Sebastian Vettel wracked up his thirteenth victory of the 2013 Formula One season this afternoon by winning the season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit.
His ninth straight win takes him to within two victories of Ayrton Senna in the all-time F1 winners list, and also means he shares the record for consecutive successes with Italian legend Alberto Ascari.
The race was most certainly one fit of ending an era with the threat of rain and on-track battles providing a thrilling close to a season comprehensively dominated by Vettel and Red Bull. There was a note of nostalgia in the historic paddock as Mark Webber brought his F1 career to a close on 216 Grand Prix starts, Felipe Massa left Ferrari after eight seasons and Ross Brawn bade farewell to the frontline action of the sport from his perch on the pitwall.
Vettel did not leave the line well and was passed into turn one by Nico Rosberg, who started alongside him on the front row but the Mercedes man wasn’t in front for long as the reigning World Champion tucked under his rear wing – passing at the start of the third lap into the iconic Senna ‘esses’.
Webber was embroiled in combat with long-term friend and rival Fernando Alonso over 3rd place, a contest that soon became the battle for the runner-up spot as Rosberg slipped further back while struggling with a lack of rear grip. Team-mate Hamilton held on to 5th, while in the midfield the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were carving through their opponents and were into 6th and 8th places before their first pitstops, despite the Englishman starting on the hard compound Pirelli tyres.
Romain Grosjean had been bidding to continue his run of recent podium finishes in Brazil but his V8 chose to bow out seventy laps too early when it expired in a cloud of smoke on lap two.
Vettel extended his lead to a comfortable ten seconds, which was consolidated when Webber had a slow first pitstop. Red Bull’s uncharacteristic pit box woes continued when Vettel and Webber stacked on lap forty seven, anticipating a safety car thanks to an incident with Valtteri Bottas for Lewis Hamilton; the Briton was staving off a challenge from the Finn on the run down to turn four when contact tore the left rear wheel from the Williams and earned the Mercedes man a drive-through penalty. Vettel was called in late, entering a box already prepared for a scheduled Webber stop. The Australian exited the pits just six seconds behind his younger nemesis, but the gap stretched to eight by the chequered flag.
Controversially, the incident earned Hamilton a drive-through penalty for causing a collision – it wasn’t the only sore point of the day as hometown hero Felipe Massa was similarly punished for crossing the pitlane entry markings.
Rain did put in a belated and low key appearance in the closing ten laps, but it wasn’t enough to cause any incidents or pitstops and the order remained the same to the flag.
“I don’t want to compare the record what we have got today; it’s not fair as it was a different time when Ascari was driving. Cars broke down more often then and teams were less consistent, so therefore it’s a different type of record that we have got today. For all of us in the whole team we love coming to work and giving it all we have. There’s a great spirit and it’s sad in a way that the year comes to an end, but that’s how it is. I’m sure everyone’s looking forward to a break to get the batteries charged and to look forward to next year. My start wasn’t so good today, but I was able to get past Rosberg. It was hard to know what was going to happen in today’s race. When we came for the second pit stop, it was a late call and then we had to wait for the tyres. We managed to recover with some laps to go. Today was of course Mark’s last race. We didn’t have the best relationship, but nevertheless we always had respect for each other on a professional level and whatever was going on off-track, didn’t make a difference to us on track and we both pushed each other very hard. I certainly learned a lot from Mark. I learned to become a better driver, due to his impressive skills; that’s why I consider him one of the best drivers on the grid.” Sebastian Vettel, DEU, Red Bull
“It was nice to take the helmet off for the final lap. In this sport it’s not always possible to give things a personal touch. We have the helmets on all the time, so they fans don’t always see a Formula One driver in a car without a helmet. It was nice to get it off and see the marshals and the fans; it was just a really nice thing to experience. I heard a lot of noises that I don’t normally hear. The difficult part for me today was actually getting in to the car for the final time. I was overcome with some emotion then to be honest. That moment of the helmet going on and stepping into the car was actually the strongest emotion I’ve had all day. Then crossing the line and seeing all the guys was great. Christian radioed me and said enjoy the last lap, which I did. I did it as slow as I could; it was a very special day. Seb and I have had our challenges over time and it’s easier to have a relationship with Fernando, as he’s in another team, but to finish on the podium with those two guys – well, they have been the best of this generation. I have raced them a lot and to finish with those guys was nice for me because it meant a lot, showing that I can drive well at the end of my career and that I got the timing right. Formula One is a sport which I’ve loved. I could never have dreamt of the career that I’ve had, the tremendous highs, the tough lows – you know they have to happen and you learn from adversity. The biggest and strongest memories you have are from when you are in the car; it’s what we were tuned and trained to do. Driving on the limit is what I was paid to do and what I enjoyed doing. They are the strongest memories you have as an individual at this level.” Mark Webber, AUS, Red Bull
“A podium is the best way to end this long season and finishing behind two Red Bulls almost tastes like a victory, as well as being the maximum we could have done today. It’s a real shame that the much awaited rain didn’t arrive in the end, because in the wet, we would definitely have been more competitive. I did not get away well at the start and I found myself blocked on the outside and then the inside. However, after catching Hamilton and Rosberg, I began to push and my race was all on the attack. Even if we cannot be fully satisfied with this result, because our aim is always to win, I would view the season in a positive light: we did win and get podiums, as well as finishing second in the drivers’ championship and these are figures we can be proud of, both myself and Felipe. He’s been a fantastic team mate and even if we continue to see one another in the paddock, I will miss the relationship we have had. I wish him all the best for the future.” Fernando Alonso, ESP, Ferrari
“My race began perfectly, with a great start and then a strong pace that allowed me to immediately pull of some nice passing moves and I was having a really great race up until the moment I was given a penalty for crossing the white line. I don’t think I deserved a drive-through and I believe it was very unfair. I am very disappointed because today I could have finished fourth or third. I am sure that if I had found myself behind Fernando, he’d have let me pass. However, I don’t want this incident to ruin such a special weekend for me and all my team. In their eyes, I am a world champion and I will never forget them, nor anything about my time with Ferrari. I want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity and maximum support all the time, including President Montezemolo, Stefano Domenicali and all the mechanics and engineers who work at the track and back home, as well as all the Ferrari fans who, over the years, have rejoiced with me and also suffered with me during the most difficult moments. Thank you!” Felipe Massa, BRA, Ferrari
“I’m pleased to have finished fourth: it’s almost the podium position that I came here aiming for. We really needed today’s result. The 2013 season hasn’t been an easy one – it’s been tough for all of us at the circuits, but it’s probably been even tougher for the guys back at the factory, working flat-out to make parts. They’re a really amazing bunch of totally passionate and utterly dedicated people, and they richly deserve the ‘lift’ that today’s result will have given them. I’m also pleased for Checo. He won’t be with us next year, but he drove a great race today. Well done, mate. I also want to say a big ‘thank you’ to Vodafone. Vodafone has been an absolutely incredible title partner, and we’ve also had a lot of fun together – both on and off the track. Some of the videos they made with us have been truly brilliant. I’m sad to see them leave, but I guess nothing lasts for ever. This is a great way to end the year, and now our focus turns squarely to 2014. McLaren is an incredibly strong and powerful organisation – and, believe me, we will fight back.” Jenson Button, GBR, McLaren
“Firstly, congratulations to the team today for achieving second place in the Constructors’ Championship. That result means so much to everyone and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it this year. From my side, it was a tough race today. I don’t know what happened exactly with Valtteri and will have to have a look at the replay. I thought that I had moved to the left, he outbraked me and then we touched but it happened so quickly and it was obviously judged that I did something wrong. I was having a good race until that point in fourth place and a podium might have been possible as I was closing on Fernando. That’s why I’m so disappointed with my own race but of course I’m delighted for the team. They have done an incredible job this year and really deserve this result. It’s the reward for what I know has been many years of hard work and my thoughts are with everyone here at the track and back at our factories at Brackley and Brixworth. We’ve got so much to look forward to next season so I’ll put today behind me quickly and focus on what should be a great year in 2014.” Lewis Hamilton, GBR, Mercedes AMG
“The light rain made for quite a tricky race, but it was also enjoyable with lots of overtaking. Losing six places off the line with too much wheelspin was a key moment and really put us on the backfoot, but the performance of the car in the race was consistent and we achieved the two-stop race. We chose to extend each stint but I struggled for performance on the hard tyre at the end and I wasn’t able to challenge Ricciardo for the final point. However, I think we can go away from here quite satisfied with what we achieved today and with the year as a whole. Although I missed out on a top ten position in the championship, it’s been a successful season, an incredible journey and I want to say a massive thanks to the team for the job they’ve done this year.” Paul Di Resta, GBR, Force India
“It was hard finding our way today having only driven in the wet all weekend. We had just the sighting laps to the grid to make a few changes in order to try to optimise the dry balance as best we could. The middle part of the race was quite nail-biting with the constant threat of rain, but I knew that all I had to do was keep going and be ready for any scenario, especially with the weather. In the last stint I struggled with a vibration on front left tyre, which was really costing me time and that is why we pitted for an unscheduled third stop. I would like to thank the whole team for a brilliant season, with particular credit to my car crew. I am really proud of my record-breaking nineteen finishes in nineteen races and this is the result of a fantastic team effort.” Max Chilton, GBR, Marussia
CLASSIFICATION – RACE – BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX
|11||Di Resta||GBR||Force India|
|18||Van Der Garde||NED||Caterham|