Mat Coch writes:
2012 World champion Sebastian Vettel has admitted the Brazilian Grand Prix was the most difficult of his career to date.
Starting fourth the Red Bull driver made a reasonable get away, but found himself on the defensive as the field rounded the first corner. Slipping down the order, by turn four he was mired in the midfield, turning in to Bruno Senna and spinning in front of the oncoming field.
"That was probably the toughest race ever, but we just kept believing," said Vettel after the race. "People tried dirty tricks and some things really were beyond the limit, but we didn't let them distract us and just gave a big push until the end."
With a reputation as a gleeful winner but a sore loser Vettel won himself no favours by suggesting he was an innocent victim of the first lap incident with Senna. "When you get turned around at Turn 4 like that for no apparent reason it's not the most comfortable feeling. I was quite lucky that nobody hit me," said the 25-year-old.
The German had swept from the outside of the circuit in to the apex, leaving the Brazilian nowhere to go. Contact was inevitable and, in the eyes of many, a result of Vettel failing to leave room.
Rejoining last, with damage to his car's exhaust, Vettel's race became one of damage limitation as he fought to save his world championship chances. Battling his way through the field by lap ten he was in sixth place, though a stop for intermediate tyres dropped him back down the order and forced him to work his way through the field once more.
Pre-race predictions suggested rain would favour Alonso, however Vettel suggests his charge from the back of the pack puts paid to the suggestion that he is not equally strong in wet conditions. "After about ten or twenty laps I was fourth or fifth and right behind Fernando," he argued. "People have tried to say it wouldn't work out for us if it rained, but we've proven that we like the wet as much as the dry."
There were fears Vettel could be the subject of a post-race appeal by Ferrari, television footage appearing to show the German passing Kamui Kobayashi under yellow flags. However Ferrari technical director Pat Fry confirmed after the race it had no intention of appealing, believing the pass happened under red-and-yellow 'oil' flags, a suggestion confirmed by driver turned commentator Martin Brundle.
"I've spoken with Gary Connolly, one of the race stewards, and he has confirmed that they were red-and-yellow boards," Brundle told Sky Sports F1. "Didn't look much like that from the somewhat grainy and rainy onboard footage."
Vettel eventually finished sixth, enough to claim his third consecutive championship by three points from Fernando Alonso. But while the German may have claimed a hat-trick of championships, for some the Spaniard was the man of the year, wrestling a less competitive Ferrari to second in both drivers' and constructors' championships.
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