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Vettel reigns in a bizarre F1 season

Last updated on: November 28, 2012 08:34 IST

Vettel reigns in a bizarre F1 season

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At 25, Sebastian Vettel has been champion for three straight years. At 25, he's caught up with Ayrton. At 25, he's just getting better, says Raja Sen.

Oh, those Senna boys. Running into title contenders in opening laps of championship climaxes since the 80s.

The last leg of this year's decidedly whimsical Formula One season saw its share of rollicking drama, Brazil, as always, throwing up thrilling racing and absolute farce all at once.

- Formula One 2012

Young Bruno Senna set the chaos in motion by clipping championship leader Sebastian Vettel. The shunt was positioned ironically too, right after the beautiful, challenging Senna S's named after Bruno's illustrious uncle Ayrton, who — while decidedly not above this sort of first-lap shenanigan — only ever barreled into other drivers when they looked like they'd snatch away his title.

Bruno's has, however, been a far humbler, inevitably surname-shaming sort of career, and Interlagos 2012 may well have been his last race. Perhaps the crash with the man destined to match his uncle's number of three world titles, then, was but a hat-tip.

So yeah, lap one, corner 4 and Sebastian Vettel, world championship leader, had dropped from fourth place to seventh place to dead last, his car clearly damaged but refusing immediately to pit for repairs.

Adrian Newey, that extraordinary designer of title-winning steeds, sat on the paddock wall and looked at oversized prints of the bruised Red Bull, wondering if he needed to summon his champion inward.

Later, the car lost its voice. Vettel's radio stopped working: he could hear the team, but they couldn't get any inputs from him. (Later, when he sobbed at winning the world championship, he called this a blessed relief.)


Image: Sebastian Vettel
Photographs: Getty Images

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Alonso was brilliant throughout the season

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Meanwhile, in a bright scarlet machine furiously on the make, Fernando Alonso charged up the order.

Here was a man who had already declared himself a worthier winner for this year's title, and few would dare disagree: the Ferrari this year isn't one the team would like to remember, and certainly not a title winner.

And yet Alonso — by dint of being as good as, well, as only he is right now — has squeezed that mongrel dry and Seabiscuited it toward the front.

His teammate's moved over helpfully enough, but Alonso's battle has been with that car, that car that refuses to qualify strongly, that car that has the trickiest straightline/downforce balance of the lot and that car he forces out of its skin, every single lap.


Image: Fernando Alonso
Photographs: Getty Images

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Alonso needed either an unlikely win, or a Vettel disaster

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Also, the Spaniard had been here before. In 2010, he went into the last race of the season ahead of that relentless German. Vettel came back from behind to make up the deficit and pick up his first tit#8804 Alonso needed to do the same now.

But, as Sebastian sliced and diced his way up the order, dealing imperiously with less-privileged teams and making most drivers look like backmarkers, it became apparent that Alonso needed either an unlikely win, or a Vettel disaster. (The one in the opening lap suddenly didn't seem to count anymore.)


Image: Fernando Alonso
Photographs: Getty Images
Tags: Vettel , Alonso

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Hamilton's last race with McLaren

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Speaking of disasters, of course, Lewis Hamilton ended his 1, over the course of three seasons beaten by teammate Jenson Button, 672 points to 657.

It wasn't Hamilton's fault, slammed in the side by an exuberant Nico Hulkenberg, clearly incredulous at having given his Force India an authentic chance at victory.

Now Hamilton, born and bred at McLaren, is off to earn his wings with Mercedes GP, and it remains to be seen how the easily vexed twitterer-of-telemetry will keep it all reined in while that car reaches potential.

How many overpaid chief designers does it take to change a Mercedes lightbulb? Hamilton, who wants to build a Schumacheresque empire (while wearing Schumacher's old boots), better be patient enough to find out.


Image: Lewis Hamilton
Photographs: Getty Images

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Schumacher bids goodbye

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Despite winning just one race all season, Kimi Raikkonen finished ahead of Lewis this year, though that doesn't matter to the frightfully fast Finn until he wins another title.

Kimi scowls at second-place finishes, looks disconsolate when on the bottom step of the podium, and can't be bothered to smile with his trophy for third place in the championship.

He can be counted on, however, to entertain spectacularly, and when he isn't duelling with perfect precision, he's spinning off and driving on a different racetrack.

Brazil wasn't one of Kimi's brightest moments, but full points for making us raise our glasses in amused unison.

One of the men Kimi did duel with was Michael Schumacher, who ended his career with a seemingly unspecial race.

He started 13th, had an early puncture pushing him a lap behind the leaders, steadily made his way up the field to sixth place, and then — in a ridiculously magnanimous moment of unracerlike charity — moved over to give young Vettel the position.

Thus came the end of a career like no other, with a seven-time champion taking seventh place in car number seven, and then beaming wide as can be, looking parentally proud at having passed the mantle.


Image: Michael Schumacher
Photographs: Getty Images

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No clear frontrunner

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Because he truly has, and that Sebastian Vettel is bloody special. Make no mistake.

It's been a rough and tumble season, with many a winner and Formula One reduced to a sweepstakes.

There was no clear frontrunner for the first half of the season, after which Fernando Alonso defiantly raised the bar. Vettel cleared it, with the kind of flawlessness that should shut his detractors up for good.

Can he overtake? Yes. Can he soak up pressure? Yes.

Can he wait all season for his car to catch up with him? Yes. Can he take on a teammate who actually wants to beat him? Yes, yes, yes. At 25, he's been champion for three straight years. At 25, he's caught up with Ayrton. At 25, he's just getting better.




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