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Motorsport | Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel (L) and Fernando Alonso © Reuters

Champagne on ice in F1 climax



Sebastian Vettel goes to Brazil only needing to finish in the top four to seal a hat-trick of titles in another Formula One showdown in Sao Paulo.

The climax next Sunday at the Interlagos circuit is what all in Formula One barring Vettel and the Red Bull team would have wanted to cap a thrilling season which could yet spring a surprise.

Fernando Alonso's third place at Sunday's United States Grand Prix behind Vettel and race winner Lewis Hamilton means the Ferrari driver is still in with a chance of preventing a third successive title win for Vettel while himself winning a third world championship after his titles in 2005 and 2006.

The Interlagos circuit has seen some of the most spectacular races in Formula One history, with the weather often an unpredictable and decisive factor.

Alonso himself has had some memorable races at the track, clinching two world titles there, although yet to claim a victory.

In 2005 he became the then youngest F1 world champion when finishing third to clinch the title with two races remaining.

A year later - with the race once again the climax of the season - Alonso nailed his second title when finishing second.

To stop Vettel winning his third straight championship, the 31-year-old Spaniard must win in Sao Paulo with Vettel lower than fourth, or finish second with Vettel below seventh, or third with Vettel lower than ninth.

"We will go to Brazil with the possibility to fight for the championship, which is something that we have fought for all year, and we have arrived in that fantastic position," Alonso said.

"Only Sebastian is in a better position than us but we should be proud of ourselves so try to enjoy the Brazil race."

Vettel, who won in Brazil in 2010 and finished second behind teammate Mark Webber last year, said: "We are in the best possible position."

Apart from the vagaries of the weather in Sao Paulo, Vettel will also be hoping his car stays reliable after Webber retired at the Circuit of the Americas with a mechanical problem.

The 25-year-old German admitted Webber's car failure was "not good news" but said he felt it "should be easy to find the problem."

UNREPENTANT FERRARI

Ferrari were meanwhile unrepentant about their controversial decision to give Felipe Massa a grid penalty by breaking the seal on his gearbox to help teammate Alonso's title challenge.

Massa was demoted five places, allowing Alonso to start a place up at seventh, and also on the clean side of the track for greater grip. Alonso grabbed the chance by immediately moving to fourth place after a blistering start.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said the move was within the rules. "I prefer to be transparent. You can easily simulate something. I felt it was more correct to say the truth," he said.

However reaction was not positive in Germany where the Bild newspaper said it was a "dirty" manoeuver by Ferrari to use a regulation, designed as a punishment, to benefit a driver.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Ferrari acted within the rules but a "moral question" remained: "Is it not shabby to use a trick to achieve a better position than achieved in qualifying? Especially for Ferrari for which elegance and nobleness is part of its brand?"

British newspapers meanwhile praised the drive of Hamilton who captured his fourth win of the season by overtaking Vettel with 14 laps to go.

The race in Brazil will also be the last in a McLaren for Mercedes-bound Hamilton, who in Interlagos won his only championship title when he finished fifth in a thrilling final race of the 2008 season.

The Guardian said Hamilton would have been vying for the 2012 title but for reliability problems, which probably cost him victories in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, and some pit lane errors early in the season.

"In Sao Paulo next weekend it should be a three-way contest between him, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, the three best drivers in the world," it said.

"Alas, that is not to be, but at least Hamilton is in the mood to end the season on a high and remind his employers of what they will be missing next year."

F1's debut in Texas, the first race in the United States since 2007, was meanwhile given the thumbs up.

"America and Formula One embraced each other like long-parted lovers on Sunday," the Guardian said, while the BBC's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson wrote: "F1 loved Austin; it appeared Austin loved F1; and you cannot say the event was other than a resounding success."

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