Kimi and Lotus. He got them 4th place in the championship. He has brought them more publicity than they could ever dream of. He helped them land sponsors. Coca-Cola the latest huge name in the pot. That and the added money for the good WCC position will come in handy for developing the 2013 car. We can only hope that they will put them to good use. And hopefully be able to challenge for wins regularly. That would be great. Because if that is possible, then Kimi will challenge for the championship as well. And a unique natural talent like Kimi deserves an opportunity like that. Plus, he is a good guy.
Now, I will take a well-deserved break from blogging. Except for perhaps the odd post as I mentioned. I hope you have enjoyed my unabated bias through the 2012 season. Take care my dear readers and friends. Peace!
Images © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Andrew Ferraro, Red Bull/Paul Gilham, Getty Images/XPB Images, @PHOTO4, motorionline.com
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any of these photos taken down for any reason.