If anyone had said that Sebastian Vettel could win the 2012 world title, many critics would have said that during the F1 summer break that this was impossible. However, many observers realised that just a year ago Sebastian Vettel was on top of the world in the Formula One World Championship. The Heppenheim-born German had won nearly half of the races and secured his second straight drivers title with ease.
However, his attempt to try to be only the third driver in history to take a trio of championships did not get off to the perfect start. The first seven races had seven different winners, prompting the best possible answer to F1's 'monotonous' criticism. Although Vettel won the third race in Bahrain, the opening races were also won by Jenson Button in Australia; Fernando Alonso in Malaysia; Pastor Maldonado in Spain; Mark Webber in Monaco and Lewis Hamilton in Canada. Achieving steady finishes despite a car that had trouble from the start, Alonso led the championship and extended it further with a victory on his home track in Valencia mid way through the season.
From this moment on, race winners started to take on a familiar feel and by the time Great Britain came around, Webber won his second of the season, with Alonso taking another victory in Germany. For the next three races, McLaren Mercedes began to find their rhythm and the last races in Europe in Hungary and Italy were won by Hamilton, with Button winning his second race of the season in Belgium.
Alonso retained his lead going into the last seven "fly-away" races of the year. However, what makes a great champion is being able to come back from being behind and as soon as the only night race of the season in Singapore came around, Vettel started to prove his worth. Having won in the dark, he followed up with three straight wins in Japan, Korea and India, taking the lead for the first time over his Spanish counterpart in the process.
By the time the F1 circus came to Abu Dhabi, everyone had seen victories for Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren but many wondered if anyone else could change that. On this circuit in the Middle East it did change as Kimi Raikkonen gave Lotus their first victory of the year. Vettel started to stutter as a fuel pressure failure caused him to be moved to the rear of the grid on race day. In true Vettel fashion though, the world champion worked his way back to the front of the grid, finishing in third, and keeping close to his challenger with two races to go.
The inclusion of the United States Grand Prix was a huge risk in a country that barely had any interest in the sport but the race, this time in Austin, Texas, was on a track especially made for F1 and it proved its critics wrong. Hamilton, who by this stage had announced he would be leaving for Mercedes, won his fourth race of the year, with Vettel and Alonso finishing in the next two positions respectively. In doing so Vettel had given himself a 13 points lead with one race to go in Brazil.
Despite a valiant effort by Alonso in the final race and the fact Vettel span early on at the start of the race, it wasn't enough for the Spaniard to take his third title since 2006. Vettel finished in sixth and held on to win his third title by a mere three points to become the third and youngest driver to win three championships in a row along with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Whether or not it was an exciting championship has to be judged by both the fans and the writers alike, but the 2012 season can be viewed with a positive look to the future. The sport is progressing and is making exciting changes as Hamilton leaves for Mercedes to replace Schumacher, who faces a second retirement. Mexican Rookie Sergio Perez will be taking his talents to McLaren and is another driver that has a future. Vettel could be the birth of a new icon, a new superstar for the sport of Formula One. On the other hand, this could be the era of another driver and the likes of Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Perez, Button and Raikkonen will all be looking to challenge him.