What Vettel and Alonso need to do to win the title

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2012The 2012 drivers’ championship will be decided in the final race of the year in Brazil.

For contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso the situation is reminiscent of the championship contest between them in Abu Dhabi season finale two years ago.

Then Alonso went into the final race 15 points ahead of Vettel. But it was Vettel who emerged on top.

This time it is Vettel who holds a 13-point lead over Alonso heading into the final round. But there is another significant difference.

On that occasion Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton were also capable of winning the title. Webber went into that race eight points behind Alonso, and the Ferrari driver’s preoccupation with beating him ended up losing him the title to Vettel.

But there will be no split focus for either driver this time. Here’s what they need to do to win the title:

How Sebastian Vettel can become champion

The most straightforward way for Vettel to win the title is to finish in the top four. After that it gets complicated.

  • If Vettel finishes fourth or higher he is world champion regardless of where Alonso finishes
  • If Vettel finishes fifth, sixth or seventh and Alonso finishes second or lower, Vettel is champion
  • If Vettel finishes eighth or ninth and Alonso finishes third or lower, Vettel is champion
  • If Vettel finishes tenth or fails to score and Alonso finishes fourth or lower, Vettel is champion

Out of the 19 races so far this year 15 produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Vettel champion.

How Fernando Alonso can become champion

Alonso can only win the championship by finishing on the podium. He has done so in 12 of the 19 races so far, and the last four in a row. Here’s how he can win the title if he does:

  • If Alonso wins and Vettel is fifth or lower, Alonso is champion
  • If Alonso finishes second and Vettel is eighth or lower, Alonso is champion
  • If Alonso finishes third and Vettel is tenth or does not score, Alonso is champion

Out of the 19 races so far this year four produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Alonso champion.

Unusual ways for the title to be decided


Fernando Alonso, Renault, Inerlagos, 2003If the race ends with less than 75% of the distance covered (i.e. fewer than 54 of the scheduled 71 laps) then half points will be awarded.

In these circumstances the maximum points available for a driver will be 12.5 for a win, which would be insufficient for Alonso to overcome Vettel’s 13-point lead. Therefore, a half-points race will automatically mean Vettel wins the championship.

In 2003 the Brazilian Grand Prix (pictured) was red-flagged and the result declared after 54 laps – the minimum needed to achieve 75% race distance. There was some confusion over which lap the race had ended on resulting in victory being awarded to Kimi Raikkonen at first, then transferred to Giancarlo Fisichella.

Under a new rule introduced this year races must be stopped four hours after they begin, regardless of whether they are suspended.

A tie

If the pair end the season tied on points Vettel will win the championship because whatever happens he will have won more races than Alonso.

Neither the drivers’ nor the constructors’ championships have ever ended with two competitors tied on points. The narrowest winning margin ever was Niki Lauda’s 1984 drivers’ title victory by half a point ahead of McLaren team mate Alain Prost.

Over to you

Before the last race, two-thirds of readers tipped Vettel to win the title. Have you changed your mind since then?

Vote for who you think will be champion below and have your say in the comments:

Who will win the 2012 F1 drivers' title?

  • Fernando Alonso (34%)
  • Sebastian Vettel (66%)

Total Voters: 235

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2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
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    79 comments on “What Vettel and Alonso need to do to win the title”

    1. For those interested, I did the calculations in pre-2010 points, just for the hell of it

      Old points
      Vettel – 112
      Alonso – 106

      Same rules apply as above (if they end up same score, then Vettel becomes champion). Interestingly in old money Vettel is a lot closer to the title.

      In OLD MONEY, in order for Alonso to be the 2012 champion, Alonso MUST FINISH IN THE TOP 2, and Vettel MUST FINISH OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 5

      Vettel will be champion if:
      – Vettel finishes in the top 5
      – Vettel finishes P6-P7, Alonso finishes P2 or lower
      – Vettel finishes P8 or lower, Alonso finishes P3 or lower

      Alonso will be champion if:
      – Alonso wins, Vettel finshes P6 or lower
      – Alonso finishes P2, Vettel finishes P8 or lower

      1. @raymondu999 Serves to prove the rather arbitrary nature of points systems.

        1. If you try to make a point about a no-points system being less arbitrary I think it is a bit off the mark. Any (whatsoever) ranking system is arbitrary, I am afraid.

          1. @astonished I don’t agree, but nor do I want to get into a nit-picking argument about the definition of “arbitrary”, so let’s leave it at that!

            1. Let leave it like that then. Subjectivity starts at design and includes ourselves.

      2. So in pre-2010 points, Fernando Alonso is in exactly the same position as Felipe Massa was in 2008? I hope this means we’re in for a similarly exciting conclusion to the season.

        1. If Alonso wins on sunday i will be crying tears of joy.. if he loses, i will be crying tears of frustration. either way i will be crying.

    2. Vettel will win. Alonso will give a spectacular show in which he we will take lots of risks. Expect Ferrari to use every tactic and strategy at their hands. I hope that Ferrari get’s it right but it’s the smallest of chances. One has to congratulate RB with their superior car maufacturing and Newey’s quality as a constructor. Vettel is a driver that get’s the job done, but Alonso is probably as passionate and gifted as he is aggressive. Let’s hope the best for him and to a nailbiting finale.

    3. Vettel is the obvious favourite although it will be interesting to watch how he is going to cope with the pressure. In 2010, he was an outsider before the last race. In 2011, he became practically uncatchable already in the middle of the year. Now he is the one who’s being chased so it’s a new situation for him. The weather and the reliability might play an important role as well but I’m sure that both teams will be well prepared for every occasion.

      It’s a pity that Hamilton and Raikkonen are out of the title contention. Particularly Hamilton deserved it.

      I’m hoping for an exciting race but I won’t support any of the title contenders as I just cannot accept Ferrari’s driver policy and I think that Red Bull have partly gained their current advantage by simply outspending the competitors and they also whine too much. But I believe that Alonso deserves the third championship a bit more than Vettel.

      1. +1 well said

      2. Mostly agree, would just modify the end by Massa deserves a bit more that Alonso wins it because of his recent sacrifices for him … As it was clear for a long time, Alonso was atop the ranking more in merit than Vettel, that changed during this past few races and he was kept there not uniquely thanks to his talent. Then I can’t putt one of them which deserves it more than the other. If I had to pick the best driver of the year, it would probably be Hamilton, but the question itself is a bit of nosense. They are fighting for WDC, he’s not in for the reasons we know and that’s all, try again next year … F1 is cruel and that’s it
        Vettel clear favorite to me, but nothing’s done yet.

    4. I’m looking at the photo attached to this article and it feels like it was send from the future. I think these are the faces we’ll see after the Brazilian Grand Prix. Grinning Vettel right in front of us, solemn Alonso somewhere in the background. I hope I’m wrong though, because I really think Alonso deserves the title and would be a better champion.

    5. Last night I dreamt Alonso won the title by 2pts. It will be spooky for me if that happens this weekend

      1. The fact that you’re dreaming about made me chuckle, it must really be playing on your mind!

      2. i for one am hoping that dream becomes reality ;-)

        i like red bull, but have a dislike for vettel.
        i kinda like alonso, but can’t stand ferrari.

        as the constructor championship is settled, this leaves me preferring alonso to take the drivers championship

        1. @spankythewondermonkey All you have to do is persuade Alonso to join Red Bull :)

    6. It´s almost impossible for Alonso, but at least, i hope he fights till the end with the leaders. Not being 35 sec behind…

      1. Exactly @oskar, that half a minute gap last Sunday made it clear that there’s no hope for ALO unless VET suffers a DNF.

    7. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      21st November 2012, 12:00

      Vettel go and get that damn title!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    8. Well, the wildest thing that could happen is Narain or Massa or Grosjean will hit Vettel to retire from the race and Alonso will go on to hunt to finish at least 3rd. There is also the possibility of an alternator failure for Vettel. Other than that Alonso could hope to win the race and ask Petrov to block Vettel for 6th place. Sweet revenge. lol!!

      1. Another trick would be for Ferrari to send Massa out to track Vettel in qualifying as closely as possible to try to get impeded or blocked and then have Vettel handed a five place grid penalty.

        1. @timothykatz Except to be impeded you need to be quicker to catch the other person in the first place.

        2. And RB can do the same and send webber to track alonso :)

      2. Alonso could hope to win the race and ask Petrov to block Vettel for 6th place

        That would be AWESOME…. Petrov coming home in 5th! The entire Caterham team would be dancing on the ceiling ;)

    9. Hope it end ups being as exciting as in 2008. If Alonso retires on lap 1, not so good…

      1. Hopefully both of them will finish the race and in a position where you cannot be sure who wins it until the finish.

    10. While there’s no doubt Alonso has been amazing this year and out performed his car massively, it’s also worth noting that Vettel is over 100 points clear of his team mate too.

      I think Alonso could well take it in Interlagos, even as a Vettel fan I’d be disappointed for Alonso if he didn’t win it. I wish both could take the title.

      1. I agree 100%.
        I’m a Vettel fan but I love Alonso and I really want him to get another championship. Whatever the result on Sunday, it’ll be a bit bittersweet for me. The most I can hope for is that we get a really great race to finish the season in style.

      2. Vettel’s consistency has been underrated this year IMO.

        Other than in Malaysia, where he had a coming together with Karthikeyan; and Barcelona, where he was given a drivethrough, he has always finished in the Top 5. Even then, he was on course to finish in the Top 5 in both of these races.

        His two retirements also came when he was running in the top 5, and his other two P5 finishes came in China and Germany.

        Other than that – he has always finished in the Top 4.

    11. Respect to ALO for even being in with a shot still, I reckon he’ll pull of an amazing race and finish p2, but VET will quali well and get away never to be caught.

      If VET dosnt get away clean at the start I think he’ll drop it in the rain and ALO will be champion.

    12. Personally I feel that the only way that Alonso will be champion is if Vettel doesn’t finish the race for some reason. I believe that if Vettel gets to the end of the race, he will definitely be high enough up to be champion, no matter what Ferrari do. And even saying that, I think it’ll only be through mechanical retirement. Vettel just doesn’t crash out of races.

      No matter who wins, both would make very deserving champions, and we’ve been witness to one of the best seasons I can remember.

      1. +1

        I love reading comments like this. There’s so much fanboy b*tching all over the internet, and I wonder why more people can’t just take a step back and appreciate that we are experiencing a fantastic era of great drivers in F1 and, as fans, we should all just enjoy it.

    13. Vettel has to finish the race to win the championship. If he does that, it will be almost impossible for Alonso to gain more than 13 points over him. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for Vettel, though. The alternator failure on Mark’s car makes me very tense about Brazil.

      1. @yobo01 – I think Red Bull will be switching to the new specification alternator in Brazil: they ran the old one in Austin whilst the other Renault-engined teams (Lotus, Williams and Caterham) ran the new one. Not one of the new alternators failed. Albeit, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’s rigidity (after all I believe the Red Bull probably puts more stress into the culprit component) but I reckon it to be a safer bet than still using the old one, although of course I don’t know if there was a secondary reason causing Webber’s alternator to fail (such as the water leaks they had been having in Free Practice).

        1. @vettel1 the old one has been by far the more reliable one. Valencia? Monza? Both new spec. Red Bull switched them over to the old spec because they trusted it more, and felt safer with it. Mark Webber was using a new spec in Austin, because when Vettel was the only contender left, they transferred all the remaining stock of the old spec to Vettel instead.

          1. @raymondu999 – that was the first 2012 spec, this is a new 2012 spec (i.e. brand new for Austin and not used in Valencia and Monza). I believe Red Bull were running both cars on the 2011 spec alternator in Austin but if as you say Webber was running the supposedly “new and improved” alternator then granted they may wish to continue using the old 2011 spec.

            1. @vettel1 I have it on a good source he is. But like it or not Red Bull may not have a choice in the matter, given that they’ve run out of 2011 spec alternators…

            2. @raymondu999 – I’m under the impression from this statement from Magneti Marelli that Red Bull were using on both cars the old alternator, which the had reverted back to after the Monza failures on Vettel’s car.

    14. My mind still tells me Vettel. Looking at the figures, it’s hard to imagine a situation where he would lose the title.

      On the other hand, I thought the same of Alonso in 2010. It could still happen, but Ferrari’s pace being unsatisfactory I’m worried about the odds of that.

      To be completely honest, I fear a Suzuka 1998 kind of last race. Alonso and Vettel closely lined up, with Alonso definitely having the pace, but with some bad luck and an un-threatened Vettel, he might not even stand a chance.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        21st November 2012, 12:54

        It was also hard to imagine Hamilton not winning in 2009 and he nearly managed that! When they have a target of finishing above a certain position to win the title, it seems to make it twice as difficult to do that.

        Vettel just need to try and win the race and hope for the best but if McLaren are on form and Ferrari can get Alonso’s car working like Massa’s was in the US, it will be a difficult race for him.

        As it stands, Vettel has a lot to lose whilst most of the cars around him have nothing.

      2. but Ferrari’s pace being unsatisfactory

        surely you mean ‘Alonso’ pace. Massa set the 2nd fastest lap at Austin!
        But the big point is that it doesnt matter if ferrari is faster than vettel alone…even if alonso finishes 1st, massa 2nd, vettel would finish 3rd and still win the wc. ferrari need not just themselves, but also the maccas and lotuses to be faster/reliable/finishing than redbull, and this is a tall order.

        1. I think RBR was counting on both McLarens and Lotuses to be faster/reliable than the Ferraris in Austin, but look at what happened there :)

    15. petebaldwin (@)
      21st November 2012, 12:51

      The weather forecast is sketchy at best. At the moment, it’s sunny on Friday, storms on Saturday and rain on Sunday….

      It’s a big ask for Alonso to win the title but knowing the recent history of races when the title has come down to the last one, the crazy weather in Brazil and the excellent track, anything can happen.

      I’d be winning to bet any money that it won’t be a simple lights to flag win for Vettel.

    16. I have a feeling alonso wil finish p3 with vettel retiring…!

    17. Head says Vettel, heart says Alonso.
      Either way who ever wins it will be deserving of the championship. Alonso had a brilliant first half of the season and a solid second half. Vettel had a solid first half of the season and a brilliant second half.
      Vettel has the momentum and the points advanatge hence my head saying he will win it while Alonso is fighting an uphill battle which is why my heart wants to see him win it.
      Anyways, here’s hoping to a close race where we wont know who’s going to win it until preferably the last lap as it will be a tense and fitting end to an awesome season on F1.

    18. Needs to be a third option on this poll for “Adrian Newey”.

      Realistically, Vettel is the winner unless the car breaks down, or someone takes him out. His car is significantly faster in all conditions at this point, and Ferrari have no way of answering him. Unless they break out the polyfilla as recommended by Gary Anderson.

    19. I hope it will be a wet grand prix it will make so much more interesting given that Fernando has been flawless in the wet this year. There is also the risk that Vettels alternator will fail again!

      1. Alonso, Brazil and wet conditions reminds me of Brazil 2003.

    20. I am resigned to the fact that Vettel is gonna win this title unless he fails to score… I really cant see him finishing outside the podium if he has a normal race… I hope Alonso drives an unforgettable race … I am an Alonso fan … but having said that I would nt agree that vettel deserves the title less… whoever comes out on top(most likely vettel) will deserve to be champion… It is true that he had the best car for the most part of of the scond half of this year… then he drove exceptionally well too… It’s a combination of driver and car… at the moment it looks like it is gonna be RB and vettel…. I hope ferrari ,Mercedes and RB are evenly matched next year(again looks unlikely as no major rule changes ).. Whatever happens on coming Sunday for me Alonso is the best driver out there , hamilton is almost as good as Alonso.. vettel slightly behind the alonso and vettel… It is only my view and I know others may differ ….

      1. Correction,

        “vettel is slightly behind alonso and vettel “

        1. What am I doing???

          “Vettel is slightly behind alonso and Hamilton”

          1. hehe, :-)

    21. I think that in a dry race Vettel will have no problem dominating from the start to the finish the RB8 is well suited to Interlagos only a failure could prevent him from the title even through Alonso still have to finish on the podium which isn’t an easy job as people think because he have to fight with Mark Webber, Jenson Button , Lewis Hamilton & maybe Kimi Raikonnen

      So to be a triple WDC Alonso & Ferrari will have to rely on a rainy race which is their only chance so they have to take risks with strategy just like they did in Malaysia & in Qualifying in Hockenheim & Silverstone

      Many thinks that Ferrari is a good wet car & if the race is wet then they will win systematically the race which is completely false we remember how Fernando almost crashed in Q1 in Silverstone & that the strategy in Hockenheim (new set of wet tyres) helped him a lot to get the pole ,Rainy condition is risky & stressful for everyone so if Ferrari wants to finish first then first they have to finish they have to be perfect (race, strategy,pit stops…) & then wait & see what the will happen with SEB

      1. @tifoso1989 – We have to remember also that Vettel is a great wet driver. He took his first win in the wet. In the weekends affected by rain so far, he had been running 4th in Malaysia, he was 3rd in Britain and 5th (with a penalty remember – he crossed the line in second) in Germany. Provided there are no problems I think he would still be champion if it happened to be a wet race.

        Although in each of those races Alonso did finish ahead of Vettel, so maybe rain would play into his hands. Realistically though I think Alonso needs to win, so Ferrari better have a pretty good update to be introduced in Brazil if they are to overcome both Red Bull and McLaren!

        1. Vettel is a good wet driver, let’s not forget also Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button who is brilliant in changeable conditions Massa can play an important role with his recent form
          like i said a wet race is risky for every one but it is the only chance of Ferrari & Fernando who have i think something more in the wet especially this season (this is can be a psychological advantage )

          1. Very much show, with the pace Ferrari have had of late I don’t think they can hope to remove Vettel’s 13 point lead (Vettel has finished on the podium in every race since Monza, and in one of them he was sent to he back of the grid)!

    22. Personally would love watching ALONSO getting the title as he has to a fair extent deserved it more than Vettel! But it won’t be easy for either of them, u just can’t predict the unforced errors( Maldanado or may be Hamiton giving a jolt!)…hoping for it to end in a dramatic way and make it to the history books!

    23. Blue skies forecasted here in Spain for the weekend. All clouds have been sent to Brazil. Exciting final race, wet conditions will even car performances and it will be down to driving and strategies. Can’t wait! Como on Fer!

    24. LoreMipsumdOtmElor
      21st November 2012, 15:15

      I’m really hoping for HAM-ALO-MAS-BUT-VET on the last lap and Hamilton waving Alonso to the lead :) That would make me an instant Hamilton fan.

      1. There is less than no chance of that happening.

        Hamilton is a racing driver. He wants to win. He wants to leave McLaren with two wins in a row. “I’d love to take victory in Brazil this weekend to give the team the perfect farewell present,” he said.

        I don’t know where some people get this idea that he’s so consumed by hatred of Sebastian Vettel he’s going to give up a race victory to – of all people – Fernando Alonso, but it’s utterly bizarre and completely unrealistic.

        1. While I agree, Hamilton does have a bit of a chip on his shoulder about Vettel. He’s made a few backhand comments about Vettel in the media this year and nothing about Alonso.

          Partly this might just be that Vettel is the reigning champ, so has the target on his back. But I suspect he looks at Vettel more as his own generation, and having surpassed him in the lower formulae, is somewhat bitter about being leapfrogged (through “pure luck”).

          Meanwhile Alonso won his ‘ships before HAM was on the scene. And served as something of a mentor (and reportedly a friend) while teammates, at least at first. So psychologically he is closer to Alonso.

      2. Even if that happens …. ALO behind HAM ..debatable ….MAS behind ALO ..happens all the time …. MAS can hold up BUT …sounds fair ……VET behind BUT …….NO WAY ! he will soar past ! ….BTW I also want alonso to win …the only realistic possibility is that vettel has a DNF and ALO finishes in podium ….

    25. Mark my words, Alonso will finish in the podium and ahead of Vettel, but he won’t be champion, the points advantage is just too big.

    26. Out of the nineteen races so far this year 15 produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Vettel champion

      Interestingly, in the 4 events which if replicated Vettel wouldn’t be crowned champion, another factor always influenced that. Malaysia: Vettel was running 4th (and chasing 3rd) when Karthikeyan made contact with Vettel’s rear wheel (Alonso was leading but even so the points gap wouldn’t be sufficient).
      Valencia: Vettel had an alternator failure whilst leading comfortably (Alonso would have dropped 7 points).
      Germany: Vettel was penalised for illegally overtaking Button; dropped from 2nd to 5th (Alonso won but if Vettel had kept his place the points gap wouldn’t be sufficient).
      Italy: Vettel was running 6th and then had an alternator failure (Alonso was 3rd so again the points gap wouldn’t be sufficient).

      So in reality Vettel has only really been out-scored by Alonso by a margin of 13+ points due to his own actions once: in Germany. That puts into perspective even more how much of an outside chance Alonso has.

      N.B. In the races in which Alonso has retired (Belgium and Japan) Vettel scored a 2nd and a win respectively, so again the points gap wouldn’t be sufficient had he not retired.

      1. That puts into perspective even more how much of an outside chance Alonso has.

        It’s Funny when you read the comment of a Vettel’s fan talking about outside chance for Alonso
        What do you call the crash in Spa ???In Japan?? (i’m not accusing Raikonnen)
        What do you call 2 safety car in Abu Dhabi that came exactly at the right moment ?????
        By your logic if Vettel would be a WDC by less than 15 pts gap it would be thanks to an outside chance due to the points Alonso lost with the irresponsible move of Grosjean

        1. @tifoso – I say he has an outside chance but by no means does that mean he can’t win the championship. Statistics are meaningless, especially in Brazil!

        2. Also, if we are delving into points lost then two alternator failures and a Karthikeyan means that Vettel has lost more points than Alonso.

    27. I just hope the championship goes with a bang not a whimper.

    28. Only reliability can stop Vettel now. In normal circumstances can’t see Vettel off the podium. 80% Vettel will win it.

    29. I believe Vettel will be champion, but imagine, only imagine, if at the second last lap Vettel is cruising for an easy win with Alonso second (or third), but 10+ seconds behind the leader(s), when Vettel decides to go for fastest lap as he always does but goes out of the track and out of the race and thus loses the championship.

      I’d be sad for him but laughing my ass off. And I bet he’d never again try to go for a fastest lap just for the sake of it.

      1. @paulk – he knows what he’s doing; during his fastest laps he never pushes so hard that he risks coming off the track. Also, I have a feeling if he is comfortably leading he will just bring the car home. I don’t think he would take such a large risk when there is little to be gained from it, especially in a championship decider.

        I agree with the last part though, I guarantee you he wouldn’t try and go for a fastest lap just for the sake of it again!

        1. I hope so, and I don’t believe that’s gonna happen. But I’m not 100% sure. Plus it is an ironic what-if scenario.

    30. It will be an anti-climatic ending with Alonso risking too much and DNFing.

    31. Guys, it will be fast drivers there (hamilton, kimi) and the runoveranythingthatmoves too (Grosjan, Shumacher), so the race won´t be just between vettel and alonso. Expect some surprises in brazil.

    32. I’ve gone with Vettel simply because he has the points advantage and the car advantage. I was watching Alonso’s onboard during the race from the US GP and he managed to keep Webber in his sights but crucially he wasn’t able to catch him in a way that, say, Hamilton was to Vettel. Plus, I expect that this track will favour the RB8 quite well.

    33. Although I’d prefer Alonso to win, I’d rather see either the grid shaken up by a wet quali or the race affected by rain (or both). It would be a bit of a shame if it came down to an alternator failure (I know, I know, that’s F1 etc. etc., but still). A McLaren 1-2, Alonso third and Vettel dropped to the back due to a puncture or something after a lateish safety car and then tensely trying to fight his way up in wet conditions but not making it into the points. That’s be perfect (a girl can dream, right?)

    34. After this season anything is possible, I hope that fernando comes away with his 3rd title. The smart bet is vettel but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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