The 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix was never set to live up to the thrilling climax from 2012, yet the final race of this season was undoubtedly a special occasion for many reasons. Sebastian Vettel claimed his ninth consecutive win and his thirteenth of the season; equalling the respective records set by Ascari and Schumacher. It was an impressive drive once again, but it was teammate Mark Webber who stole the show. His final race ended with a well deserved podium in P2 making it yet another Red Bull 1-2, capping off another magical season for them.
Despite his army of critics who lament his success, it cannot be denied that a win in the final round of 2013 is a true reflection of Sebastian Vettel’s season. The German did not get a brilliant start, having to retake a vulnerable Nico Rosberg at the end of the first lap. However, Vettel controlled the race from the front and while at times his rivals had superior pace, he managed to capitalise on their squabbles to take a relatively simple victory – a minor scare of a safety car forced Vettel into an earlier than scheduled second stop which threatened to derail his race as his mechanics were unprepared. A swift recovery from the Red Bull mechanics meant that the only time lost was aesthetic. Issues such as this were what Sebastian’s twelve second lead was built for.
“My start wasn’t so good today,” Vettel acknowledged, “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.” Sebastian’s sentiments were reflected on the podium, as he directed the interviewer to start with Mark. I doubt Webber will accept his sentiments – it is a little late in the day for Vettel and Webber to paper over the cracks, yet it was a fitting gesture from Sebastian on what was widely regarded as ‘Mark’s day’.
Webber’s race was a fantastic one. After heading through Turn two on lap one side by side with Felipe Massa, David Coulthard’s final race disaster must have been at the forefront of Webber’s thoughts. However, he managed to maintain the position before fighting his way past Hamilton – a fantastic overtake on the outside of Turn 6. He then dispatched a struggling Nico Rosberg before engaging in combat with his old friend Fernando Alonso. Their battle raged throughout the rest of the race and was a thoroughly entertaining affair. The two have shared some great moments in the past. The infamous Eau Rouge overtake by Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso is a classic moment and one which will live long in the memory.
It was a magnificent drive from Mark to take P2. Once the race was complete, Webber performed a unique send-off, by removing his helmet during the in-lap. Whether the FIA throw the book at him or not, (a grid penalty for Melbourne will be difficult to enforce), it was a fantastic moment and a great way to end his single-seater career.
“It was nice to take the helmet off for the final lap,” Webber stated. “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.” The sport will undoubtedly miss Mark Webber and I will post an article celebrating his career in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the battle for P2 in the constructors championship took a number of twists throughout the race. As the Mercedes struggled in the dry conditions, Ferrari looked to seize the opportunity as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ran P3 and P4 for much of the first half of the race. Massa was entangled in a battle with Hamilton at the time, yet this tussle was ended prematurely when Felipe crossed the hatched area of the pit entry with all four wheels on more than one occasion. Prior to the event, the FIA had announced to the drivers that this would be considered track extending and consequently, Massa was handed a drive-through penalty, much to the distaste of Ferrari. This proved to be even more costly when later in the race, Lewis Hamilton received a drive-through himself for contact with Valtteri Bottas while the Finn was looking to un-lap himself. This was pivotal for the constructors – if Massa was not given a drive-through penalty, then Ferrari would have beaten Mercedes to P2.
“My race began perfectly,” Massa stated. “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.”
Meanwhile, further down the order, McLaren’s gamble on a dry weather set-up paid dividend, as Jenson Button recorded the team’s best finish of the season in P4, while Sergio Perez climbed to P6. The result will give the team a huge boost heading into the winter, yet the illusive podium evaded McLaren this season – the first time the team have not appeared on the podium all year since 1980. “This is a great way to end the year, and now our focus turns squarely to 2014,” Button said. “McLaren is an incredibly strong and powerful organisation – and, believe me, we will fight back.”
Elsewhere, Marussia won the all-important battle for P10 in the constructors championship, as they beat Caterham for the first time in their four year history. It is a fantastic boost for the team as they head into what will be a difficult 2014 for them considering their low budget. While his future is unclear, Max Chilton has written his name into the history books, as he has become the first driver in history to complete every race of his rookie season. “I would like to thank the whole Team for a brilliant season,” Max announced, “with particular credit to my car crew. I am really proud of my record-breaking 19 finishes in 19 races and this is the result of a fantastic Team effort.” Meanwhile, 2014 returnee Jules Bianchi is predicting an even stronger year next season. “This has been a very important and rewarding year for me personally and I can’t wait for us to take that to the next level together in 2014,” he said.
So, the 2013 season has come and gone. Sebastian Vettel has dominated proceedings and fully deserves hs records. However, the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2013 will always be remembered for a certain Aussie who made a graceful exit from a fantastic single-seater career.