F1: Button takes victory in wet Sao Paulo thriller as Vettel is crowned 2012 World Champion
Sao Paulo, November 25, 2012 – Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has claimed his third consecutive world title – making him the youngest-ever triple world champion – after a dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix, while McLaren’s Jenson Button took his third win of the season. Vettel stopped four times en route to a sixth place finish, having lost time with a spin and sustained damage following contact with another competitor on the opening lap.
All the drivers started on the medium tyre apart from Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus), who began on the hard tyre. The race started in ambient temperatures of 19 degrees with light drizzle, but the rain intensified during the first 10 laps. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen was the first to pit for intermediates, on lap five, followed progressively by many other drivers all the way down the field.
Button, who claimed an early lead from second on the grid, stayed out on the medium tyres while the rain fell. The different strategies shook up the established order: the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen running as high as sixth overall, ahead of the Marussia of Timo Glock in seventh – who also both remained on the slicks until laps 15 and 14 respectively.
Jenson Button-Winner – “Everyone who took part in today’s race deserves respect – it was crazy out there! The conditions were always going to trigger plenty of action, because some cars could generate the required tyre temperatures and others couldn’t. So, for most of the race, you were on a tyre that didn’t feel quite right for the conditions, but for which the lap-times looked okay compared with those of the cars on the other tyre. I spent so much time speaking on the radio to my engineer, Dave [Robson], trying to understand what was going to work and what wasn’t. I had a lot of fun racing with Lewis, especially for the first 10 laps. We had a really good, clean fight. It’s a pity he wasn’t still there at the end – but it was nice to have such a great dice with him in our last race as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team-mates. And I really want to say this: ‘It’s been so good working with you, Lewis. Over the past few years, we’ve driven a lot of great races together. It’s been fab. Going back to the subject of today’s race, the Safety Car made life more difficult for us – we lost the 40-second buffer we’d built up – but then the rain really came down, and the race became all about choosing the best time to switch to the Inters. Then the challenge altered, and it became all about nursing the car to the end. There was a lot of standing water about, especially where Paul [di Resta] had his accident. I’d been through there on the previous lap and had a big snap too, which was a pretty scary moment. Last but not least, congratulations to Sebastian [Vettel]. To win three world championships in a row is a great achievement.”
When the safety car came out for 10 laps, Button pitted on lap 23 for hard tyres while the track still remained damp as the rain eased off. In the closing stages of the race, the rain returned with a vengeance, meaning that it was no longer possible to stay out on the slicks.
On lap 50 Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg went onto the intermediates, while Vettel stopped for medium tyres on lap 52 and then two laps later for intermediates as the rain fell harder. On lap 57 Button made his second and final stop onto intermediate tyres without losing the lead. Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Kovalainen ended the race on the full wet tyre.
Fernando Alonso- Second: “I score this season a 10! If we had to repeat these twenty races I would change nothing done by the team or yours truly: no mistakes, no mechanical problems, zero problems at the pit stops, zero strategic mistakes. We definitely did not lose the title today, as that happened in Spa or Suzuka. We might not have finished the season with the most points, but we won many other things, like everyone’s respect and fans and colleagues agree on who was the best this year. I am proud of the job I did and that was also the case last year when I finished fourth and again this time when I fought right to the very end. Today is very different to Abu Dhabi: then, there was the frustration of an opportunity missed, whereas here we did our utmost race after race. I feel happy inside: I worked day after day with the team, which pays me at the end of every month and today, they can be proud of what they’ve done. Once again today we did an impeccable job, finishing on the podium after starting from the fourth row, producing yet another little Sunday miracle. The team kept me constantly updated about Vettel and, towards the end, I was hoping something might happen to him or Button which would allow us to reach our goal. It didn’t happen and we must accept the result delivered on the race track. What to ask from the team for 2013? That’s easy, a quicker car, but most of all I’d like to see the same effort and professionalism the team displayed when it reacted to our initial difficulties. Even if maybe we didn’t manage to reach the performance level of the best, everyone demonstrated total dedication. I repeat, I am happy and proud and now’s the time to drink a caipirinha!”
Vettel’s tyre strategy consisted of starting on the medium tyre, switching to the intermediate, then to the hard, then to the medium, and finally to the intermediate again. His title rival Fernando Alonso, who needed to finish at least third with Vettel 10th or lower to claim the championship, made one less stop: starting on the medium, then to the intermediate, then to the medium, then to the intermediate again.
The regulations state that drivers have to use both slick compounds during the race unless they have used either the intermediate or wet tyre. Button was the only finisher to stop just twice: all the others made at least one more stop.
Felipe Massa-Third: “It was very emotional for me to jump up on the podium at my home race. I cried like a baby, thinking back to how difficult this season has been for me, disastrous at first and then very competitive in the last part. Fernando should be proud of what he has done this year: he was able to win when the car was not perfect and fought right to the end, even if his car was not a match for those of his rivals. His championship has been truly spectacular! We too must also be proud of what we have done. Today’s race was very close fought and difficult and so many things happened. It was not easy to work out what was the right tyre as the conditions changed so quickly. At the start, when it began to rain, we had opted to stay out on track, but we did so for too long. Then, I found myself down in eleventh, but I began to go very quickly and overtake a lot of drivers. Who knows, maybe I could even have been in the hunt for the win today…The team kept me informed all the time about what the situation was on track and on what could be useful to do in the fight for the championship: I think I did the right thing, for my team and also for my fans.”