Sebastian Vettel won the Brazilian Grand Prix from Mark Webber on Sunday as Red Bull shook off recent disaster to send the Formula One championship battle against Fernando Alonso down to the wire.
The Ferrari driver Alonso failed to secure a third career title on the Interlagos course, but finished third on the day to take an eight-point lead into next Sunday’s season-ender in Abu Dhabi.
Alonso has 246 points, Webber stands on 238 and Vettel on 231 as the remaining three realistic championship contenders. A victory is worth 25 points.
Lewis Hamilton also has a mathematical chance at 222 points while his McLaren teammate Jenson Button, the defending champion, is out of contention on 199 points.
It is the fourth time in five seasons that the world title will be decided in the final race.
The one-two finish from Vettel and Webber saw Red Bull clinch the constructors’ title for the first time in team history with 469 points to McLaren’s 421. It came two weeks after Alonso won in Korea after Webber crashed out and Vettel’s engine blew.
Nico Huelkenberg of Germany had stunned all the favourites by claiming a surprise pole for Williams on Saturday, but the pecking order was swiftly restored as the race got underway.
Vettel won the start and it was a Red Bull one-two up front as Webber also squeezed past the Williams halfway through the opening lap.
Alonso, meanwhile, immediately pressured Hamilton and got past the former champ in the second lap. But it took him another six to pass Huelkenberg as well, which allowed the Red Bulls to pull some 10 seconds clear after 10 laps.
The first round of pit stops did nothing to change the order and Alonso conceded defeat long before the halfway mark via team radio, saying that “we can’t touch them.” But the Spaniard was also safely ahead of Hamilton and Button, the latter working his way up from 11th place on the grid and racing the day after having a narrow escape from an armed gang during his return from qualifying to the hotel.
Webber appeared desperate to make up a small gap on Vettel but had to back off again after being told that his front tyres were overheating.
A little spice was added later in the race when the safety car had to come out after a crash from Vitantonio Liuzzi in the 52nd lap. But Vettel won the restart in the 55th and Alonso stood no chance at all to threaten as he was separated from the Red Bulls by several lapped cars.
Vettel comfortably drove home after his engine blew in Korea in leading position with 10 laps left. He took the chequered flag after 71 laps in 1 hour 33 minutes 11.803 seconds for his fourth season victory and ninth overall. Hamilton was fourth and Button fifth while Huelkenberg eventually finished eighth.