Button and Vettel the winners on one amazing day


On the back cover of the programme for the 1993 Belgian Grand Prix, was an advert for Marlboro cigarettes.

The picture didn't feature a cowboy or a cool looking guy whose lifestyle we might aspire to. No, instead it featured a picture of Ayrton Senna in the cockpit of his Marlboro McLaren Ford.

Deep in thought, his eyes closed and hands firmly together as if in prayer, above the Brazilian were the words… "Let it rain, let it rain". It didn't, but the Brazilian still brought an uncompetitive car home in fourth almost 100s behind race winner Damon Hill.

One imagines that this scene, or something pretty similar, has been echoed in various hotel rooms, motor homes and cockpits this morning.

On the podium in Austin last week we had Lewis, Seb and Fernando in Stetsons, who's to say that at least one of them wasn't wearing native American head dress last night, calling on the rain gods and dancing around their hotel rooms?

Heading into the race today the title contenders insist that it's like any other, just another race. Poppycock! It's the title decider, and either Seb or Fernando will become the youngest three-time champion in the sport's history. That alone makes it special.

It's a pretty special day for Lewis also as he bids farewell to a team that he's been involved with for almost fifteen years. At Mercedes, Michael bids farewell to F1 for the second time, while Kamui, Bruno, Heikki, Vitaly, Narain and Pedro also look set to be heading off to pastures new. Indeed, at HRT, it is said that the operation will grind to a halt within the next twenty-four hours.

As if that isn't enough, it looks as though F1 is saying goodbye to F1 doc Gary Hartstein, the man who stepped into Sid Watkins very large shoes to find they fitted him perfectly.

It's been a great season, especially the opening stages as the teams struggled to fully understand the 2012 Pirelli rubber. Then there's been Fernando's mastery in a car he flattered to deceive, not forgetting the fight back from Seb, and that amazing streak that saw him re-enter the championship fight with a vengeance.

But for poor reliability, the mistakes of other and a few of his own, what might Lewis have been able to achieve, while Kimi proves that there is life after retirement.

With this in mind, after a cracking season, let's hope we get a race that lives up to the occasion, a race that sends us into the winter relishing the resumption of hostilities next March.

On the face of it, the title is Seb's to lose. With a 13 point advantage, Fernando must finish on the podium with his German rival finishing as low down the order as possible depending on which step the Spaniard makes it to.

It's a tough call, but as we all know Seb overcame a 15 point deficit at Abu Dhabi in 2010. Talking of which, isn't it only right and proper that Interlagos, a true F1 track in every sense, is the scene of such a showdown, as opposed to one of the ultra modern, but oh so impassionate, creations of Mr Tilke?

While attention, quite rightly is focussed on the title, let's not forget that McLaren wants to snatch runner-up spot in the Constructors' Championship from Ferrari, while Sauber is targeting Mercedes and Williams seeks to close the gap to Force India.

The Constructors' Championship is the one which decides who gets what prize money, the difference between each position worth countless tens of millions of dollars. Which is why there is such rivalry at the back of the field between Marussia and Caterham for tenth, a battle, based on the evidence thus far this weekend, that could end in some on-track silliness. That said, securing tenth for Caterham, and all that lovely money, might be just enough to keep Heikki in his seat for another year. Then again, the Finn deserves better.

Ninety minutes before the start of the race, Ferrari tweets that it would "do 120% to Help Fernando win". With the Italian team ruling out a repeat of its Austin gearbox shenanigans, and unable to rely on the weather gods, one wonders what it might have up its sleeve. One option, of course, is to use Felipe as a 'spoiler', the Brazilian having been very quick this weekend, to the extent of out-qualifying his teammate for only the third time this season.

The drivers line-up for the end of term photograph, a nice touch being that the six world champions are seated at the front.

Showing signs of frustration, around an hour before 'kick-off', Ferrari tweets again: "No rain expected during the race. After one week of unanimous forecasts for a rainy Sunday we will have a dry race."

As the pitlane opens, temperatures have dropped and the sky has darkened, the sunshine giving way to the smiles in the Ferrari garage.

Schumacher drives to the grid holding a chequered flag in tribute to his many fans. Over the radio he thanks his team for its support, the emotion in his voice obvious.

On the grid, Bernie Ecclestone insists that it's just another race, the F1 supremo insisting that he doesn't want rain… interestingly, it is noticeable that the Englishman's nose is around fifteen inches longer than usual.

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap the air temperature is 19 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees. It is cool, to put it mildly, the air is damp and there is a strong wind. In the grandstands, most of the fans are wearing macs, the locals seemingly know more about the Sao Paulo weather than the team's forecasters.

As ever, the atmosphere is electric, the fans really buzzing. However, their proximity to the track, especially at the start, means that they are louder and (seemingly) more involved than at tracks like Monza.

A close up on Vettel as he prepares to head off shows the spots of rain on the body of the Red Bull. McLaren tweets the light rain will continue for fifteen minutes.

All are on options (medium) other than for Schumacher, Kobayashi and Grosjean who go for the hard.

Hamilton leads the field away on the warm-up lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms, Charlie Whiting watches, his hand hovering over 'the switch'.

They're away, Hamilton leading into the first corner. Alonso almost goes around the outside of Vettel who has a poor start. At T4 Raikkonen run wide, while in a separate incident Vettel is in the middle of the track, which is strewn with debris, facing the wrong way, while Senna and Perez appear to be in trouble. Vettel is able to continue but is dead last.

At the end of lap 1, Hamilton leads Button and as Massa battles Webber for third, in a superb move Alonso takes the pair of them. "I think I have damage," Vettel tells his team. The response is that the car is indeed damaged but they cannot fix it, he is told to continue. "It is not front wing, we cannot fix damage, stay out". As it happens the German has no intention of doing otherwise.

As Hulkenberg passes Webber for fourth, Senna and Perez watch from the side of the track, their race ending in that first lap incident.

Down in twentieth, Vettel goes quickest (21.316).

Replay shows Raikkonen to have run wide at T4 on the first lap after carrying too much speed into the corner and needing to take avoiding action in order to miss Vettel. Meanwhile, the German, who got bogged down at the start, cut across into the path of Senna who had nowhere to go but into the Red Bull spinning it around, Perez also suffering in the ensuing mayhem.

At the end of lap 4 it is raining a little heavier, Alonso runs wide at T1 but only loses one position - to Hulkenberg. Vettel is up to sixteenth.

Raikkonen pits at the end of lap 5, as does Schumacher, the Finn switching to inters. Kobayashi up to eighth as he passes Rosberg.

It's all over for Grosjean who crashes at T11, elsewhere, Hamilton and Button are fighting for the lead. Webber spins at T1 after being hit by Kobayashi.

Phew! After 7 laps, Hamilton leads Button, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Massa, Kobayashi, di Resta and Vettel. Yes Vettel. Moments later, Button takes the lead.

As Hamilton and Button battle, Vettel is a man on a mission. He is all over Kobayashi. "It's a long race, keep your car on the black stuff," he is told. The Japanese, who damaged his front wing when he hit Webber, pits promoting Vettel to sixth.

The two Toro Rossos touch as Schumacher makes his second stop of the afternoon.

At the end of lap 9, Rosberg, Ricciardo and Webber all pit. As he closes on Massa, Vettel is told to be careful, minded that the Brazilian is riding shotgun for his Ferrari teammate.

For the second time, Alonso runs wide at T1.

Alonso and Hamilton pit at the end of lap 10, as do Vettel and di Resta. It was a slow stop for Hamilton, McLaren having made a late call. All switch to inters.

Button, who has stayed out, says it has stopped raining. The 2009 champion currently leads Hulkenberg and Massa.

Petrov, Glock and de la Rosa side by side on the pit straight as they battle for seventh. Kovalainen is running sixth.

Webber lets his teammate by, allowing the German to take fourteenth. Alonso is currently ninth. Rosberg, in thirteenth, isn't quite as obliging.

Out front, Button's pace suggests the Englishman made a good call. Elsewhere, after 13 laps, Karthikeyan and Pic both pit. With Vettel having passed Rosberg, Webber makes short work of the Mercedes shortly after.

"These tyres are going off," says Hamilton, as Glock, Petrov and de la Rosa pit. Elsewhere, Vergne doesn't make things easy for Alonso.

Hulkenberg is all over Button at the front, as Vettel and Webber pass Massa who immediately pits, as do Vergne and Kovalainen.

On the pit-wall, Newey studies a picture of the damage to Vettel's car. Horner looks on nervously.

After 16 laps, Hulkenberg continues to hound Button, Hamilton is third, 15s behind, ahead of Alonso, Vettel, Kobayashi, Webber, Rosberg, di Resta and Ricciardo. The gap between Alonso and Vettel down to 2.4s

Told that he needs to make his tyres last, Hamilton responds: "They're nearly finished".

A mistake heading on to the pit straight sees Button lose out to Hulkenberg, as teammate Hamilton pits for the second time. Alonso also pits, both switching to dry tyres, Hamilton prime and Alonso option.

"Box, box, box," Vettel is told. Sure enough, at the end of lap 19 both Red Bulls head into the pits, as do Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Massa and Glock. Vettel leaves the pits in sixth, just behind Alonso.

On lap 20, as Rosberg heads back to the pits with a puncture, Hamilton posts a personal best lap (21.674). Next time around Hulkenberg posts a new fastest lap (21.175). Vergne, Pic and Karthikeyan all pit.

Alonso complains of debris on the track, no doubt the cause of Rosberg's puncture.

On lap 23 the Safety Car is deployed, to clear the debris, some of which has been there since the first lap. Hulkenberg and Button both pit, the German maintaining the lead as they exit. Both have switched to the harder rubber.

Behind the Safety Car, after 23 laps, it's: Hulkenberg (H), Button (H), Hamilton (H), Alonso (M), Vettel (H), Kobayashi (H), Webber (H), di Resta (H), Ricciardo (H) and Raikkonen (M). Glock is up to twelfth, behind Massa, with Kovalainen sixteenth.

Behind the Safety Car (lap 27) drivers are given permission to un-lap themselves.

On lap 28, Alonso says it is raining in T4, scene of the first lap incident. The FIA monitor suggests there will be "light rain" in fifteen minutes.

At the end of lap 29, the Safety Car pulls off. At the restart Hulkenberg maintains his lead but behind Kobayashi and Webber go either side of Vettel who appeared to be asleep. However the Australian runs wide into T1 and loses a heap of positions dropping to fourteenth.

Next time around a massive lock-up for Hulkenberg going into T1 as Hamilton closes on Button, nailing his teammate on the back straight. Vettel closes on Kobayashi and Massa on di Resta. The Brazilian passes the Scot as does Ricciardo.

Kobayashi makes a great move on Alonso at T4 to take fourth, the Japanese making it clear that he's a force to be reckoned with and deserving of a seat in 2013. Elsewhere, Vettel, as Raikkonen closes on di Resta, is told to be careful and not go off-line.

As Hulkenberg posts a new fastest lap (19.533) Alonso re-takes fourth from Kobayashi. Elsewhere Vettel puts up little resistance as Massa passes to take sixth.

At half-time, it's: Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Kobayashi, Massa, Vettel, Ricciardo, di Resta and Webber. Hulkenberg posts another fastest lap but it is instantly beaten by Hamilton (18.303).

As Massa gets out of shape, Vettel lapping around 0.6 - 08s slower than most of those ahead of him. Like Massa, he gets out of shape heading up the hill, a heart stopping moment for the German.

A brave bit of late braking sees Massa take fifth from Kobayashi, as Button posts a new fastest lap (18.108). Elsewhere, Kovalainen pits. Teammate Petrov is up to thirteenth.

A spin for di Resta almost catches Raikkonen, the Scot losing a number of positions.

An absolutely epic battle between Schumacher and Raikkonen as they fight for tenth, the two side-by-side through the Senna S. Brilliant, brave stuff from the two champions.

Hamilton is advised that he's "in the window", as Vettel's pace begins to improve. Elsewhere, Hamilton is caught unawares by di Resta. Webber passes fellow-Australian Ricciardo to take eighth.

"Keep going, keep going," Hulkenberg is urged, the German appearing to be heading towards a famous victory. That said, Hamilton is just 1.9s down the road.

Ten minutes later than forecast it's raining again. It's only light, but it's still wet.

A big tank-slapper for Webber at T12 as Vettel closes in on Kobayashi. Elsewhere, Hamilton closes to within 1.3s of the race leader.

Petrov spins and Pic is there to pick up the pieces, the Frenchman moving up to thirteenth. Any major incidents and we could see a Marussia or Caterham in the points.

"100% KERS up the hill and 100 out of T3," Vettel is told as his team urges him to pass Kobayashi.

A mistake sees Hulkenberg lose the lead, the German having gone over the treacherously wet kerbs in T8. Hamilton leads with 21 laps remaining.

The FIA monitor claims that the rain is about to cease and that there will be no further showers.

"You radio does not work," Vettel is told, "move you microphone". Easier said than done at 150 mph.

Rosberg and de la Rosa both pit, the German switching to inters. Ricciardo, on the other hand, switches to primes.

As Kobayashi lock-up ahead, Vettel pits, the German switching to options. He rejoins in tenth. Elsewhere, Raikkonen returns to rallying, only to find a gate blocking his way.

As Hulkenberg closes on Hamilton, Raikkonen has another excursion. Hulkenberg and Hamilton collide, the German losing the back end and collecting the McLaren driver. It's all over for Hamilton which promotes Alonso to third.

Vettel pits again, this time for inters, as Massa and Webber also stop. Elsewhere, a massive moment for Alonso who does brilliantly to keep the car on track. It was a disastrous stop for Vettel his team clearly not ready for him.

As Alonso pits at the end of lap 56, Vettel passes Kobayashi to take ninth. Alonso rejoins in fourth, behind his Ferrari teammate.

Hulkenberg is handed a drive-through for the Hamilton incident.

At then end of lap 57, Button pits, as do Ricciardo, Kovalainen, Glock and Karthikeyan.

Hulkenberg serves his penalty and rejoins in fifth. The FIA suggests the "new rain" will last for 20 minutes. In the stands everyone is wearing see-through macs.

Button heads Massa with Alonso third, ahead of Hulkenberg, Webber, Schumacher, Vettel, Kobayashi, Vergne and di Resta. Pic is up to twelfth. Massa, Webber and Schumacher are all on dry tyres.

Hamilton arrives back in the pits, on foot, there are hugs and pats from all his crew.

As Button is asked if he's happy with his tyres, Webber has passed Hulkenberg to take fourth.

On lap 62, Alonso passes his teammate to take second. However, based on the current standings it's not enough to win the title. "Keep it on the track, keep it on the track," the German is told. "Your current position is good enough".

While Alonso is 20.9s behind race leader Button, Vettel is 2s behind Schumacher. Webber, in fourth, is under pressure from Hulkenberg.

It is raining heavily now, the on-board footage as Vettel closes on Schumacher enough to scare the bravest of the brave. The Red Bull driver passes his idol in T4, moving into sixth.

While attention, quite rightly focuses on the title fight, Pic and Petrov are battling for twelfth. The Russian nails the Frenchman going into T1, a move that could be worth millions, though, sadly, it won't save the Russian his seat.

"You're the fastest man on track," Vettel is told, the German having just posted a 26.969.

Di Resta passes Vergne for ninth, small consolation for what it might have been for the Silverstone team.

Not for the first time Vettel is advised that he can back off, the German continuing to push a relentless pace. The German is 15s behind Hulkenberg and really doesn't need to be pushing so hard.

As he starts his 69th lap, a little wobble for Alonso. Kobayashi closes on Schumacher. Moments later the Japanese spins, almost collecting Vergne as he rejoins. Replay shows the Sauber being hit by Schumacher as he made his move.

It's all over for di Resta who has hit the barriers coming out of T14, the Safety Car is deployed.

Having run out of time, the race will end behind the Safety Car, and Vettel becomes the youngest three-time world champion in F1 history.

Behind the leading Mercedes (Safety Car), it's Button, Alonso, Massa, Webber, Hulkenberg, Vettel, Schumacher, Vergne, Kobayashi and Raikkonen.

Petrov finishes eleventh, thereby claiming tenth in the Constructors' Championship for Caterham, ahead of Pic, Ricciardo, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Glock, de la Rosa, Karthikeyan and di Resta.

Not for the first time, the weather gods have provided us with a classic, a race that we will be talking about for some time, a race we will watch again and again, like a good TV show, forgetting what comes next and then being surprised by the ending.

After a classic season it was only right that we got a fitting conclusion and this was certainly it, drama from first to last.

Commiserations to Fernando who, in a car not worthy of his mighty talent, fought to the bitter end. Commiserations also to Lewis, who looked destined to leave the McLaren family on the ultimate high.

However, well done and congratulations to Lewis and Jenson, the latter setting himself up nicely for 2013 when he becomes team leader for the Woking legends, while Vettel gave a virtuoso performance especially when you recall the message he got on the opening lap, the one about being unable to repair his car.

Some brilliant performances today, especially Hulkenberg, though it remains to be seen if some have saved their careers or signed their 'death warrants'.

With twelve weeks before the first of the 2013 tests, many will already be counting off the days, and who can blame them.

One Amazing Day.

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Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 25/11/2012
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