Victory for Sebastian Vettel, the F1 2010 Constructors' World Championship for Red Bull Racing and four competitors still left in mathematical contention for the drivers' crown heading into the Abu Dhabi finale in seven days' time – that is the balance of the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.
With Mark Webber following his Red Bull team-mate home to clinch the runner-up laurels at Interlagos and world championship leader Fernando Alonso taking his run of consecutive late-season podium finishes to five – and, indeed, seven from the last eight races – it means the most thrillingly unpredictable F1 season in recent memory still has time for one final twist in-store under the desert sun. Roll on Abu Dhabi!
Despite all of the drivers appearing remarkably and some even disarmingly relaxed in the build-up to the start in Sao Paulo – belying just how much was at stake and the propensity of the much-loved Autodromo Carlos Pace to throw up drama and excitement by the bucket load – the race got underway amidst a great deal of tension and apprehension.
First-time pole-sitter Nico Hulkenberg got away well when the starting-lights went out, but then seemed to hesitate – which gave Vettel just the momentum he needed to aim his Red Bull RB6 down the inside into Turn One for the first time and snatch the lead. Behind the pair, Webber just managed to chop a fast-starting Lewis Hamilton off on the outside line – and then later around the lap, the Australian made short work of clearing Hulkenberg too, selling the young German a dummy on the approach to Turn Four and then sweeping down the inside on the exit to snatch second place.
Behind third-placed Hulkenberg, Hamilton ran fourth and Alonso fifth, as further down the order Vitaly Petrov – always wild – endured an off-piste excursion that dropped the Russian rookie practically to the rear of the field. A racy-looking Alonso got a tremendous run on Hamilton heading into lap two, but was unable to take advantage of it on the outside into Turn One, but a lap later and the job was done, as the McLaren-Mercedes star went wide in Turn Four in much the same manner as Hulkenberg had done the previous lap and his Ferrari rival needed no second invitation.
As Vettel edged clear at the front and new fourth-placed man Alonso began to hassle Hulkenberg for all he was worth – aware that he was losing more than a second a lap to the leaders – the Williams ace boldly staved his pursuer off, performing a good defence against the world championship leader as the Spaniard darted about every which way in a palpably faster car.
Further down the order, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher were enjoying an energetic scrap over ninth, with the German legend diving down the inside into turn one to seize the advantage – and shortly afterwards, Alonso successfully found a way by Hulkenberg into Turn Four on lap seven, with his adversary thinking about fighting back but just as swiftly thinking better of it.
That left the pole-sitter with his hands full fending off an aggressive Hamilton, with Renault's Robert Kubica, his own Williams team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Schumacher all queuing up in close attendance behind too. Alonso, meanwhile, set about trying to reduce the seven-second deficit separating him from second-placed Webber – but it soon became apparent that he did not have the pace to do anything about it.
Button became the first man to pit from tenth place on lap twelve, with Felipe Massa in next time around, though the home hero would unfortunately find his challenge destroyed by having to come back in again the following lap to rectify a cross-threaded wheel nut on his right-front wheel. Barrichello was similarly delayed in his own stop as a flurry of pit-lane activity ensued.