Sebastian Vettel has equalled Alberto Ascari’s 60-year-old record of nine consecutive victories in Formula 1 with victory in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
While the changeable weather conditions certainly presented plenty of drama and thrills, Vettel was in control throughout. His teammate Mark Webber drove hard to make it a team 1-2 in his final Formula 1 outing, while Fernando Alonso completed the rostrum.
Despite more morning showers, dry conditions greeted the field for the first time all weekend when they gridded up for the 71-lap race. With absolutely no dry-weather running all weekend the 22-car field was really heading into unchartered territory if the forecasted rain didn’t arrive.
Who had optimised their set-up for drier Sunday conditions or in the anticipation of more rain? All would be unveiled…
When the lights went out, it was Nico Rosberg who made the better getaway from the front row to lead the field into Turn 1, with all getting through the opening sequence of corners without any incident.
But Rosberg’s joy would prove short-lived. With his Mercedes carrying a lot of rear wing in anticipation of the darkening skies depositing their contents on the Interlagos circuit, he was easy meat for Vettel, who blasted ahead of his countryman along the start/finish straight to assume the lead.
Alonso had also lost a position off the line – falling to fourth behind Lewis Hamilton – but he quickly slipped by the Englishman’s Mercedes at the same time that Vettel assumed the lead from Rosberg.
It wasn’t too long before Webber and Alonso worked their way by both Silver Arrows’, and the veterans staged a brief battle for second, which was resolved in Webber’s favour with a smart passing move to get ahead of the Ferrari.
The first round of pit stops saw the order between Webber and Alonso reversed, courtesy of a slow left-rear tyre change for the Australian, but Webber’s superior pace was all the more apparent when he quickly overhauled and overtook the Spaniard once again.
Vettel continued to eke out his lead while Webber himself started to pull clear of Alonso. The gap proved critical when the weather started to turn, and – fearful of a safety car being called after Valtteri Bottas was taken out in a collision with Hamilton on the back straight – Vettel pitted for a second time, without his mechanics being ready.
The team was expecting to receive Webber for his second stop, and the Australian was forced to briefly queue behind the German while he was fitted with four new tyres. Despite the delay, Webber still kept second place.
The pair claimed another 1-2 as the Milton Keynes squad wrapped up a dominant 2013 season in style, with Vettel securing a ninth successive win and his thirteenth visit to the top step of the rostrum this year – both equalled the records held by Alberto Ascari (1952-3) and Michael Schumacher (2004).
An emotional Webber claimed the forty-second and final Grand Prix podium of his career, removing his helmet and gloves on his slow-down lap to salute the crowd as the curtain came down on an impressive chapter in his life.
Alonso had a lonely run to third after Webber moved ahead, lamenting the fact that the forecasted rain never really did arrive to try and reduce the competitive disadvantage he and the rest of the field had to the Red Bulls.
Nonetheless, his podium finish – and teammate Felipe Massa’s seventh, after serving an unpopular (but justified) drive-through penalty – wasn’t quite enough to help the team snatch second place from Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship. The Silver Arrows finished six points clear, with Rosberg finishing fifth and Hamilton ninth, after he too copped a drive-through penalty for taking out Bottas.
Jenson Button finished an excellent fourth place, after being one of two drivers – Sauber’s Esteban Gutiérrez was the other – to start the race on Pirelli’s Hard compound tyres. Button showed an abundance of great racecraft, taking advantage of the McLaren’s low-downforce set-up to breeze by many a driver.
With teammate Sergio Pérez finishing two spots behind, the result was the team’s best of the season in what has been – by their own admission – a very disappointing season. McLaren finished a lonely fifth in the Constructors’ Championship standings, their worst championship result since 2004 and the first time since 1980 that the team hasn’t claimed a single podium finish in a season.
Nico Hülkenberg finished eighth to claim the tenth point-scoring result of his hugely impressive season, with Daniel Ricciardo salvaging the final point in his last outing for Toro Rosso before he moves to the senior Red Bull team.
Neither Force India made the points, but Hülkenberg’s eighth place wasn’t enough to vault Sauber ahead of the Silverstone team, which ended the year sixth in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Paul di Resta finished in Ricciardo’s wheeltracks, with teammate Adrian Sutil closely behind as the pair sandwiched Gutiérrez in the second Sauber.
The absence of any meaningful rain and relative lack of attrition meant that the much-contested 13th-placed race finish was always going to be out of reach of Caterham, which was consigned to finishing last in the Constructors’ Championship standings after a season-long battle with Marussia.
Jules Bianchi gave Marussia end-of-year bragging rights by finishing best-placed in that inter-team battle ahead of Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton. Charles Pic was forced to retire his Caterham when his right-rear suspension failed.
His retirement – coupled with another disappointing showing by stand-in teammate Heikki Kovalainen – consigned the Enstone outfit to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
2013 Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (71 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||71||1:32:36.300|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||71||+ 10.452|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||71||+ 18.913|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||71||+ 37.360|
|5.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||71||+ 39.048|
|6.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||71||+ 44.051|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||71||+ 49.110|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||71||+ 1:04.252|
|9.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||71||+ 1:12.903|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||70||1 lap behind|
|11.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||70||1 lap behind|
|12.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||70||1 lap behind|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||70||1 lap behind|
|14.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||70||1 lap behind|
|15.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||70||1 lap behind|
|16.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||70||1 lap behind|
|17.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||69||2 laps behind|
|18.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||69||2 laps behind|
|19.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||69||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||58||Suspension|
|DNF.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||45||Collision|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||2||Engine|