Vettel: Brazilian race summed up year
3 December 2012
Sebastian Vettel reckons that his successful 2012 F1 campaign was epitomised by the Interlagos finale that eventually decided the destiny of the title.
The German went into the 20th race of the season leading lone rival Fernando Alonso by 13 points, but only qualified on row two and then found himself in the midst of the pack after a sluggish start. Almost inevitably, he was then spun around after appearing to close the door on Bruno Senna between turns three and four, and was lucky to survive a second impact from the Brazilian's Williams after Sergio Perez also became involved in the melee.
While his two assailants both retired with cars damaged beyond repair, Vettel was able to return to the fray, although his left-hand sidepod had taken a battering and caused a few headaches for Adrian Newey and the team on the pit-wall as they feared for the car's reliability.
Somehow, the damaged exhaust and surrounding ancillaries held together for the remaining 70 laps and, despite making four pit-stops for tyres as the weather changed during the race, Vettel was able to recover to sixth place. With Alonso only making it as far as second place, the eight points the German gained were enough to ensure the championship remained in his possession.
"Waking up on Sunday in Brazil, obviously I didn't expect so many things would happen,” he told the audience as he picked up the International Driver of the Year trophy at the end-of-year Autosport Awards in London, “I think the season was summed up in that race. It didn't go as planned...”
Admitting that 'it was a horrible feeling to see cars coming one way and me going the other' and then not knowing how much damage his RB8 had sustained, Vettel reflected on 2012 as a whole and, in particular, the 44-point mountain that he had to overcome to beat Alonso to the crown.
"I think it was a long, long year of ups and downs," he noted, "In the beginning, I didn't have a car I liked - it was competitive in the race but, in qualifying, it was difficult for me to find that extra step – and, at the end of the season, we got more comfortable and it felt better.”
The contrasts of Vettel's year were symbolised by the alternator failures that put him out of strong positions in the European and Italian grands prix, and the four successive victories that followed the Monza race and, allied with Alonso's opening lap retirement at Suzuka, put him in control of the points table.
“Obviously, we had some tough luck early in the season but, in the end, we scored some big points and were in the lead,” he confirmed.
While Alonso is already looking forward to renewing his challenge next season, he can be certain that he will face opposition from Vettel, who revealed that his build-up had already started, albeit inadvertently.
"I had a very good night after the [final] race, but felt so bad the next morning that I thought I had to go to the gym to get rid of it, so it's started all over again," he smiled.
Vettel has already been back in the RB8 since Interlagos, taking to the streets of Graz to celebrate with his and Red Bull Racing's fans. Not content with simply doing a few runs around the town square, however, the German then slapped a road licence onto the engine cover and blasted the car down the public highway to the nearby Red Bull Ring – a venue he hopes to see return to the F1 schedule.
“I was at the inauguration and had the chance to drive there,” he told Austria's laola1.at website, “The track is completely F1 compatible, so I don't know why we don't go there. For [Red Bull], it would be great for it to be our home grand prix.”