Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing survives a crash with Bruno Senna, Williams at the start of the race
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.