Vettel: 'Everything that could go wrong, did'
26 November 2012
Sebastian Vettel might be waking up on Monday as a triple world champion, but he'll know all too well that the season could have ended very differently for him during the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
"I think everything that could go wrong went wrong," said Vettel. "Just look at the stuff that went wrong. It's hard enough if you lose radio communication for a start in these circumstances, because if there are any circumstances where you really need to talk, it's these.
"Then we got turned around, the car was damaged since lap one, we were dead last, we came again; we came back, changeable conditions all the time, we did a stop for nothing which cost 20-22 seconds and had to come in again when it started to rain the lap after. But still we finished sixth."
Just seconds after the start of the race at Interlagos, he had run into Bruno Senna and was spun 180 degrees at turn 4 with serious damage to the Red Bull's sidepod and underfloor. It could have been the end of the day for him, and the end of his championship hopes right there and then.
"I got the hit in turn 4 for no reason. I don't know what happened," said Vettel, talking of that heart-stopping moment. "[Senna] was probably fighting someone into turn four. It was drizzling since the start of the formation lap and it was quite slippery in turn four, we knew that. Maybe he forgot ... I was the car that he used to stop himself. They didn't help us."
That left the Red Bull facing the wrong way into oncoming traffic, and Vettel fearing a second impact at any moment that would have ended his day for good.
"I had a lot of cars coming and I was in the wrong way. I went off the brakes, because obviously everyone was going in this direction and to join them, I tried to roll down hill and avoid cars driving backwards and we kept the car damage to a limit."
After escaping any further collisions, Vettel managed to get underway again. He proceeded to nurse the wounded car around another 70 laps to get to the finish in sixth place despite clearly struggling for pace at times.
"Obviously we could see in the dry conditions later on that the pace wasn't there," he admitted. "I was obviously slow down the straights, which made it very easy for others to pass us and very difficult for us to pass someone.
"I was stuck behind Kamui but we were nowhere on the straights," he continued. "Also our tyres were suffering and we were not quick enough to fight, to go through the field because the car was damaged. I looked at the floor [after the finish] and it didn't look nice."
And that wasn't the end of it: along with the worsening conditions, Vettel also lost the ability to speak to his pit wall over the team radio, although he could still hear them. That led to confusion and miscommunication when it came to a crucial mid-race pit-stop.
"With the damage on the car, losing radio, in these conditions, when communication is so crucial," he agreed. "Stopping just a lap too early, not having the tyres ready because communication wasn't there.
"We probably did the pit stop at the wrong time," he continued. "I went on another set of dries; a lap later it started to rain. Came in for inters, the inters weren't ready because we had no radio communication, they couldn't hear me."
That cost him a lot of time, but was nonetheless the right call as the conditions deteriorated with the rain picking up in the latter stages of the race. The inclement weather also helped level the playing field and reduced the performance deficit of the damaged Red Bull.
"We obviously caught back up in the wet in intermediate conditions," agreed Vettel. "In wet conditions I think you can make up a little bit of time here and there ... You can make up for the loss of car pace that you have by probably driving a different line and trying to do something different to others.
"We had our hands full to keep the car on the track," he added. "It was very very difficult to drive the car. I was very aggressive and snapping quite a lot, so I lost the rears many times. Fortunately stayed on track most of the time!"
The race came to a premature end when Paul di Resta had a big crash two laps from the finish, which put the safety car out - but Vettel still hadn't been sure at that point where he was or where Alonso was positioned.
"I didn't know where I was for most of the time," he admitted. "Obviously I saw which position I was in on the pit board but I didn't know where Fernando was. To make out whether it was enough or not, I needed to where he was but that was not the main focus for the whole race.
"I saw the crash between Nico and Hamilton, obviously retiring, so Hulkenberg and Hamilton out of the race," Vettel explained. "I knew that Fernando was ahead, and they were ahead of him at the time that I could see during the first safety car, so I didn't know.
"To limp home, under the [second] safety car - obviously at that moment I didn't know if it was enough," said Vettel. "I was told a couple of laps before that it should be fine, but then I didn't know."
And then the word had come from team principal Christian Horner: it was indeed enough, and Vettel was now a three-time champion, even if he wasn't able to clinch the title with a podium as he'd been hoping for.
"Sixth is still a very good result," he pointed out. "Some races this year we would have been happy to finish sixth, so we can be very happy with that, and obviously it happened to be the last race and the championship decider and it went in our favour."
And whatever the end position, the championship had certainly been decided in a thrilling season finale for all concerned.
"I think you guys had your show, we had to really fight until the end," said the 2012 world champion.