Brazilian Grand Prix: Vettel and Red Bull end the year in style
24 November, 2013
Sebastian Vettel has achieved what no other driver in the history of Formula 1 has, by winning his ninth consecutive Formula 1 race when he took top honours in the Brazilian Grand Prix, 19th and final round of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship, in a race which he again dominated despite a slip up at the start.
The rain which drenched Sao Paulo on the first two days of the weekend, stayed away for the race but the skies, laden with rain bearing clouds, were an ever present worry for the teams.
Yet, it was another flawless performance by a driver and team combination who are at the absolute top of their game and etching their achievements into the sport’s history books.
However this time Vettel was almost let down by his normally flawless Red Bull crew, when he came in for his final stop they appeared to be searching for his tyres – a delay which cost him about three seconds. When he entered the pits he had a dozen seconds in hand on teammate Mark Webber who had worked his way into second place. When they emerged the gap was down to about six seconds.
For Vettel it has been a remarkable journey, despite wrapping up the title six races ago in Korea, he continued his relentless pursuit of victories as if rubbing salt in to the wounds of his rivals, with relish.
The German said afterwards, “I am actually quite sad the season is coming to an end. The car has been phenomenal and has been getting better [with] every race. It was very difficult at the end today with the rain but I am extremely proud and a big thanks to the team and a big thanks to Renault as well. Thanks to Mark – we didn’t have the best of relationships but we have also have always had a lot of respect for each other and we have been a very successful pairing for the team.”
Webber’s final race as a Formula 1 driver mirrored the last four years of his career: playing second fiddle to his younger teammate, suffering the major share of any bad luck dished to the blues – this time a couple of tardy pit stops, the last of which had him queue up behind the number one car…
Nevertheless the Australian can leave with his head held high. He and Vettel are undisputedly the most successful driver pairing in the history of the sport. It was a touching and historic moment, after crossing the line in second place, as he drove the Red Bull to parc ferme for the final time, taking off his helmet on the slow down lap, the wind to blowing into his face – conjuring up memories of the eighties when this was common practice by the likes of Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi – simply unforgettable.
Team principal Christian Horner summed up the sentiment over the radio to Webber, “Fantastic race, it’s been brilliant working with you. You can be proud of what you’ve done, we certainly are.”
Formula 1′s elder statesman, the straight talking, no bullsh*t bloke retired in style and to add the cherry on the cake he set the fastest lap of all in his final appearance at a grand prix. He made his mark.
“It was a good finish to my career. I want to thank Seb, Fernando, Lewis all the guys who have been in window the last few years. I want to thank everyone in Australia and I want to thank everyone who has helped me – they know who they are,” said Webber.
And added, “In this sport it’s not always easy to have the personal touch. I just thought it would be nice to get [the helmet] off and see the marshals and the fans and hear a lot of noises I am not used to hearing. The difficult part today was getting in the car, I was overcome with emotion, I did it but it was the strongest emotion I had had all day. I enjoyed the last lap and I made it last as long as I possibly could.”
It was also fitting that sharing the podium with him, after a gutsy drive to take third, was his mate Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver was best of the rest, although there was a point when it seemed as if he may be able to take the fight to the World Champions, but it was not to be despite the rare pitstop fumble by the energy drinks outfit.
Alonso said of his afternoon’s graft, “It was a difficult race for everyone. The rain did not come and we would have been more competitive in the wet. It seemed like it was going to rain at any time but it didn’t and it was a shame for us…but to finish on the podium means we finish the season on a high. Next year we look forwards.”
Drive of the day would probably go to Jenson Button, last year’s winner at the same venue, who salvaged some pride for his team with fourth place which was their best finish of a well below par season. The 2009 World Champion started from 12th on the grid and delivered the kind of performance, in tricky conditions, which has become his trademark.
Nico Rosberg qualified on the front row and along with his Mercedes team would have expected to be capable of fighting at least for a podium position. It all got off to a rather dandy start for the Silver Arrows as Rosberg blitzed the start and took the lead, looking good until the exit of Junção and the drive up the hill towards the start straight.
That’s when the penny dropped; Rosberg was not able to get the power down, a problem that afflicts the W04 in cooler conditions. Thus Vettel got good drive out of Junção, and even without DRS, cruised past. For Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton it was a frustrating afternoon, with 5th and 9th their reward.
Hamilton was in the wars, banging wheels with Valterri Bottas at Descida do Lago causing the Williams driver to go off the track with a broken left rear wheel, while the Mercedes escaped with a burst tyre and limped around for a a new set of boots before being given a drive through penalty for causing the collision.
Nevertheless the pair did enough to clinch second place in the Construtor’s Championship for Mercedes compared to fifth place which they achieved 12 months earlier.
Sergio Perez arguably drove his best race of the season, in his final race as a McLaren driver. After crashing out of qualifying and taking a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, he toiled hard and impressived by carving his way from 19th on the grid to sixth place.
Next up was local hero Felipe Massa racing for the final time in Formula 1 for Ferrari. He managed a great start and like his teammate Alonso, looked very strong early in the race. Uncannily he was in the throes of an entertaining ding-dong with his nemesis Hamilton, when the race stewards adjudged he had overstepped the boundaries of the pit entry and slapped him with a drive through. Seventh was his final finish as in red.
Nico Hulkenberg survived several wheel to wheel battles to take eighth, ahead of Hamilton in ninth with Daniel Ricciardo claiming the final point in his final race as a Toro Rosso driver. Red Bull beckons for the young Australian.
It was heartache for Lotus as Romain Grosjean, desperately seeking his first win stopped with a blown engine on lap two, while, Kimi Raikkonen’s stand-in, Heikki Kovalainen botched the start big time and thereafter never really recovered. He finished 14th in car that has been within sight of a podium for most of the year. A miserable end to a once promising season, which may well precede a miserable winter for the cash-strapped outfit.
Final word to the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2103 World Champion Sebastian Vettel on equalling Alberto Ascari’s record of nine straight Formula 1 victories “I think it’s not fair [to compare]. It’s a different time at his time, cars broke down a lot more, teams weren’t as consistent. I think it’s a different type of record. For all of us in the whole team, we just love turning up to work and giving it all we have. It’s a great spirit we have in the team. It’s sad in a way that this year comes to an end, but that’s how it is. I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the break to recover.” (GP247)
Subbed by AJN.
Brazilian Grand Prix, Autodromo Carlos Pace – Sunday, 24 November 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||71||1:32:36.300||1||25|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||71||+10.4 secs||4||18|
|3||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||71||+18.9 secs||3||15|
|4||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||71||+37.3 secs||14||12|
|5||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||71||+39.0 secs||2||10|
|6||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||71||+44.0 secs||19||8|
|7||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||71||+49.1 secs||9||6|
|8||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||71||+64.2 secs||10||4|
|9||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||71||+72.9 secs||5||2|
|10||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||70||+1 Lap||7||1|
|11||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||70||+1 Lap||12|
|12||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||70||+1 Lap||17|
|13||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||70||+1 Lap||15|
|14||7||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus-Renault||70||+1 Lap||11|
|15||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||70||+1 Lap||8|
|16||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||70||+1 Lap||16|
|17||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||69||+2 Laps||21|
|18||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||69||+2 Laps||20|
|19||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||69||+2 Laps||22|
Note – Perez originally qualified 14th, but received a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.