Formula One arrives in Sao Paulo this weekend for the final Grand Prix of the 2012 season. Nine months ago the action got underway on the streets of Melbourne in Australia and since then we’ve had eight different drivers winning with six different teams. Now there is just one race remaining, and the eventual champion is still undecided. Will it be the irrepressible Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari, or will, for the third year in a row, the unstoppable Sebastian Vettel prove to be the ultimate victor?
There’s no doubt the advantage currently lies with the Red Bull driver; he is 13 points ahead of Alonso with just 25 left to play for. The Spaniard faces an uphill struggle of almost insurmountable odds to clinch the crown, but he may draw inspiration from his own defeat in 2007. That year, he and Lewis Hamilton were duelling for the title at this very track, the famed Interlagos circuit, when both hit trouble. In the end, it was the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen who snuck through to take the race victory and the World Championship. Considering Raikkonen had hardly been seen as a factor before that race, Alonso must realise he is in an even better position than many imagine him to be.
While Vettel easily possesses the fastest car on the grid, it is also relatively fragile. The German retired from both the European and Italian Grand Prix earlier this year thanks to alternator failures, while teammate Mark Webber suffered a similar fate last time out in Austin – in comparison Alonso’s Ferrari has proved one of the most reliable machines of the year. However, it is almost totally incapable of defeating the Red Bull RB8 in a straight fight thanks to the magnificence of the Adrian Newey designed machine; the RB8 can trace its origins back to the dominant RB5 car of the 2009 season. Such was the brilliance of that car it has been the basis of every Red Bull-fielded entry since. The F2012 in comparison, has been hailed as ‘the most ugly’ of any of the stepped-nose machines introduced for the 2012 season. It doesn’t look like a winner, but in Alonso’s hands it has racked up three wins and is now the only obstacle between Vettel and that elusive third title crown.
For Alonso to win, he has to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel, let’s be clear about that. Not only does he have to beat Vettel, he has to hope the German doesn’t make it on to the podium. If Alonso manages to pull off a win, Vettel has to finish 5thor lower for the Ferrari man to take home the crown. A look through the permutations shows that Alonso’s chances are seemingly slim on paper, but the double World Champion will do everything in his power to overcome the points difference.
Unlike the previous four or five races, it really will be decided one way or another this weekend – immaterial of which other drivers get between the two protagonists, either Vettel or Alonso will walk away with the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship on Sunday afternoon.
‘I know it will be very tough, but I and all of us believe we can do it,” says Ferrari boss Luca Di Montezemolo.
‘Now we go to Sao Paolo with the will to win, knowing we will fight for it right to the last kilometre of the last lap of the race.’
Elsewhere on the grid, the final race marks a significant milestone for a couple of the sport’s other competitors. Britain’s Lewis Hamilton will drive in his last Grand Prix for Mclaren, having entered Formula One with the team in 2007. The sport will also wave goodbye to Michael Schumacher, who is retiring (for the second time) at the end of the season, and many of his fans will be hoping he can turn in a good performance to end an incredible career that has given him a record seven World Championship titles.
71 laps of the 2.6 miles Interlagos circuit await, a distance of 190 miles. When the chequered flag falls, someone will be celebrating. But who will it be?
Let’s hope the 2012 World Championship ends in a manner befitting what has been an incredible year of motorsport.
For more F1 news and reviews, visit my blog at https://antfrench.wordpress.com/