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Yearender motor racing: Vettel takes triple in year of surprises

Updated: 2012-12-24 17:56

LONDON - Formula One fans have learned to expect the unexpected and 2012, despite Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull ending up as world champions for the third year in a row, was predictably unpredictable.

While Sebastien Loeb racked up a ninth successive championship with Citroen in rallying - an outcome that surprised absolutely nobody - and Audi won Le Mans for the 11th time in 13 years, followers of grand prix racing had a nailbiting ride right to the end.

This was the year of eight different winners, an unprecedented seven of them in the first seven races, from six separate teams who spent months getting to grips with the Pirelli tyres.

Yearender motor racing: Vettel takes triple in year of surprises

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates winning the world championship with his team after finishing sixth in the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix at Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Nov 25, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

Vettel becoming, at 25, the sport's youngest triple champion was an easy prediction to make at the end of 2011 when the German ran away with his second title and Red Bull were dominant.

It looked less likely as the sport headed off for its summer break and, after 13 rounds of a record 20-race season, Vettel still had only one victory to his credit and was 42 points off the lead.

"People were not even mentioning us when they were talking about the championship, but I think the most important thing was that we always kept believing," the German said after being taken down to the wire in Brazil in a duel with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Alonso, driving the wheels off an ugly car that had been painfully slow out of the box, was - against all expectation - comfortably clear of the rest as the championship entered its second half.

Even if Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone held up Vettel as a new benchmark for the sport, team principals voted Alonso their driver of the season and the Spaniard had no doubt about what he had done in a car he knew was not the fastest.

"It was by far the best season of my career and I will remember this 2012 like some dream season," said the man who won two titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.

The Spaniard's win in rain-hit Malaysia, the second race of the season, was a stunning result considering how far off the pace Ferrari had been in testing and in the Australian opener.

Alonso, lucky to escape unhurt after Romain Grosjean's Lotus skimmed past his head in Belgium in an incident that got the Frenchman banned for a race, and Vettel were the main men in a field of six champions - five of them race winners in 2012.

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