Finale in Brazil set to be tearjerker weekend of farewells and uncertain futures
20 November, 2013
Sebastian Vettel wants to end the Formula 1 season with a record win, while Red Bull team mate Mark Webber would love to call time on his 12-year grand prix career with a final victory – and this is just one of a myriad of farewells which is set to turn the weekend in Brazil into a tearjerker.
There can be only one winner of Sunday’s season-ending race at the ramshackle amphitheatre that is Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit, but the outcome may not be quite as predictable as recent form would suggest.
No favours will be offered,and even fewer accepted, between two fiercely competitive men whose relationship as they reach the end of their long road together as team mates is cold but professional.
“Mark would not want to be gifted a win,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told reporters at Sunday’s United States Grand Prix after Vettel became the first driver to win eight races in a row in a single season.
“It would be great to see him win his final race, what a way to sign out,” he said. “But Sebastian is going to be going for that record as well and as usual it will be a straight fight between the two of them.”
Vettel has won 12 races so far this season, one short of Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13, and can also equal the 60-year-old record of nine consecutive wins chalked up by Italian Alberto Ascari in 1952-53.
Webber has not won anything this year, denied victory in Malaysia after Vettel ignored team orders to hold station and passed the Australian. If there was ever a time for payback, this would be it.
The oldest driver on the grid, at 37, made abundantly clear in Austin that he was ready to move on for a fresh start racing Le Mans sportscars with Porsche. He also showed that he is still very fast.
With both Championships won weeks ago, and Webber having nothing to lose, team orders become meaningless at this point – unlikely to be heard or acted on.
Vettel will be the favourite, as ever, and won at Interlagos in 2010, but Webber’s track record is not to be dismissed. He won in Brazil in 2009 and 2011 and was runner-up in 2010.
If the straight-talking Australian does not win, or finish on the podium, any disappointment will be short-lived and easily outweighed by the positives.
“I’ve got one week to go, I will leave the paddock very satisfied. I’ve been dealt a very good hand, very proud of what I’ve achieved,” he said after finishing third in Austin with his parents watching.
“I never thought I would do that when I left Queanbeyan in Australia, to have had the results I’ve had, to have worked with the amazing people I’ve worked with, to race against amazing drivers on the best tracks in the world.
“I’ve learned a huge amount about myself, about everything…it’s the next chapter, when I step out of the car for the last time I will be fine with it. Back to the UK Sunday night, walk the dogs on Tuesday morning.”
Sunday will also be a day of other farewells.
Williams-bound Brazilian Felipe Massa will race for the last time for Ferrari, after being with the Italian team since 2006, while the V8 engines will scream one last time before the new era of turbocharged V6 units is ushered in.
Whether it will also be the end of Ross Brawn’s time as Mercedes team principal, or a farewell for various drivers currently unsure about their futures, will be decided further down the road.
Mexico’s Sergio Perez will be in the cockpit of his McLaren for the final time in a race that will also mark the end of the team’s partnership with mobile phone operator Vodafone.
Pastor Maldonado, who last year ended Williams’ win drought, is also departing and seeking new pastures along with a bundle of Venezuelan petro-cash for a race seat.
At Lotus Kimi Raikkonen has already departed and though Heikki Kovalainen has replaced his fellow Finn, there is no guarantee that he will be racing in a black and gold car next year.
Neither Sauber driver is assured of a race seat next year with the team, although Nico Hulkenberg has impressed enough to almost be guaranteed a place on the grid next year. But it is not certain that the talented German will remain with the Swiss outfit.
His Mexican teammate is yet to be confirmed by Sauber for 2014 despite substantial backing from Telmex.
At Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo will be driving one last time for the Faenza squad, as he has been promoted to the Red Bull ‘senior’ team where he will partner Sebastian Vettel.
Yet to confirm their drivers are Force India, Caterham and Marussia, although the latter have a deal in place for Jules Bianchi to continue for another year.
As for the rest, namely Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton, the future is uncertain.
On the engine front it is farewell to the V8 engine formula, to be replaced by the all new V6 turbo power plants from next year onward, and the demise of the normally aspirated engines also sees the departure of Cosworth from the Formula 1 scene. (Reuters)
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