The Spaniard moved from seventh to fifth after the first corner, while Vettel dropped from fourth to seventh. Vettel then was hit from behind by the Williams of Bruno Senna and spun at the end of the back straight, dropping to last place after sitting backward on the track with several cars having to go around him.
But the Spaniard lost a position after locking his front tire and briefly running off the track at the first corner. Vettel _ without significant damage to his car _ began making his way back to the front, easily passing the slower cars near the end of the pack. He was already sixth by lap 15.
Alonso was fourth and Vettel fifth when the safety car was deployed for debris on the track eight laps later. Vettel then dropped to seventh at the halfway point of the 71-lap race, which still would have been good enough to defend his lead and clinch the title.
Alonso briefly had the title in his hands again after more rain fell with 14 laps to go. Red Bull lost time while putting the wet tires on Vettel’s car, dropping him to 11th place while Alonso moved into third. But after all cars pitted, Vettel was in sixth place, enough to keep the title. Alonso moved to second after passing Massa, but he needed Vettel to drop a few more spots.
Hamilton, who will replace Schumacher at Mercedes next season, retook the lead with 22 laps to go, but was hit by Hulkenberg when the Force India driver came in too hard to make the pass. Hulkenberg was eventually penalized.
The 43-year-old Schumacher is retiring for the second time after struggling in his return with Mercedes. He had ended his career after the 2006 season and managed only one podium finish after retuning in 2010, at the European GP in July.
Schumacher is leaving F1 with numbers unmatched by any other driver. He retires with the most wins (91), pole positions (68), fastest laps (77) and most podium finishes (155).
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