Vettel takes triple in year of surprises

Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:14pm EST
 
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One fans have learned to expect the unexpected and 2012, despite Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull ending up as world champions for the third year in a row, was predictably unpredictable.

While Sebastien Loeb racked up a ninth successive championship with Citroen in rallying - an outcome that surprised absolutely nobody - and Audi won Le Mans for the 11th time in 13 years, followers of grand prix racing had a nailbiting ride right to the end.

This was the year of eight different winners, an unprecedented seven of them in the first seven races, from six separate teams who spent months getting to grips with the Pirelli tires.

Vettel becoming, at 25, the sport's youngest triple champion was an easy prediction to make at the end of 2011 when the German ran away with his second title and Red Bull were dominant.

It looked less likely as the sport headed off for its summer break and, after 13 rounds of a record 20-race season, Vettel still had only one victory to his credit and was 42 points off the lead.

"People were not even mentioning us when they were talking about the championship, but I think the most important thing was that we always kept believing," the German said after being taken down to the wire in Brazil in a duel with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Alonso, driving the wheels off an ugly car that had been painfully slow out of the box, was - against all expectation - comfortably clear of the rest as the championship entered its second half.

Even if Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone held up Vettel as a new benchmark for the sport, team principals voted Alonso their driver of the season and the Spaniard had no doubt about what he had done in a car he knew was not the fastest.   Continued...

 
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany prepares for the second practice session of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young