AFTER facing the wrong way at Turn 4 on the opening lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, it looked impossible for Sebastian Vettel to secure his third F1 world championship.
But another miraculous drive from the back, aided by some good luck and a well-timed safety car, he battled back to sixth place.
And with title rival only Fernando finishing second, it was enough for the Red Bull racer to take the championship crown by just three points.
“It’s difficult to imagine what goes through my head now,” said Vettel afterwards. “I’m so full of adrenalin.
“It was an incredible race, everything that could have happened to make it more difficult for us happened!
“It’s unreal what has happened. To win a third title, especially here where one of my heroes Ayrton Senna was from, it’s difficult to put into words.
“I was crying in the car but my radio wasn’t working, so I’m maybe happy for that!
“Tomorrow I can probably say more, but now I just don’t have the right words.”
His performance around the Interlagos circuit really was a drive worthy of a world championship. After colliding with home-town hero Bruno Senna and spinning on the first lap, which caused significant damage to the car, Vettel faces an uphill task in challenging conditions to pass nearly the entire field to get back in contention to defend his title.
Within two laps, he was back up to eighth place, while Alonso ran fourth.
The Brazilian Grand Prix notoriously throws up some surprises with the weather and Sunday was no different with rain showers causing havoc throughout the race.
A late pit-stop onto another set of dry tyres, followed by a hurried second stop back to intermediate rubber, threatened to wreck Vettel’s chances, but a slow stop from the Ferrari crew saw Alonso and Vettel racing nose-to-tail, before the reigning champion hedged his bets and allowed the Spaniard to get on up the road, eventually to finish second behind McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Paul Di Resta’s accident with a lap to go meant the race finished under the safety car, taking away some of the drama at the conclusion, but Vettel’s sixth place was enough to see him secure a third world crown.
He said: “I got turned around in Turn 4 for no reason and was heading the wrong way; so I had to get straight and was lucky no one hit me.
“The car was damaged and we lost speed in straights, even more as it dried up, but fortunately it started to rain again.
“All weekend people tried to push us in a certain direction and said if it rained it would be harder for us, but we have proven today that we like rain conditions as much as the dry. I am very, very happy.
“The most important thing throughout the season is that we kept pushing and remained ourselves.
“We just try to do our thing and stick to the route that we know and that’s what made the difference. Some people try to play games, but we never get distracted, we keep going our way.”
After securing the constructors’ championship last weekend at the American Grand Prix, Vettel’s driver’s title is the sixth prize in three years won by the Tilbrook team.
And after the race, Vettel recognised the efforts of everyone back at home who helped put his championship battle back on track.
He said: “Everyone at Milton Keynes and here at the circuit, they are always pushing so hard and we really stepped up our game in the second half of the season.
“I would like to thank everyone in the team and at Renault.
“There’s no one in this team that feels more important than any one else, we all push together, alongside each other, it’s one big force and I’m very proud of that.”
Mark Webber finished fourth in the race, and sixth overall in the championship standings, leapfrogged by Button into fifth.
Team Principal Christian Horner piled praise on his team for once again looking back on a season having wrapped up both championships.
He said: “What an unbelievable end to what has been a really incredible season.
“We always knew this championship was going to go right down to the wire and I don’t think anybody could have expected the kind of race we got today.
“But, to have achieved a triple double world championship is quite phenomenal. Sebastian has driven better than ever this season and has fought his way back into this championship; he’s never given up and you saw that in today’s race.
“After being knocked out of position and going to the back of the field with a load of damage, he fought his way back into the race, he never gave up and it was a race of maximum stress today with rain and no rain, then incidents, spins, you name it, it happened – safety cars, radios that didn’t work – but you have to reflect on the season as a whole.
“Over 20 races the team has done an unbelievable job and Sebastian truly deserves this world championship. Having gone up against an incredible opponent in Fernando Alonso, and we have to pay tribute to him and the way he’s driven this year, it has made this Championship even more appreciated because of the level of competition we’ve had to compete against.
“So, all I can do is thank every single member of the team for everything that they’ve put in. I’d like to thank Dietrich Mateschitz for his commitment, backing and support, and the encouragement that he’s given all of us.
“To all the members of Red Bull who have been with us all the way through this, and of course to all of our partners that have grown and been on this journey with us over the last three years.
“A big thank you on behalf of the whole team to all of them. It’s going to take a little while for the success to sink in.”