Formula One
Formula 1 finale

Crowning the Formula 1 champion: Alonso and Vettel set for Brazilian showdown

Crowning the Formula 1 champion: Alonso and Vettel set for Brazilian showdown

Austin Photo: anthony_formula 1 Brazil_nov 2012_grand prix
The Grand Prix of Brazil

Now that Austin has been inaugurated onto the multi-cultural global bandwagon that is the Formula One circus, it’s only fair that you dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts and newcomers alike are kept ‘in the loop’ as part of the ever-growing Formula One family!

Just one week since the race in Austin, the Brazilian circuit of Interlagos in downtown Sao Paulo will host the Grand Prix of Brazil, the F1 season finale. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso go head-to-head for the greatest prize in motorsport — the 2012 FIA Formula One Drivers World Championship.

The two men, spearated by just 13 points, have done battle on five different continents and remain the only two left standing, with drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Mark Webber having fallen by the wayside.

"I and all of us believe we can do it. Now we go to Sao Paolo with the will to win, knowing we will fight for it right to the last kilometre of the last lap of the race." 

Speaking in the customary pre-race press conference, the title rivals summed up their expectations as the season draws to a close. "I think the circuit seemed to suit our car in previous years." said championship leader Vettel.  "I think we need to confirm it. So all eyes on Friday, to start the weekend, to get into the groove, but I think we can be as confident as we could in this stage."

Fernando Alonso knows that a large slice of luck needs to fall his way if he is to take the title from under the Red Bull driver’s nose. "I think we need to try to do a normal weekend, try to score as many points as we can, obvious it will be good to be [on] the podium and score a minimum 15 points and then when we cross the line we see where Sebastian is and we try to do some numbers after that. The first priority for us is to be in the podium...then we need to wait obviously for the results from Red Bull because it is not in our hands."

Alonso is clearly being coy. While a podium finish puts on the pressure, Ferrari knows that if Vettel finishes in fourth place or better, he wins the championship, even if Alonso wins the race.

Despite this, team matriarch Luca Di Montezemolo was upbeat about the Spaniard’s chances of taking his first crown since 2006. "I know it will be very tough, but I and all of us believe we can do it. Now we go to Sao Paolo with the will to win, knowing we will fight for it right to the last kilometre of the last lap of the race." Ferrari came agonizingly close in 2010 when Alonso led the championship by eight points heading to the final round in Abu Dhabi, only to lose the title to Vettel by virtue of a flawed strategy call.

The Sao Paulo circuit, venue for the 20th and last race of the season, is an undulating counter-clockwise track that will be hosting the 41st Grand Prix of Brazil.

With an uneven surface and fifteen challenging corners linked by high speed straights, the cars always struggle to last the distance at this track. Historically Interlagos has hosted many World Championship deciders, Alonso in 2005 and 2006, Raikkonen in 2007, Hamilton in 2008 and Button in 2009 so it is no stranger to the situation it finds itself in this weekend.

The vocal Brazilian crowd only ever have eyes for their home heroes, most notable of which at present is veteran Felipe Massa. Although he has struggled since returning from his horrific qualifying accident at the Hungaroring in 2009, Massa has won here before both in 2006 and 2008 and voiced his intention to make it a third victory this weekend. Given his recent upturn in form his threat must be taken seriously.

 Nothing short of a Red Bull failure could assure Alonso of the championship this weekend. 

Equally Lewis Hamilton, the winner in Austin, wants to end his Mclaren career on a high; the 2008 Champion is due to move to rivals Mercedes for 2013 and will be leaving the team that nurtured him since his earliest days in karts back in the mid-nineties. Michael Schumacher will also want to bring down the curtain on his illustrious career with a solid result, and while winning probably isn’t on his radar some points wouldn’t go amiss as Mercedes struggles to maintain 5th place in the constructors championship.

Returning to the title protagonists Vettel and Alonso, nothing short of a Red Bull failure could assure Alonso of the championship this weekend. To overcome the 13 point gap the Ferrari driver not only has to beat Vettel, he has to make sure he is on the podium to score no less than 15 points. Even if he manages the podium, he must hope Vettel places 5th or lower in order to clinch the deal.

Alonso’s only advantage lies in his slightly superior strategic mind and his faith in the Ferrari F2012 car. While the Red Bull RB8 has proved fast, it has also proved more unreliable with the alternator being the main focus of concern as proven by Mark Webber’s early retirement in Austin.

Should Vettel retire it’s hard to imagine Alonso won’t make it on to the podium, but in light of this it’s also easy to anticipate the Mclaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton might get themselves mixed up in the championship fight as unwitting pawns. While Felipe Massa and Mark Webber are, to an extent, at the disposal of their teammates and under the control of their teams, Mclaren are a completely rogue element and could yet affect the championship outcome.

Oh, and then there’s that ‘rain storm of ‘biblical’ proportions forecast for Sunday as well. That could make things interesting.

71 laps of the Interlagos circuit, a distance of 190 miles, will decide the World’s greatest driver of 2012.

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The Grand Prix of Brazil starts Sunday at 9:30 a.m. CT and will be aired live on Speed TV.