New Delhi: Red Bull`s Sebastian Vettel stamped his class by becoming the youngest triple Formula One champion at 25 after a gripping battle with Fernando Alonso, which was followed by the great Michael Schumacher bidding adieu to the sport for one final time in a dramatic 2012.
It took the German fourth race of the season to record his first victory and he was trailing Ferrari`s champion driver Alonso in the first half. But a dramatic turnaround in the post-break season when he won four races on the trot catapulted him back to the title contention.
Vettel is not only the youngest to have won three F1 drivers` titles, he is also only the third in history to have won three in a row after Juan Manuel Fangio and Schumacher.
Alonso was amazingly consistent throughout the season and the Spaniard had even built up a 40-point lead by the mid-season summer break. He had also outscored Vettel in the final three races by 10 points.
But Vettel was a notch above with his sheer class and the indomitable spirit, with which he even defeated not only his rivals but also certain situations that had almost spelled doom for him.
The Abu Dhabi result, where he began from the back of the grid to finish third, was a perfect example of that spirit. He did not give up and luck too smiled on him.
Even till the last race in Sao Paulo, title could have gone to either Vettel or Alonso but the young Red Bull driver defended his title when McLaren`s Jenson Button won and Alonso finished second.
Vettel edged past Alonso by just three points with a grand total of 281 at the end of an exciting season, which threw seven different winners in the first seven races.
Alonso almost pulled off a sensational championship win despite an inferior car compared to Red Bull and McLaren as he performed extraordinary in races, defying poor qualifying all through the year.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen was also consistency personified as he finished third in the drivers` championship despite winning just a single race and that too towards the end at Abu Dhabi.
The `iceman` walked up to the podium seven times.
Lewis Hamilton, too, had a good season but misfortune struck him too many times and that threw him out of the calculations. Thrice he had to retire from pole positions and twice he finished third from pole positions. That made a huge difference to his points tally.
Poor McLaren car also hurt Hamilton`s chances in the first half as there were numerous technical failures.
All the potential demonstrated by a dominant victory for Button in the season-opener in Australia and two consecutive poles for Hamilton was thrown away by a series of operational failures in the early races and the poor reliability later on.
Button became the first and the last winner in the calendar, which was the longest campaign in motorsport history with 20 races.
From the Indian point of view, Sahara Force India had a reasonably successful season after a strong second-half although the team finished seventh in the constructors` table, one position below as compared to the 2011 season.
But the team scored 40 more points than 2011 season as it ended with a score of 109. The team also came close to getting a podium place twice.
German driver Nico Hulkenberg, who was fantastic throughout and caught attention of the big teams, finished fourth in Belgium while Paul di Resta was fourth in Singapore.
Hulkenberg earned 63 points, 17 more than his Briton teammate and also secured a seat for the next season with Sauber on the back of his stellar show.
The Indian team will surely miss him since he was very competitive and played a part in improvement of the car which was fifth fastest consistently later on, pipping the two Mercedes cars quite often.
Schumacher`s second stint ended without success as during his three years with Mercedes, he only once got a podium place, a third position at European Grand Prix this season.
His contract with Mercedes was for three years after signing with them in 2010 and both the team and the legendary German driver knew that the union did not bring about the expected results.
The seven-time World Champion`s second retirement caused many a changes in the drivers` line-up of the teams. Hamilton will now take his place in Mercedes while the young Briton`s McLaren seat went to Sergio Perez, who did a marvellous job for Sauber.
Hulkenberg and Di Resta were also linked to Ferrari but Brazilian Felipe Massa retained his seat with an improved show in the second half of the season.
Hulkenberg eventually shifted to Sauber and speculation is that Adrian Sutil will rejoin Force India, who now have a very good-paced car, competitive enough for a run in the top-5 consistently.
India yet again hosted a successful GP and is fast becoming one of the favourite destinations for the drivers and the F1 world.
However, it`s not sure that the Indian fans will see a driver from the country on the grid next season. Narain Karthikeyan`s future is uncertain since his Hispania Racing team has been put on sale.