What Vettel and Alonso need to do to win the title

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2012The 2012 drivers’ championship will be decided in the final race of the year in Brazil.

For contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso the situation is reminiscent of the championship contest between them in Abu Dhabi season finale two years ago.

Then Alonso went into the final race 15 points ahead of Vettel. But it was Vettel who emerged on top.

This time it is Vettel who holds a 13-point lead over Alonso heading into the final round. But there is another significant difference.

On that occasion Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton were also capable of winning the title. Webber went into that race eight points behind Alonso, and the Ferrari driver’s preoccupation with beating him ended up losing him the title to Vettel.

But there will be no split focus for either driver this time. Here’s what they need to do to win the title:

How Sebastian Vettel can become champion

The most straightforward way for Vettel to win the title is to finish in the top four. After that it gets complicated.

  • If Vettel finishes fourth or higher he is world champion regardless of where Alonso finishes
  • If Vettel finishes fifth, sixth or seventh and Alonso finishes second or lower, Vettel is champion
  • If Vettel finishes eighth or ninth and Alonso finishes third or lower, Vettel is champion
  • If Vettel finishes tenth or fails to score and Alonso finishes fourth or lower, Vettel is champion

Out of the 19 races so far this year 15 produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Vettel champion.

How Fernando Alonso can become champion

Alonso can only win the championship by finishing on the podium. He has done so in 12 of the 19 races so far, and the last four in a row. Here’s how he can win the title if he does:

  • If Alonso wins and Vettel is fifth or lower, Alonso is champion
  • If Alonso finishes second and Vettel is eighth or lower, Alonso is champion
  • If Alonso finishes third and Vettel is tenth or does not score, Alonso is champion

Out of the 19 races so far this year four produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Alonso champion.

Unusual ways for the title to be decided


Fernando Alonso, Renault, Inerlagos, 2003If the race ends with less than 75% of the distance covered (i.e. fewer than 54 of the scheduled 71 laps) then half points will be awarded.

In these circumstances the maximum points available for a driver will be 12.5 for a win, which would be insufficient for Alonso to overcome Vettel’s 13-point lead. Therefore, a half-points race will automatically mean Vettel wins the championship.

In 2003 the Brazilian Grand Prix (pictured) was red-flagged and the result declared after 54 laps – the minimum needed to achieve 75% race distance. There was some confusion over which lap the race had ended on resulting in victory being awarded to Kimi Raikkonen at first, then transferred to Giancarlo Fisichella.

Under a new rule introduced this year races must be stopped four hours after they begin, regardless of whether they are suspended.

A tie

If the pair end the season tied on points Vettel will win the championship because whatever happens he will have won more races than Alonso.

Neither the drivers’ nor the constructors’ championships have ever ended with two competitors tied on points. The narrowest winning margin ever was Niki Lauda’s 1984 drivers’ title victory by half a point ahead of McLaren team mate Alain Prost.

Over to you

Before the last race, two-thirds of readers tipped Vettel to win the title. Have you changed your mind since then?

Vote for who you think will be champion below and have your say in the comments:

Who will win the 2012 F1 drivers' title?

  • Sebastian Vettel (66%)
  • Fernando Alonso (34%)

Total Voters: 235

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79 comments on What Vettel and Alonso need to do to win the title

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  1. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 21st November 2012, 11:16

    For those interested, I did the calculations in pre-2010 points, just for the hell of it

    Old points
    Vettel – 112
    Alonso – 106

    Same rules apply as above (if they end up same score, then Vettel becomes champion). Interestingly in old money Vettel is a lot closer to the title.

    In OLD MONEY, in order for Alonso to be the 2012 champion, Alonso MUST FINISH IN THE TOP 2, and Vettel MUST FINISH OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 5

    Vettel will be champion if:
    – Vettel finishes in the top 5
    – Vettel finishes P6-P7, Alonso finishes P2 or lower
    – Vettel finishes P8 or lower, Alonso finishes P3 or lower

    Alonso will be champion if:
    – Alonso wins, Vettel finshes P6 or lower
    – Alonso finishes P2, Vettel finishes P8 or lower

  2. Killertofu (@killertofu) said on 21st November 2012, 11:19

    Vettel will win. Alonso will give a spectacular show in which he we will take lots of risks. Expect Ferrari to use every tactic and strategy at their hands. I hope that Ferrari get’s it right but it’s the smallest of chances. One has to congratulate RB with their superior car maufacturing and Newey’s quality as a constructor. Vettel is a driver that get’s the job done, but Alonso is probably as passionate and gifted as he is aggressive. Let’s hope the best for him and to a nailbiting finale.

  3. Girts (@girts) said on 21st November 2012, 11:28

    Vettel is the obvious favourite although it will be interesting to watch how he is going to cope with the pressure. In 2010, he was an outsider before the last race. In 2011, he became practically uncatchable already in the middle of the year. Now he is the one who’s being chased so it’s a new situation for him. The weather and the reliability might play an important role as well but I’m sure that both teams will be well prepared for every occasion.

    It’s a pity that Hamilton and Raikkonen are out of the title contention. Particularly Hamilton deserved it.

    I’m hoping for an exciting race but I won’t support any of the title contenders as I just cannot accept Ferrari’s driver policy and I think that Red Bull have partly gained their current advantage by simply outspending the competitors and they also whine too much. But I believe that Alonso deserves the third championship a bit more than Vettel.

    • Rocky (@rocky) said on 21st November 2012, 12:09

      +1 well said

    • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 21st November 2012, 15:46

      Mostly agree, would just modify the end by Massa deserves a bit more that Alonso wins it because of his recent sacrifices for him … As it was clear for a long time, Alonso was atop the ranking more in merit than Vettel, that changed during this past few races and he was kept there not uniquely thanks to his talent. Then I can’t putt one of them which deserves it more than the other. If I had to pick the best driver of the year, it would probably be Hamilton, but the question itself is a bit of nosense. They are fighting for WDC, he’s not in for the reasons we know and that’s all, try again next year … F1 is cruel and that’s it
      Vettel clear favorite to me, but nothing’s done yet.

  4. MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 21st November 2012, 11:28

    I’m looking at the photo attached to this article and it feels like it was send from the future. I think these are the faces we’ll see after the Brazilian Grand Prix. Grinning Vettel right in front of us, solemn Alonso somewhere in the background. I hope I’m wrong though, because I really think Alonso deserves the title and would be a better champion.

  5. Dane. (@dane-1) said on 21st November 2012, 11:35

    Last night I dreamt Alonso won the title by 2pts. It will be spooky for me if that happens this weekend

  6. Oskar (@oskar) said on 21st November 2012, 11:51

    It´s almost impossible for Alonso, but at least, i hope he fights till the end with the leaders. Not being 35 sec behind…

  7. Vettel go and get that damn title!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. razortongue said on 21st November 2012, 12:05

    Well, the wildest thing that could happen is Narain or Massa or Grosjean will hit Vettel to retire from the race and Alonso will go on to hunt to finish at least 3rd. There is also the possibility of an alternator failure for Vettel. Other than that Alonso could hope to win the race and ask Petrov to block Vettel for 6th place. Sweet revenge. lol!!

  9. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 21st November 2012, 12:08

    Hope it end ups being as exciting as in 2008. If Alonso retires on lap 1, not so good…

  10. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 21st November 2012, 12:12

    While there’s no doubt Alonso has been amazing this year and out performed his car massively, it’s also worth noting that Vettel is over 100 points clear of his team mate too.

    I think Alonso could well take it in Interlagos, even as a Vettel fan I’d be disappointed for Alonso if he didn’t win it. I wish both could take the title.

    • RedBullRacer (@redbullracer) said on 21st November 2012, 12:51

      I agree 100%.
      I’m a Vettel fan but I love Alonso and I really want him to get another championship. Whatever the result on Sunday, it’ll be a bit bittersweet for me. The most I can hope for is that we get a really great race to finish the season in style.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 22nd November 2012, 1:47

      Vettel’s consistency has been underrated this year IMO.

      Other than in Malaysia, where he had a coming together with Karthikeyan; and Barcelona, where he was given a drivethrough, he has always finished in the Top 5. Even then, he was on course to finish in the Top 5 in both of these races.

      His two retirements also came when he was running in the top 5, and his other two P5 finishes came in China and Germany.

      Other than that – he has always finished in the Top 4.

  11. Switchbacker (@switchbacker) said on 21st November 2012, 12:16

    Respect to ALO for even being in with a shot still, I reckon he’ll pull of an amazing race and finish p2, but VET will quali well and get away never to be caught.

    If VET dosnt get away clean at the start I think he’ll drop it in the rain and ALO will be champion.

  12. MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 21st November 2012, 12:25

    Personally I feel that the only way that Alonso will be champion is if Vettel doesn’t finish the race for some reason. I believe that if Vettel gets to the end of the race, he will definitely be high enough up to be champion, no matter what Ferrari do. And even saying that, I think it’ll only be through mechanical retirement. Vettel just doesn’t crash out of races.

    No matter who wins, both would make very deserving champions, and we’ve been witness to one of the best seasons I can remember.

    • RedBullRacer (@redbullracer) said on 21st November 2012, 12:56


      I love reading comments like this. There’s so much fanboy b*tching all over the internet, and I wonder why more people can’t just take a step back and appreciate that we are experiencing a fantastic era of great drivers in F1 and, as fans, we should all just enjoy it.

  13. Vettel has to finish the race to win the championship. If he does that, it will be almost impossible for Alonso to gain more than 13 points over him. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for Vettel, though. The alternator failure on Mark’s car makes me very tense about Brazil.

    • @yobo01 – I think Red Bull will be switching to the new specification alternator in Brazil: they ran the old one in Austin whilst the other Renault-engined teams (Lotus, Williams and Caterham) ran the new one. Not one of the new alternators failed. Albeit, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’s rigidity (after all I believe the Red Bull probably puts more stress into the culprit component) but I reckon it to be a safer bet than still using the old one, although of course I don’t know if there was a secondary reason causing Webber’s alternator to fail (such as the water leaks they had been having in Free Practice).

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 22nd November 2012, 1:50

        @vettel1 the old one has been by far the more reliable one. Valencia? Monza? Both new spec. Red Bull switched them over to the old spec because they trusted it more, and felt safer with it. Mark Webber was using a new spec in Austin, because when Vettel was the only contender left, they transferred all the remaining stock of the old spec to Vettel instead.

  14. My mind still tells me Vettel. Looking at the figures, it’s hard to imagine a situation where he would lose the title.

    On the other hand, I thought the same of Alonso in 2010. It could still happen, but Ferrari’s pace being unsatisfactory I’m worried about the odds of that.

    To be completely honest, I fear a Suzuka 1998 kind of last race. Alonso and Vettel closely lined up, with Alonso definitely having the pace, but with some bad luck and an un-threatened Vettel, he might not even stand a chance.

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 21st November 2012, 12:54

      It was also hard to imagine Hamilton not winning in 2009 and he nearly managed that! When they have a target of finishing above a certain position to win the title, it seems to make it twice as difficult to do that.

      Vettel just need to try and win the race and hope for the best but if McLaren are on form and Ferrari can get Alonso’s car working like Massa’s was in the US, it will be a difficult race for him.

      As it stands, Vettel has a lot to lose whilst most of the cars around him have nothing.

    • F1 FunAttic said on 21st November 2012, 14:20

      but Ferrari’s pace being unsatisfactory

      surely you mean ‘Alonso’ pace. Massa set the 2nd fastest lap at Austin!
      But the big point is that it doesnt matter if ferrari is faster than vettel alone…even if alonso finishes 1st, massa 2nd, vettel would finish 3rd and still win the wc. ferrari need not just themselves, but also the maccas and lotuses to be faster/reliable/finishing than redbull, and this is a tall order.

  15. petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 21st November 2012, 12:51

    The weather forecast is sketchy at best. At the moment, it’s sunny on Friday, storms on Saturday and rain on Sunday….

    It’s a big ask for Alonso to win the title but knowing the recent history of races when the title has come down to the last one, the crazy weather in Brazil and the excellent track, anything can happen.

    I’d be winning to bet any money that it won’t be a simple lights to flag win for Vettel.

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