Sunday, December 2, 2012

Button Best in Wet and Wild Brazilan Grand Prix Finale for F1

Photo source: Pirelli Photo Service

After 19 races of action and surprises in 2012, the Formula 1 season concludes with 71 laps at the Brazilian Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace track formerly known as Interlagos.

The season finale, the Brazilan Grand Prix would be an event where several endings. Not only are some drivers fighting for their Formula 1 racing careers into 2013, the 2012 Grand Prix of Brazil will be the last event before Michael Schmacher hangs up his Formula 1 racing helmet. Lewis Hamilton will be driving in his final race with McLaren-Mercedes after six seasons that included the 2008 World Driver's Championship in Formula 1. Hamilton will become part of the Mercedes GP team in 2013.

On route to making a last race with his McLaren F1 team memorable, Lewis Hamilton captured pole on Saturday. Able to qualify on a dry track, the main event Sunday brought in the lingering rain showers that resided in the area's forecast. A very light precipitation just barely moistening the racetrack, the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix grid was assembled with all cars riding on Pirelli slick tires.

As the lights went out over the grid to start the finale of the 2012 Formula 1 season, Lewis Hamilton achieved the ideal launch to hold the lead through the first corners. Behind Hamilton's McLaren, a sizable amount of positions changed lead by a storming start by Ferrari's Felipe Massa who shot from fifth to second immediately.

Photo Source: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic

On the first lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, it would become instantly apparent that grip (as well as patience) were at a premium in this final 2012 event. A championship-defining moment occurred in turn four. Colliding with the Williams-Renault of Bruno Senna, Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull-Renault was spun out of the formation of cars. Able to keep the engine going, Vettel was able to resume with concern mounting for potential damage to his racecar. Wounded by damage to the rear part of the side pod, Vettel's Red Bull race machine continued to compete. However, as of the second lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the driver's championship advantage had toppled toward Fernando Alonso.

While the early race troubles could have been a sure thing for Fernando Alonso's first championship for Ferrari, the Brazilian Grand Prix proved challenging to the Spaniard. On lap 5, Alonso overshot turn 1 losing his then-third place position on track. The race would not be an easy one for the Ferrari driver assuring that the 2012 World Championship is still up for grabs between the two track combatants.    

Photo source: Nissan/Infiniti

Rain intensified over the top of the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace race course eventually leading most teams to pit for intermediate tires. While some Formula 1 teams attempted to gain track position by staying out on the racetrack, the rain saturated the course to the point regular slick tires became ineffective. While Brazilian Grand Prix was tolerable to run on dry weather Pirellis during the first half of the event, all remaining vehicles were running intermediate or full wet weather tires.

The safety car came out at lap 24 when a shredded tire on the Mercedes GP driven by Nico Rosberg littered debris on the track surface. Returning to the pit lane on lap 30, Nico Hulkenberg's Force India-Mercedes was leading by virtue of making one fewer pit stop at the time. In third place on lap 31, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton was working his way back to the first place spot. Passing teammate Jenson Button for second, Hamilton set sights on Hulkenberg. As the Brazilian track become more saturated by rain, Lewis Hamilton's on intermediate tires would close in the leading Force India. The McLaren of Hamilton would eventually get the better of Nico Hulkenberg on lap 48 retaking the top spot.

Attempting to retake the lead, Nico Hulkenberg would mount a charge against Lewis Hamilton. With a first-ever victory for the Force India team possible, Hulkenberg pushed a little too hard on lap 54. Making a daring pass attempt, the Force India driver collided with the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton when Hulkenberg's car slipped. The accident terminally damaged the McLaren-Mercedes of Hamilton resulting in retirement in his last race for the team. Nico Hulkenberg was able to continue racing but collected a drive-through penalty from FIA stewards.

Assuming the lead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Jenson Button was able to control the pace of the race until lap 70 when the safety car was deployed a second time when the Force India-Mercedes driven by Paul di Resta had a frightening high-speed collision in the 15th turn corner of the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace circuit. As the Force India driver fortunately climbed out of his car after striking the wall several times, the field were guided by the safety car through the debris field.

Crossing the finish line at a slower than race pace, Jenson Button collected the win at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Button's 15th career victory in Formula 1, he'll have roughly four months to relish the victory until the 2013 season starts with new teammate Sergio Perez.

After a difficult grand prix, Fernando Alonso scored second place in the Brazilian race finishing ahead of Felipe Massa's pleasing third in front of his home country. Collecting 18 points, Alonso would learn that his podium finish would not be enough for the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship. Crossing the finish line in sixth, Sebastian Vettel's wounded Red Bull-Renault carried the German to what would be a narrow three-point advantage in the final standings. 

Photo source: Pirelli Photo Service

Becoming the youngest three-time Formula 1 champion ever, Sebastian Vettel fought hard throughout this season. While his struggles were more prevalent in the first half of 2012, Vettel's four-straight victories allowed him to thunder by Fernando Alonso in the points. “It’s difficult to imagine what goes through my head now, I am so full of adrenalin. "It was an incredible race. Everything that could have happened to make it more difficult for us today, happened!", said the Red Bull Racing driver. Sebastian Vettel added, "I got turned around in Turn 4 for no reason and was heading the wrong way; so I had to get straight and was lucky no one hit me. The car was damaged and we lost speed in straights, even more as it dried up, but fortunately it started to rain again. All weekend people tried to push us in a certain direction and said if it rained it would be harder for us, but we have proven today that we like rain conditions as much as the dry. I am very, very happy".

In the late laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel successfully battled against country-mate and seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher. Schumacher was one of the first drivers to congratulate the new three-time champion. Michael Schumacher himself, driving in his final Formula 1 race, finished seventh at Brazil in a season where collecting points in the Mercedes GP car was difficult.

Rounding out the top-10 for the Brazilian Grand Prix included the Toro Rosso-Ferrari piloted by Jean-Eric Vergne, Kamui Kobayashi driving for Sauber and Kimi Raikkonen. With Lewis Hamilton's retirement from the Brazilian Grand Prix due to an accident, the Lotus F1 team driver Raikkonen held onto third in the overall series driver's points. The points finish combined with a win in Abu Dhabi has served as a strong return by the Finnish driver who returned to Formula 1 after two seasons away.

Outside of the points but ultimately strong results for their teams, Vitaly Petrov brought some Caterham-Renault to a notable 11th place while the Marussia-Cosworth wheeled by Charlie Pic scored 12th. Two of the three teams that entered the Formula 1 series in 2010, Caterham and Marussia remain unable to score a constructor point on the tour. The third team, HRT F1, is actually facing hard financial times at the conclusion of the 2012 season. 

Receiving under four months to develop new cars and acclimate themselves for another year of competition, the 2013 Formula 1 season is slated to start in Australian March 17th.

2012 Formula 1
Brazilian Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Constructor
1 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
3 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
5 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
6 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
7 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
8 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
9 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
10 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
11 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
12 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
13 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
14 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
15 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
16 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
17 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
18 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1
19 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
20 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
21 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
22 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
23 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
24 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari

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