Jenson Button, McLaren, Interlagos, 2012

Button wins intense race as Vettel recovers to seal third championship

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Jenson Button, McLaren, Interlagos, 2012Jenson Button won a stunning race in Brazil in which the outcome of the championship remained in doubt until the final lap.

Although Fernando Alonso climbed to second, sixth place for Sebastian Vettel was enough for the Red Bull driver to clinch a third title.

It was a fraught race for Vettel who fell to the back of the field on the first lap but drove a gritty race back through the pack to seal the championship.

Vettel loses out in dramatic start

From the front row the McLaren pair made clean starts but behind them neither Red Bull got away well. Mark Webber closed out Vettel which allowed the Ferraris and Nico Hulkenberg to pass him around the outside.

Vettel’s situation got more serious when they reached Subido do Lago. Kimi Raikkonen took avoiding action to keep from hitting him but as the Red Bull turned into the corner Bruno Senna appeared on the inside.

The Williams driver was overtaking two drivers between him and Vettel, who appeared not to see Senna’s car alongside. The pair made contact – twice – leaving Vettel pointing the wrong way down the track.

The impact damaged the bodywork around Vettel’s exhaust and Red Bull were concerned it would overheat. But Vettel was able to continue – albeit now down in 22nd place.

Rain aids Vettel’s cause

Before the race began Ferrari had been hopeful that rain would arrive to level out the playing field. But when it did come it was as much to the relief of Vettel, as the drop in temperature eased the strain on his damaged car.

At the start Alonso had immediately passed Webber for third place – the minimum he needed to have a chance of winning the championship. But as rain began to fall he twitched wide at turn one, cutting across the new tarmac run-off area, sacrificing third to Nico Hulkenberg.

Webber was unable to take advantage of this opportunity to re-pass Alonso, and a few laps later Massa demoted the Red Bull driver a further position. This proved very useful for Alonso as the Ferrari drivers’ tyres cooled in the rain and the pair began to struggle.

Massa adopted a defensive stance behind his team mate and a warning about his driving was immediately conveyed by radio to Vettel. This was necessary as Vettel had carved through the field in doubt-quick time, and with others diving to the pits for intermediate tyres he soon had the Ferraris in sight again.

The McLaren drivers briefly swapped positions when the rain started to fall, but Hamilton regained the lead only to give it up again when he decided intermediate tyres were the way to go. In a re-run of last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix Button stayed out on slicks despite the drizzle, and took the lead off his team mate.

Hulkenberg also elected to chance it on his medium-compound slick tyres, but the championship contenders could afford no such gambles and were soon in for intermediate tyres as well.

“It is a safety car situation”

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Interlagos, 2012Vettel came out of the pits behind Webber and Raikkonen. The two Red Bulls quickly passed the Lotus and this time Webber offered little resistance to his team mate: “thank you Mark,” said race engineer Ciaran Pilbeam.

Massa had stayed on slicks but was easily passed by Kamui Kobayashi and a circumspect Vettel. Moments later Vettel took Kobayashi at the exit of Juncao. The pair had gone past yellow flags and yellow-and-red flags, the former forbidding overtaking. But Vettel began his move shortly after the pair passed a green light, and was drawing level with Kobayashi as they reached another yellow light. The stewards took no action.

Further ahead Alonso was making light work of the traffic. And at the front of the field Hulkenberg had sensationally caught Button’s McLaren and, on lap 19, passed him for the lead.

The weather continued to keep the teams guessing: while drivers were receiving messages telling them it was going to continue the track was already drying enough for them to abandon their intermediates. Alonso switched back to slicks followed by Vettel, who returned to the pits in sight of his championship rival.

By this point several drivers had been involved in incidents: Pastor Maldonado joined his team mate in retirement and was accompanied by Romain Grosjean, who crashed out at Mergulho, and Sergio Perez. Alonso complained about debris on the track, adding: “it is a safety car situation”.

The safety car soon appeared on the circuit, calling a temporary halt to what had been 23 laps of frantic action, with still more than two-thirds distance remaining. Hulkenberg and Button took the opportunity to pit for fresh slick tyres, and the Force India driver held his lead.

Behind them Hamilton’s disadvantage for making an extra pit stop was wiped away and the same went for most other drivers. Alonso held fourth ahead of Vettel, who was still on course to clinch the championship, followed by Kobayashi, Webber and Di Resta.

Vettel slows as track dries

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2012Within seconds of the safety car returning to the pits the action resumed. Vettel came under attack from Kobayashi and Webber – the latter ran wide but Kobayashi made the move stick. He went on to take fourth off Alonso, but only briefly, the Ferrari driver quickly taking the place back.

The safety car had put Massa back on the lead lap and as the track dried he quickly passed Di Resta. He demoted Vettel and Kobayashi too, taking up fifth behind his team mate and therefore was unlikely to progress further.

As the track continued to dry Vettel’s aerodynamic damage became more of a problem. He sat within DRS range of Kobayashi, unable to make a move on the Sauber. The loss of downforce also impaired his tyre life and as his lap times began to drop off the team considered bringing him into the pits.

There deliberations were impeded by a fault on Vettel’s radio which prevented him from being able to talk to them. This had near-disastrous consequences as the weather changed yet again. First he pitted for slicks, then returned for intermediates – but the team weren’t ready for him. He fell to tenth place, which was a serious problem as Alonso now had the podium within reach.

Hamilton and Hulkenberg collide

Hulkenberg lost his lead when he half-spun his Force India at Laranja. That allowed Hamilton, who had passed Button after the safety car came in, to retake the lead.

A few laps later Hulkenberg spied an opportunity to pass Hamilton when the leader was delayed in traffic. Hulkenberg went down the inside at turn one but the back end snapped away and he clipped Hamilton’s car. Front suspension damage ended Hamilton’s final race for McLaren.

With Hamilton out and Hulkenberg doomed to serve a drive-through penalty, Alonso now had a shot at second place. He took it despite staying out too long to switch back to intermediate tyres as the rain intensified, and nearly spinning at Curva do Sol. Massa got in front of him through the pit stops but wasted little time handing the place back.

By then Vettel had already recovered well into the top ten, eventually passing Schumacher for sixth place. But even at this late stage he could not afford to relax: a sudden retirement for new leader Button would put Alonso in the lead and Vettel would be one place shy of the world championship.

Race ends under safety car

Jenson Button, McLaren, Interlagos, 2012There was no such problem for Button, and the race had a slightly anticlimactic end as a crash for Paul di Resta brought out the safety car. He claimed his third win of the year and the Ferrari drivers joined him on the podium.

But there were no celebrations for Alonso as Vettel, sixth behind Webber and Hulkenberg, had done enough to retain the world championship.

Schumacher bowed out of F1 with a points finish for seventh, while Jean-Eric Vergne was promoted to eighth after a late spin for Kobayashi.

Kimi Raikkonen was only tenth after going off at Juncao and attempting to rejoin the track using the old circuit, which was closed off at one end.

Behind him the battle for tenth place in the constructors’ championship had been resolved with a final twist. Charles Pic, who will drive for Caterham next year, was passed by Vitaly Petrov in the dying stages. Petrov’s 11th place finish moved Caterham back ahead of Marussia in the final race.

Unfortunately for Marussia Timo Glock had been running in front of both when he was involved in an incident with Vergne which dropped him back. He came in 16th behind Daniel Ricciardo, Heikki Kovalainen and Nico Rosberg. The HRT pair were the last running drivers.

Brazil produced a suitably scintillating conclusion to an exciting championship. Vettel’s race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin admitted he feared his driver’s title hopes were lost after the first-lap collision. But an error-free recovery drive of measured aggression gained Vettel a deserved third title by the slender margin of three points.

Both he and Alonso deserve praise for their efforts this year. Alonso once again wrung all he could from his Ferrari and it’s doubtful he could have finished higher.

If a championship is valued by the quality of the opposition a driver faces, then Vettel can count this triumph as his greatest so far.

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Image ?é?® McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Sahara Force India F1 Team, Red Bull/Getty images, Pirelli/LAT

98 comments on “Button wins intense race as Vettel recovers to seal third championship”

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  1. “That’s what happens when you’re racing with the less experienced” says Hamilton about Hulkenberg.

    Hamilton should really look at the season review from last year on DVD…..

  2. Aww it’s been about 6 hours, the adrenaline’s gone and it’s sunk in that it’s all over. Still, talk about going out on a high. Button must now know how Webber felt in ’09…winning a race but it being overshadowed by the celebrations elsewhere!

    So…when does pre season testing start? :)

  3. Best quote of the race :)

    Kimi Raikkonen (10th)
    “It was a busy race and we didn’t have the pace we wanted all the time. There was certainly a lot going on. I went off at the last corner on lap fifty-two as I couldn’t see well with my visor being dirty and fogged up. Where I went off you can get back on the track by going through the support race pit lane, but you have to go through a gate. I know this as I did the same thing in 2001 and the gate was open that year. Somebody closed it this time. Next year I’ll make sure it’s open again.”

  4. Cracking race, Vettel very lucky to keep his right rear wheel though!

    I know the yellow flag thing has been done to death, but Alan Mcnish seemed to think he overtook on yellows, albeit marginally after looking at it on the “SKYPAD”. Be interested to hear others thoughts on that.

    I’m not his biggest fan but it’s a shame for Hamilton really as his last race for Mclaren summed up his season. Probably on average the best car over the course of the year, should have at least been in the hunt for the WC.

  5. I’ve just seen this footage:

    I have to say that i am a bit disturbed by 2 things:
    1. Vettels crash at the start: not Senna’s fault after all. SV just slammed the door. He was just too wide, didn’t know there was someone inside. He is at fault for taking out 2 cars, but no penalty was given: maybe the stewards considered that he was punished with the resultant last place…

    2. Overtaking KK under yellow flags: pretty clear. If that’s not overtaking under yellow flags, then what is ???
    The “KK pitted so SV couldn’t give the place back” argument is plainly wrong. A drive-through would have been fine, especially considering he escaped one earlier (HUL earned one…)

    1. as written above, the light was not flashing.

      The key appears to be that the yellow-looking lights were not flashing, which means that they were not the equivalent of the waved yellow flags requiring drivers to drop their speeds and back away from any overtaking during the demarcated sections of the track.

      Immediately before the incident, other parts of the track had started to show the more conventional red-and-yellow striped flags being waved by marshalls, which informs the drivers of slippery and greasy track conditions but does not require the drivers to take any mandatory action as a result of being displayed.

      1. in other words, the lights work this way:
        flashing yellow = yellow flags, slow down
        steady yellow = red-and-yellow flags, slippery

        a shame brundle doesn’t know.

      2. Ahhhhhhh, OK ! That makes sense then, thanks !
        So point 2 is cleared, and VET did well to overtake KK

        But about point 1 ? To me SV is 100% at fault there…

        1. Does anyone know if Hulkenburg got a penalty after the race for sliding into Hamilton? Seems like the 2 incidents should be treated similarly?

        2. actually this was a 50/50 race incident – with Senna being behind. If they were next to each other then Vettel would have received the penalty.

  6. Great way to end the season!

    In the end Vettel deserved it, shades of Luck in his Abu Dhabi recovery but he did brilliantly to get back in position today! I still think there are doubts about him racing in the pack when he is under pressure but he’s proved he can overtake!

    What I’d love to see now…is a proper championship battle between Hamilton and Vettel…the 2 quickest over a single lap!

    Incredible season by Alonso, In my opinion also the best 1 from Hamilton yet.

    Few decent drives by JB but ultimately he was thrashed by Hamilton this year (although the points table shows it was only 2 points!!)

    Hulkenberg strong end to season too!

    How many days till Australia???

  7. kimi made my day what a legend. well done Sebastian. people can talk all they want bit three championship in a row is incredible

  8. KIMI you’re the Best.
    Just for fun, Here his new T-SHIRT

  9. Since their partnership began in Bahrain 2010, Jenson Button has
    outscored Lewis by 15 points, 672-657
    Hamilton-2010 Spain, 2010 Italy, 2010 Singapore, 2011 Canada,
    2011 Belgium, 2011 Brazil, 2012 Germany, 2012 Belgium, 2012 Singapore,
    2012 Abu Dhabi, 2012 Brazil = 11 retirements, 2 his fault
    Button-2010 Monaco, 2010 Belgium, 2011 Britain, 2011 Germany,
    2012 Bahrain, 2012 Italy, 2012 Korea = 7 retirements, 0 his fault

    1. so essentially there is only in reality a 2 race difference between the 2 of them with regards to DNF for technical reasons which means that it is all a bit academic, Button has performed equally as well as Hamilton over the course of the 3 seasons and yet people still believe Hamilton is by far the better driver. It seems as though Hamilton may be the better 1 lap qualifier but in general race pace and strategy Button is equal to or marginally better, and since races are not won over 1 lap then maybe it is possible that Button is actually the better driver ??

    2. Sorry pal, but your stats are a little wrong.

      11 retirements for Hamilton and at LEAST 4 of them were his fault.

      2010 Italy
      2010 Sing
      2011 Canada
      2011 Belgium

  10. So happy that we got the final showdown this championship deserved! What a race!

    As a Vettel fan, I’m so pleased to see him win again – I think he’s shown talents that should go some way to shutting his critics up, although he hasn’t been perfect.

    One thing I think we should remember; Mark Webber has had the same car as Vettel all three years, and while he was close in 2010, he’s not made it stick. Almost everyone views Webber as one of the most talented racers in the field, so why do the same people think Vettel isn’t a top driver?

    Yes, he shows some lapses of judgement when running close in a pack (but generally not one-on-one), but his strength obviously lies instead in putting together perfect laps when he’s by himself, and look how well that’s paid off for him. I would agree he’s not the most complete driver in the field (Alonso), but he is definitely a top driver, and thoroughly deserving of all three championships.

    I think people are confused between whether Vettel is deserving of three championships, and whether Alonso/Hamilton are unlucky to have lost out. Unlucky != Not Deserving in my book.

  11. What a race! It was a shame that Di Resta ended the season on an anti-climax BUT it was unexpected so I guess that was just another element of surprise? Kinda reminded me of an Indycar race which often ends under caution or the pace car…like this years Indy 500.

    A scrappy race from The Hulk was great to watch and he certainly had no fear taking the battle to McLaren. I think he was a little hard done by when it came to the Hamilton incident, owing to the weather but it’s always good to see the drivers challenged and he still delivered.

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