Race-by-race guide to the 2012 Formula One season which finished at the Brazilian Grand Prix here on Sunday:
Australian Grand Prix - March 18
McLaren's Jenson Button threw down the gauntlet to two-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel as he relegated the German to second in a flying start to the season. McLaren had locked down the front row of the grid and it was Button who nipped past pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton at the start and went on to dominate. Vettel grabbed a giant slice of luck when a timely safety car intervention allowed him to steal second from Hamilton late in the race. Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished fifth.
Standings: Button 25 pts, Vettel 18, Hamilton 15
Malaysian Grand Prix - March 25
A nearly hour-long storm interruption threw the race into confusion and left drivers fighting just to stay on the track. Alonso emerged from the chaos at the head of the field and drove his unrated Ferrari brilliantly to win the unpredictable race, chased all the way by Mexico's Sergio Perez who claimed a career-high second place for Sauber. Hamilton, heading another grid one-two for McLaren, was happy to settle for third again after an early crash left Button outside of the points alongside Vettel, who suffered a late puncture following a collision with Narain Karthikeyan.
Standings: Alonso 35, Hamilton 30, Button 25
Chinese Grand Prix - April 15
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg claimed what he termed an "amazing" first victory in 111 attempts as he led from pole position to take the Chinese Grand Prix in style. The German's faultless drive in Shanghai saw him home more than 20 seconds ahead of the McLarens of Button and Hamilton, for what was also Mercedes' first victory since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. Webber was fourth and Vettel fifth after some frantic jostling for the other podium places. Alonso trailed in ninth.
Standings: Hamilton 45, Button 43, Alonso 37
Bahrain Grand Prix - April 22
Bahrain's controversial race went off without incident after a week of angry protests away from the desert circuit that put the non-sporting focus on reform demands in the Gulf state. Vettel led from start to finish to claim his first win of the year to take over as leader of the title race. He registered his 22nd career victory with a near-flawless drive from pole position. In second came Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, and the Finn's Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean.
Standings: Vettel 53, Hamilton 49, Webber 48
Spanish Grand Prix - May 13
Pastor Maldonado became the first Venezuelan to win an F1 race by triumphing at the Spanish Grand Prix -- before going on to play an heroic role in a dramatic blaze in his Williams team's garage. Maldonado's win, in just his 24th race, was also the team's first victory since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix and came on the weekend of team founder Frank Williams' 70th birthday. He later carried his young cousin to safety after the team garage was engulfed by flames, injuring 16 people. On the track the Venezuelan produced a flawless race, holding off Alonso. Raikkonen was third.
Standings: Vettel 61, Alonso 61, Hamilton 53
Monaco Grand Prix - May 27
Webber steered his Red Bull to victory and claimed his first win this year and his team's third successive Monaco Grand Prix victory. Webber's second win in the race and the eighth of his career also meant six different drivers had won the opening six races of this season, for the first time in Formula One history. Webber started from pole to finish six-tenths of a second clear of Rosberg with Alonso third for Ferrari. Vettel was fourth ahead of Hamilton and Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.
Standings: Alonso 76, Vettel 73, Webber 73
Canadian Grand Prix - June 10
Hamilton made it seven different winners in seven races when he drove with flawless speed and control to win in Montreal. He produced a magnificently judged performance in a race that passed off smoothly despite a weekend of student protests and police action resulting in around 60 arrests, to seize his first win of the year. Grosjean of Lotus came home second after an equally well-judged race to finish ahead of Perez. Hamilton's 18th career victory came five years to the day after he had claimed his maiden win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Standings: Hamilton 88, Alonso 86, Vettel 85
European Grand Prix - June 24
Local hero Alonso became the first man to win two Formula One races this year by driving his Ferrari to victory in Valencia. Alonso, who won superbly from 11th on the grid, was followed home by Raikkonen of Lotus and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes. The race was punctuated by incident, with Hamilton crashing out after a final lap collision with Williams's Maldonado. Red Bull's defending world champion Vettel was forced to retire despite dominating most of the race after starting from pole position, as was his nearest challenger Grosjean of Lotus.
Standings: Alonso 111, Webber 91, Hamilton 88
British Grand Prix - July 8
Red Bull's Webber dragged himself into contention for the drivers' world title by winning a dramatic race at Silverstone. The Australian posted a near-flawless performance to come in ahead of Ferrari's Alonso, with Webber's team-mate Vettel third. There was an acrimonious collision when Maldonado of Williams drove into Perez's Sauber, and a pit-lane accident when Kamui Kobayashi braked late and hit his own mechanics at a pit stop. McLaren duo Hamilton and Button -- the home favourites -- finished eighth and 10th.
Standings: Alonso 129, Webber 116, Vettel 100
German Grand Prix - July 22
Alonso started from pole position and dominated the race in consummate style, leading from start to finish. Local favourite Vettel was handed a 20-second penalty for running off the track at a hairpin exit as he tried to pass Button on the penultimate lap. The penalty bumped him from second to fifth and left Button in second. Button's McLaren team-mate Hamilton had hoped to make his 100th Formula One race a memorable one, but had to retire after a series of problems including a puncture caused by debris left on the circuit following an early crash involving Massa, Grosjean and Bruno Senna of Williams.
Standings: Alonso 154, Webber 120, Vettel 110
Hungarian Grand Prix - July 29
Hamilton delivered a flawless drive from pole position to the chequered flag to revive his title challenge, resisting strong late pressure from former world champion Raikkonen. Hamilton's win was his second of the year and the 19th of his career. Raikkonen's Lotus team-mate Grosjean and Red Bull's Vettel came in third and fourth, with Alonso in fifth. As they climbed the podium, a grinning Hamilton said to Raikkonen: "It's just like old times, Kimi."
Standings: Alonso 164, Webber 124, Vettel 122
Belgian Grand Prix - Sept 2
Button claimed his second win of the year and 14th of his career in a race marred by a horrific first-bend crash that took out Hamilton, championship leader Alonso, and Grosjean. Grosjean's Lotus went airborne as he tried to get past Hamilton, a move that earned the Frenchman a one-race ban and fine. Vettel took second with Raikkonen third to complete a podium of world champions. Schumacher, in his 300th Grand Prix and back at his favourite circuit where he made his debut in 1991, finished seventh.
Standings: Alonso 164, Vettel 140, Webber 132
Italian Grand Prix - Sept 9
Hamilton won his third race of the year with a commanding drive from pole position which moved him up to second in the drivers' standings. Sauber's Perez roared through the field to finish second, with Alonso claiming third to extend his championship lead. But a retirement dashed the title hopes of Hamilton's McLaren stablemate Button. The race was also overshadowed by speculation over Hamilton's future after he admitted his team for next year was undecided.
Standings: Alonso 179, Hamilton 142, Raikkonen 141
Singapore Grand Prix - Sept 23
Vettel roared back into the title race as he survived two safety cars and capitalised on the retirement of race leader Hamilton to claim his second win of the season. The two-time defending champion moved up to second in the standings behind Alonso, who finished third. Button was second. Hamilton went out with a gearbox failure on the 23rd lap, and later put an end to intense debate about his career plans as he confirmed he would leave McLaren for Mercedes at the end of the season.
Standings: Alonso 194, Vettel 165, Raikkonen 149
Japanese Grand Prix - Oct 7
Vettel slashed the title race to just four points as he stormed to victory at Suzuka after championship leader Alonso span out on the first turn. The German escaped a chaotic start and sped away to win by more than 20 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Massa and home favourite Kamui Kobayashi, whose first podium received huge roars from the capacity crowd. Vettel became the only man this year with back-to-back victories. Alonso was eliminated when he was hit by Raikkonen's Lotus at the first corner and suffered a puncture.
Standings: Alonso 194, Vettel 190, Raikkonen 157
Korean Grand Prix - Oct 14
Vettel leapfrogged Alonso at the top of the world championship with victory at Yeongam. The German led from the first corner to seal a Red Bull one-two, the first of the season, ahead of his team-mate Webber with Alonso finishing third. Vettel's third win in three races made him favourite for the title with strong momentum heading into the final four races in India, Abu Dhabi, the United States and Brazil.
Standings: Vettel 215, Alonso 209, Raikkonen 167
Indian Grand Prix - Oct 28
Vettel rattled off his fourth win in four races and his fifth of the season, leading from start to finish, the only danger coming when sparks started to fly out from underneath his car in the closing stages. The win pushed him clear of nearest rival Alonso who took second over nine seconds back, from fifth on the grid. Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber came in third.
Standings: Vettel 240, Alonso 227, Raikonnen 173
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Nov 4
Raikkonen lived up to his 'ice man' sobriquet by claiming his first win for three years but Vettel stole the plaudits for one of the greatest drives of his career finishing third after being forced to start from the pit lane. While Alonso finished second to make up some ground on the German, it was far less than he had imagined at the start of the race.
Standings: Vettel 255, Alonso 245, Raikkonen 198.
United States Grand Prix - Nov 18
Hamilton gate-crashed Vettel's title party with a dazzling drive for McLaren. On his penultimate drive for the team before moving to Mercedes next season Hamilton started second on the grid alongside the defending champion but made the most of his superior outright speed to pass Vettel on lap 42 and claim the 21st victory of his career. Vettel took second with his title rival Alonso third, setting up a dramatic title decider in Interlagos.
Standings: Vettel 273, Alonso 260, Raikkonen 206
Brazilian Grand Prix - Nov 25
Vettel became the youngest triple champion in history after a thrilling race at Interlagos. The German overcame a disastrous start to finish sixth behind the victorious Jenson Button. Vettel suffered an opening lap collision but fought back to pip Alonso by three points after the Spanish two-time champion finished second with a courageous drive for Ferrari.
The race was littered with accidents and incidents and ended behind a Safety Car with Vettel bringing his car home in the rain in tears.
Vettel became only the third driver in Formula One history to win three successive titles, equalling the feats of the great Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and his own childhood idol Michael Schumacher, who finished seventh for Mercedes in his final race before retiring.
Final season standings: Vettel 281, Alonso 278, Raikkonen 207