The 2012 Formula One season has been, to use the appropriate internet parlance, epic. The year started in unprecedented and unexpectedly bonkers fashion, with seven different winners from the first seven races including Nico Rosberg’s long overdue trip to the top step of the podium; and what was arguably one of the most popular victories the sport has ever seen, when a chap in Williams overalls took the team’s first win since Juan Pablo ‘Pies’ Montoya’s victory all the way back in 2004.
Once everything settled down after Alonso’s second win of the year at the European Grand Prix, 2012 turned in to a thrilling season of incredible performances and magnificent cock ups. It has been a vintage year.
In the final third of the season in the blue corner, Sebastian Vettel has shown a (pre-2005) Schumacher-esque ability to take the best car on the grid, stick the thing on pole and command a race from the front; and in the red corner Alonso has been awesome in a Ferrari that has never really been the fastest on the grid, maximising every opportunity that presented itself (including several that didn’t) to keep himself in the hunt until the final round. Meanwhile, McLaren has been giving a season-long master class in throwing a season away, effectively denying Lewis this year’s World Championship, mostly with a truly embarrassing pit stop record during first half of the year.
In a year chock full of some of the best races we’ve ever seen, incredible drives, awe-inspiring battles, driving both sublime and ridiculous and a triumphant return to the USA, it has all come down to the final race, in F1-mad Brazil.
And this, my football-loving friends, is what Formula One is all about. This is ‘our’ Premiership showdown: Manchester United vs Manchester City. Full strength teams. Everyone’s as fit as a fiddle. Winner takes all. What a way to end the year.
But this is where it gets a bit dicey: the battle for the 2012 title is not a race between Alonso and Vettel. Every other driver will be on the pitch with them, all looking for the best possible result. Plenty are driving for seats next year and plenty more have nothing to lose, so there’ll be no easy way in to the positions they need for the title contenders. Add the fact that both drivers have a team mate who, if they’re expecting any kind of contract extension, might want to make life difficult for the ‘other’ protagonist, and you have a recipe for, quite frankly, a really chuffing exciting way to finish off your Sunday. And it looks like it’s going to rain too.
There are several permutations for the title, but ultimately if Vettel finishes higher than fifth, the title is his. If Alonso wins and Vettel comes fifth or lower, the Spaniard makes the triple champ mark first.
It’s pretty much an impossible race to call. The head says that the title is all-but Vettel’s. If he can put together another of his flawless weekends he’ll be completely untouchable, but despite his mega drives this year and a smiley demeanour outside the car, he has been known to flip out when things aren’t going his way (see any number of shouty radio transmissions this year), isn’t impervious to pressure (Canada 2011) and still prone to the occasional silly mistake (see nearly running in to the back of Ricciardo under the safety car in Abu Dhabi).
His car, despite being the fastest by some margin, isn’t what you’d call bullet proof either. KERS issues have blighted RBR’s season again while the assumed-to-be-solved Renault alternator problem that put both Grosjean and Vettel out of the European GP, and Vettel out of round 13 in Italy, also sent Mark Webber for an early bath at last weekend’s US Grand Prix. Worrying. Mechanically, Red Bull is on far from solid ground.
His problem is that he's up against Fernando Alonso. The double world-champ has been the very definition of rock-solid, recording just two DNFs this year. One the result of nearly having his head cut off by a flying Lotus and the other following a tussle with Kimi Raikkonen, but none because of mechanical failure and I can’t think of a single mistake the guy has made all year (I’m sure someone in the comments section will prove me wrong). Either way, if Red Bull or Sebastian give Fernando an inch on Sunday, he’ll take a championship. It has been a remarkable year from the man who toppled Schumi, and will surely cement his rightful place amongst the sport’s greatest drivers whether he takes the title or not. Whoever it was at the BBC that put Vettel above Alonso in the Corporation’s list of the sport’s greatest drivers is a lunatic.
So there you have it: I’m not here to make a prediction, simply to give you a bit of context and urge you to watch the race this Sunday. Even if you ‘hate’ Formula One and think it’s ‘boring’, now’s your chance to get hooked. Coverage starts at 3pm on BBC 1 on Sunday (half an hour earlier on Sky Sports F1 HD if you prefer your sporting coverage moronic), so get some roast inside you, get comfy on the sofa with a beer and enjoy what just might be one of the most exciting sporting finales in years…