Vettel extends Rankings domination after third straight crown
Sebastian Vettel extended his domination of the Castrol EDGE Rankings after dragging his battered Red Bull to a third straight Formula 1 world championship crown in a wild Brazil finale.
The German has now held the No.1 spot for 140 consecutive weeks.
His Brazilian performance guarantees his reign will continue far longer however - until Malaysia, the second round of 2013, at the very least.
That certainty is in part because his nearest challenger, nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, will contest only selected rounds next year.
It also owes to the fact that even as the German struggled to match the dominance of his 2011 title campaign, he was still able to finish comfortably clear of his nearest F1 rivals.
Fernando Alonso, third overall and second in the F1 standings, ended the year more than 3,000 points – roughly 14 per cent – down on Vettel’s total.
There is at least reason for the rest of the pack to be optimistic though.
For a start, Vettel’s gap at the end of last season was far greater – totalling almost 10,000 points.
Then there is the form of Lewis Hamilton, who finished right on Alonso’s tail despite costly technical retirements from the lead of both the Singapore and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.
Without those, Hamilton may have had a legitimate hope of finally ending Vettel’s unbroken stint at the head of the Rankings.
The Briton could suffer in 2013 however following his decision to join Mercedes. The team’s highest-ranked driver this year was Nico Robserg, who ended up 21st.
Rosberg had moved ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa early in the season, as a strong opening – including a breakthrough win in China – combined with a slump for the Brazilian.
The formbook reversed over the second half of the year, and in the final race Massa finally moved back ahead, jumping two spots to 20th.
There were also changes just down the road, as Nico Hulkenberg’s spell leading in Brazil helped him jump ahead of a host of midfield rivals.
The German gained seven spots in total, moving to 38th.
In the process he vaulted Sergio Perez (39), team-mate Paul di Resta (40), Kamui Kobayashi (41), Romain Grosjean (43) and Pastor Maldonado (45).
Michael Schumacher almost got himself in the mix in his final grand prix.
A four-place rise promoted him into 47th, still some way short of his all-time best of 24th but enough to ensure he bows out of the sport on a relative high.