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GP Week : Issue 177a
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION SAVING THE BEST 'TIL LAST Barely four corners into the Brazilian Grand Prix it looked like the world had been turned upside down. The championship leader was pointing backwards, there were scuff marks on his car, and Fernando Alonso was riding high in his Ferrari. At this point, you might have expected Sebastian Vettel to burst into tears and embrace atheism. Instead, he did what all great champions do: triumph in the face of adversity. It wasn’t only the spin that was thrown at him, caused by tripping over Bruno Senna’s Williams at the apex of Interlagos’ Turn 4. His radio later stopped working, meaning that although he could hear his race engineer, he couldn’t give any feedback on his car or tyres. He made his third pit-stop for fresh dry weather tyres on Lap 52 of 71, only to have to return two laps later for intermediates when it started to rain. This cost him 22 seconds. For a moment, it looked like Red Bull had blown it. It’s remarkable he finished sixth to clinch the title. Alonso, on the other hand, did what he’s done 13 times this year and put himself on the podium. It was a steady drive to second place, helped by team-mate Felipe Massa. Fernando and Ferrari were completely blameless for the two DNFs this season. It was a quite miraculous campaign, but by the end Red Bull were just too strong. When Vettel’s RB8 retired from the Italian Grand Prix it looked like any realistic hope of defending his title was over. It seems funny to use the word ‘comeback’ when you’re talking about a three-times successive champion, but he scored more in the final seven races (141 points) than he did in the previous 13 rounds (140 points) in this, the longest season in F1 history. Seb assumes a record previously held by Ayrton Senna – the youngest triple world champion ever. To do so in Sao Paulo – Ayrton’s manor – made Vettel well up in the post-race inter views. After the race, Seb was rushed into the Red Bull garage to celebrate with his crew, who cranked up We Are The Champions so loud you couldn’t hear the podium ceremony. That will have needled Alonso, but he leaves Sao Paulo satisfied that he didn’t fumble the title like he did in Abu Dhabi in 2010, which gifted Vettel his first. Instead, he gave it everything he had and therefore has no regrets. The race was breathless not just from where Vettel was sat. At one point it looked seriously as if Nico Hulkenberg and Force India were going to take their first grand prix victory. I really rate Hulkenberg – he blew Paul di Resta away this season, and perhaps McLaren should have considered him over Sergio Perez for next year. It was doubly galling when The Hulk, as he’s known, lost his car under braking for Turn 1 and clipped Lewis Hamilton because if either of those guys had won it would have been huge. Lewis was denied the leaving present he was hoping for. On the eve of his son’s last race for McLaren, Anthony Hamilton gave me a cigar and promised we’d have a smoke together if (actually he said “when”) Lewis won. I guess I’ll keep it until Lewis wins for Mercedes, but we just don’t know how long that’ll take. No doubt McLaren were praying for a one-two, but Jenson Button’s triumph in chaotic conditions comes with big psychological benefits. It tells them they don’t need Lewis, and will reassure Button that he has a fantastic shot at a second title in 2013. OPINION ADAM HAY-NICHOLLS F1 Editor "You'll never believe what happened to me ..." – three-time champ compares notes with retiring seven-time champ.