2012 Brazilian Grand Prix revisited after McLaren ends winless run in Italy

Jake Nichol September 13, 2021
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

McLaren won its first Formula One grand prix in just under nine years in the Italian Grand Prix through Daniel Ricciardo. Here is a look back at what happened the last time McLaren won in F1.

The big story ahead of the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

The race was the 2012 season-finale, and there was a world championship to decide.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel topped the standings, 13 points ahead of rival Fernando Alonso.

Both were battling for a third world crown.

Alonso had topped the standings for a majority of the season, but a blistering run of form from Vettel in the Asian flyaway races took him top.

Ferrari driver Alonso had to secure a podium finish to have any hope of the title, whereas a healthy points haul for Vettel would be enough for the crown.

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Vettel qualified fourth in the Red Bull – a better package over the weekend than the Ferrari.

Alonso was down in eighth, but moved up to seventh after Pastor Maldonado received a grid penalty.

Other news stories around 2012 Brazilian GP

Elsewhere, it was the final race for Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.

The Briton was moving to Mercedes for 2013, having lost faith in McLaren’s ability to provide a car capable of consistently challenging for the title.

He stuck it on pole for the 26th and final time as a McLaren driver with teammate Jenson Button riding shotgun on the front row.

Hamilton’s moving to Mercedes meant Brazil 2012 was also the final grand prix for Michael Schumacher.

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The seven-time world champion bowed out 21 years after he first made his debut at the 1991 Belgian GP.

He qualified 14th in a below par Mercedes – who had struggled badly in the latter half of the campaign.

Oh, and just for good measure because the final race title decider wasn’t tense enough, it was raining.

What happened at the start?

Vettel was swamped after a poor getaway, not helped by teammate Mark Webber.

At Turn 4 on the first lap, Vettel was tagged by Bruno Senna and into a spin.

The Red Bull suffered severe damage to the rear of the car, including the floor and radiators.

Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Meanwhile, as Vettel was getting himself going, Alonso moved into a podium position.

At Turn 1 on the second lap, he went up the inside of Webber and his own teammate Felipe Massa to run third behind Hamilton and Button.

However, two tours later, Alonso ran wide at the Senna S, allowing Nico Hulkenberg through into third place.

Never again would Alonso be in a championship winning position.

Safety car deployed for debris

As the rain became heavier, most of the pack pitted for intermediate tyres, although Button and Hulkenberg stayed out.

The German passed Button for lead on Lap 19, pulling away until the Lap 23 safety car for debris after various incidents.

At this stage, Alonso was fourth and Vettel, despite the severe damage was running fifth.

At the restart, Hamilton set off after Hulkenberg, before he half-spun after putting a wheel on the white line at the edge of the track.

Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images

He regrouped, and as Hamilton made his way through backmarker traffic on Lap 54, Hulkenberg collected the McLaren.

Hamilton’s right front was destroyed as he pulled off. Hulkenberg got going again, but was handed a time penalty for the incident.

The closing stages as Schumacher bows out with a gift

Button resumed the lead, as Massa was gently encouraged to allow Alonso through to second place, and 18 championship points.

It would not be enough however.

In the closing laps, Schumacher, running sixth on his farewell appearance slowed to let Vettel past.

He did not need to do so, as seventh would have been good enough for Vettel if Alonso did not win the race.

Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images

The race, and season ended behind the safety car as Paul di Resta crashed two laps before the end in heavy spray and rain.

Button won for McLaren, Alonso was second and Massa third.

Vettel took his third world title by three points with sixth, and Schumacher scoring points for the final time in seventh.

Elsewhere, 11th place for Vitaly Petrov for Caterham was enough for the team to leapfrog Marussia in the constructors’ championship.

As neither had scored any points, the best race result would determine the standings.

Petrov passed Caterham-bound for 2013 Marussia driver Charles Pic in the closing stages, elevating the former to 10th in the standings.

What happened to McLaren after Button’s 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix win?

Button’s 15th grand prix win would be the last of his career.

It would also be McLaren’s last for 3,213 days until Daniel Ricciardo’s triumph in the 2021 Italian Grand Prix.

Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images

In that time, the team fell to the back of the F1 grid.

It opted to develop an all-new car for 2013, which backfired in the final year of the V8 regulations, failing to score a podium.

A double-podium in the first race of the turbo hybrid era in 2014 was McLaren’s peak.

Kevin Magnussen took second and Button third in Melbourne, Australia.

These would be McLaren’s last podiums until the 2019 Brazilian GP, when Carlos Sainz Jr finished third.

The reunion of McLaren-Honda proved disastrous, as an engineering malaise set in at Woking.

A new structure of Zak Brown as CEO, Andreas Seidl as team principal and James Key as technical director has rejuvenated McLaren.

It agreed a deal for Mercedes to supply engines to the team once again from the 2021 season, with Ricciardo joining from Renault to partner Lando Norris.

The Italian GP was McLaren’s first one-two finish since the 2010 Canadian GP (Hamilton/Button).

The team is currently on 215 points in the standings, in third place just ahead of Ferrari.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.