Pit Stop – Interlagos Delights- By Lewis Brearley

Sports events are often hyped up and promoted as the greatest thing that’s happening in the world and often they disappoint. This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix was one of those rare events that lived up to the hype however, the Interlagos circuit once again providing a gripping title finale.

Over seven million people tuned into an amazingly engaging race packed with constantly changing incidents, overtaking and mixed weather conditions, enhanced by the championship prize which swung back and forth between the two title protagonists throughout before Sebastian Vettel crossed the finishing line to clinch his historic third championship.

A mist of drizzle descended as the grid lined up on the pit straight and everybody was on dries. A slippy, treacherous opening lap was a given.

The championship was supposed to be Vettel’s to lose, with Alonso a rank outsider in need of a near-miracle to snatch the title away, his hopes hinging on a Red Bull alternator failure or rain induced crash.

This near-miracle actually happened on the first lap. Vettel got a poor start and was squeezed at the first corner by his team mate, Mark Webber. He was then left in the swarming midfield where he cut across Bruno Senna’s unsighted Williams, knocking him into a spin.

Taking a further knock from Senna, a hefty one, his car was lifted into the air. As Vettel’s car clattered back down to the asphalt facing in the direction of the run off area it seemed as though Alonso’s dreams had come true, and all he had to do was keep it on the black stuff and finish in the top three.

Yet a Brazilian grand prix is never that simple. The Spanish matador was caught out on lap five by the greasy surface at turn one and was forced to take the run-off, which allowed Nico Hulkenberg – thriving in these conditions – through to third behind the two McLarens.

Meanwhile Vettel was using his skills and panache to storm up the order. He was 13th by lap five and it suddenly appeared as though Ferrari would be wise to pause their early celebrations.

But back on the Red Bull pit wall Adrian Newey was concerned. He was analysing a snapshot of the sidepod and floor of Vettel’s car which showed the severity of the damage inflicted in Vettel’s shunt. The floor was cracked and even more worryingly for the design guru the exhaust itself was split.

This is where the irony of the situation became apparent. Ferrari had been praying for rain as their only hope of mixing up the race and dampening Red Bull’s pace advantage over the Scuderia. However the rain was now having the opposite effect in saving Vettel, the lower speeds enforced by the damp track meaning less stress for that damaged exhaust. The chances of him reaching the end increased but it was still not certain and challenges lay in wait: the rain was intensifying and the Red Bull’s radio had broken, meaning the team could no longer hear their driver.

On lap 55 this problem caused a heap of worry. As Vettel pitted for full wets his team were unprepared and no tyres were ready. An agonising 11 second pit stop ensued, dropping the German to tenth.

Vettel now needed to overtake to take the title. That he did, passing a spinning Kamui Kobayashi then receiving the huge honour of being let-through by the usually indomitable Michael Schumacher for sixth place, which with Alonso second, was good enough for the title.

When an ecstatic Vettel jumped out of his glorious Red Bull RB8 in parc ferme, he embraced his fellow multiple world champion countryman, Schumacher. The torch was passed and a classic season had reached its deserving epic conclusion.

 

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