The 2013 Formula One season ended in dramatic fashion today as pit lane confusion, changeable conditions and drive-through penalties spiced up the 71 lap Brazilian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel took another dominant win ahead of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.
The 39th win of Vettel’s career – just two short now of Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna – was a special one, extending his run of consecutive wins to nine and matching his idol Michael Schumacher’s record of thirteen wins in a single season.
Vettel looked set to have his work cut out after losing the lead to Nico Rosberg off the start-line, but by the time they reached the same point one lap later Vettel powered around the outside of the Mercedes and regained the race lead and from there it was never challenged.
Webber completed his 215 race Formula One career with a very strong drive to second. A poor start required passes on Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso before matching Vettel’s pace for the remainder of the race. The Australian will also be very satisfied to take the fastest lap in his final race, a little nudge in the side to Vettel as they end their tense working relationship.
Webber removed his helmet on the slowing down lap, an unprecedented move in modern F1, but he said afterwards that he wanted to give the fans a “personal touch.” Vettel did his trademark donuts after the chequered flag, while Massa also did donuts following his final Grand Prix with Ferrari.
Following the second stops Webber could smell a tenth F1 victory as an unexpectedly delayed pit-stop from Vettel saw the German lose seven seconds to his pursuers.
Vettel was called in to the pits late in the lap due to a collision between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas that was expected to require a Safety Car. That meant confusion in the Red Bull pit as they had Vettel and Webber arrive in the pits on the same lap and a subsequent rush for the correct tyres. Vettel was missing a right front tyre initially and in the delay, Webber arrived and had to queue behind his ream mate
But Vettel was able to extend his lead to take victory by ten seconds.
In the opening stint of the race Vettel established a twelve second lead, helped by a slow pair of Mercedes halting the progress of cars around them. Rosberg’s great start was matched by Lewis Hamilton, the Briton taking third place on the first lap from a fifth place start.
It was a topsy-turvy race for Mercedes and Ferrari that saw both Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton handed drive-through penalties, throwing the battle for second place in the Constructors’ Championship up in the air. But it was the team from Brackley that ended the day in second place in the Championship, beating Ferrari by six points. Romain Grosjean’s early engine failure and Hekki Kovalainen finishing out of the points again meant that Lotus’ challenge faded in the final furlong.
But Marussia reached a milestone with tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship and their first F1 prize money cheque – prize money is only paid down to 10th place. It’s an expensive outcome for Caterham, who finish 11th.
Massa was deemed to have crossed the white line on the entrance to the pit-lane, whilst Hamilton collided with Valtteri Bottas as the Williams driver tried to un-lap himself. The incident resulted in a puncture for Hamilton and the loss of the rear-left tyre on Bottas’ car.
That was the major action in a race that was always on the brink of coming to life with the threat of rain.
Great Britain’s now most experienced Formula One driver of all-time had his best drive of the season to take fourth place. Jenson Button opted to start his 247th Grand Prix on the hard tyre when much of the field chose the mediums and was able to make some good passes in his opening stint to find himself in the top six from his fourteenth place start. Team mate Sergio Perez came through from 19th to finish 6th as McLaren became the first team in Formula 1 history to have both cars classified in every Grand Prix in a season.
The trouble involving Massa and Hamilton, coupled with Rosberg’s poor race allowed Button to take fourth place and sign off a disappointing year with McLaren. His out-going team mate, Sergio Perez, had an equally strong race – taking sixth place from nineteenth on the grid.
BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX, Interlagos, Race, 71 Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 71 laps 1hr 32m 36.300s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull +00m 10.4s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +00m 18.9s
4. Jenson Button McLaren +00m 37.3s
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +00m 39.0s
6. Sergio Perez McLaren +00m 44.0s
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari +00m 49.1s
8. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber +01m 04.2s
9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +01m 12.9s
10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso +1 lap
11. Paul di Resta Force India +1 lap
12. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1 lap
13. Adrian Sutil Force India +1 lap
14. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus +1 lap
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +1 lap
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams +1 lap
17. Jules Bianchi Marussia +2 laps
18. Giedo van der Garde Caterham +2 laps
19. Max Chilton Marussia +2 laps