Brazilian GP - Sunday - Race Report
Master Sebastian Vettel blasted to victory in the season-finale Brazilian Grand Prix. It was his ninth consecutive win in the season, breaking his own record of eight straight wins, and it was his 13th of the year, which matched Michael Schumacher’s record of wins in season. Vettel also equaled Alberto Ascari’s all-time record of nine consecutive wins which the Italian set during the 1952 and 1953 seasons.
“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,” Vettel said. “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.”
Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber finished second in his final grand prix.
“It was a very good finish to my career,” said Webber who will race for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship next year. “A good fight with all the guys I’ve enjoyed fighting with for most of my career: Seb (Vettel), Fernando (Alonso), Lewis (Hamilton), Nico Rosberg) – all the guys who have been in the window for the last five or six years.”
Fernando Alonso took third place in his Ferrari.
“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,” he said. “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.”
After two days of rain, it was dry as the drivers lined up on the grid for the 71 lap race. For once, pole sitter Vettel did not make a good start, and Nico Rosberg took the lead in his Mercedes.
“Obviously we didn’t have any dry running, which was quite exciting when we started: a bit of an adventure to find braking points, etcetera,” Vettel said. “The start was obviously quite bad for me. I had lots of wheel-slip and didn’t get the initial launch off the line as good as I was hoping for. Nico passed me straight away, Fernando (Alonso) was closing in. I was lucky that as soon as I got on the KERS I could recover a little bit and then it’s not a long way to Turn One – which helped today. So, lost the position, saved some KERS for the end of the lap.”
As the cars came screaming onto the main straight at the end of lap one Vettel overtook Rosberg.
“I was hoping to get him back up the hill which worked well,” Vettel said, “so I managed to get back in the lead straight away and was basically benefitting I think from Nico probably a little bit slower than the cars behind – Fernando and Mark – so I could open a gap and control that for more or less the rest of the race.”
That was indeed that. Vettel led lap one and every other lap of the race. He immediately pulled away from Rosberg who had Alonso, Webber, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Webber, Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Nico Hulkenberg behind him.
Rosberg, who had qualified second, would fade back and eventually finished fifth.
“Today is a great day for the team and to finish in second place in the Constructors’ Championship is a huge step forward for us,” he said. “I had a perfect start but then I struggled a lot with my rear tires in the opening stint and lost a few positions. We could have cleared Jenson (Button) in the pits but it was better for us to be conservative and focus on our battle with Ferrari.”
After earning three third places, a second and a fourth in the last five races, Romain Grosjean lasted only two laps in Brazil before his Lotus went up in smoke.
“At this point in the season I think everyone needs a holiday,” he said, “but apparently my engine decided to go on vacation early.”
Alonso overtook Rosberg on lap four to claim second place. Webber, meanwhile, had dropped from fourth to fifth at the start and now had passed Hamilton. He then attacked Rosberg, and eventually sliced by Alonso on lap 13.
“Both Seb and I had tough starts,” Webber said. “I was happy to lose only to Lewis actually. I had a good little scrap in the first lap: Fernando and Lewis were having a good battle and then we settled into it. It looked like the Mercedes were struggling to hold the tempo of Fernando, myself and Seb, so we had to clear the Mercs as best we could. And then it was coming up to Fernando, so, managed to pass Fernando as well. There were some really nice moves and some good racing.”
Webber lost second to Alonso at the first round of stops for tires when the Red Bull crew had problems with a wheel gun and so Webber had a 5.1 second pit stop. But within a couple of laps Webber was back in second.
The second round of stops were messy for Red Bull. Valterri Bottas (Williams) and Hamilton had collided out on the track. Fearing that the safety car might come out, the Red Bull team told Vettel to pit immediately at the end of lap 47. But the team was set up for a scheduled stop for Webber. So there was a delay while the mechanics ran around to replace Webber’s tires with Vettel’s. In the meantime Webber arrived and had to park behind Vettel and wait.
Alonso and Hamilton pitted on the same lap. Hamilton had a flat right rear tire after hitting Bottas. Officials decided that Hamilton had caused a collision and gave him a drive through the pits penalty. That dropped him out of fourth place and down to 11th. He worked his way back to ninth.
“It was a tough race today,” Hamilton said. “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 out-braked 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.”
Had Hamilton crossed the line in third or fourth he would have earned enough points to finish third in the drivers’ championship. But Webber claimed that place and Hamilton ended up fourth.
Bottas, who had scored his first F1 points in Texas a week earlier, ended up with a wrecked car in Brazil.
“I tried to keep my line overtaking on the outside and we touched,” the Williams driver said. “It’s disappointing to end the season like this but a points-finish may have been too much for us today anyway.”
At the midpoint of the race Alonso was running third ahead of teammate Massa who was driving in his last ever race for Ferrari. On one lap Massa dropped all four wheels over the white line that marks the entry to pit lane, and officials gave him a drive through the pits penalty. Massa was livid.
“I was having a really great race up until the moment I was given a penalty for crossing the white line,” Massa said after finishing seventh. “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.”
Indeed, Alonso said afterwards that he would have ceded third to Massa so that the latter could have celebrated on the podium in his home race. Out in front, Vettel had no intention of gifting Webber a victory in his last race, and Webber would not have accepted the offer anyway. Vettel was magnanimous after the race.
“There are a couple of guys that stand out,” Vettel said. “First of all Mark, obviously it’s his last race, we’ve been teammates for a very, very long time. After all we didn’t have the best relationship but I think we always had tremendous respect for each other. And together I think we’ve been very, very successful for the team.
“And then there’s one other guy, he’s working on my car. His name is Tom Batch and unfortunately he’s leaving so farewell Tom, all the best for the future, and who knows, maybe we’ll meet each other again in the future.”
Jenson Button started 14th and came home fourth. It was the best finish of the season for McLaren which for the first time since 1980 did not earn a single podium.
“We really needed today’s result,” said Button. “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.”
Sergio Perez drove a strong race in the other McLaren to finish sixth behind Rosberg.
“What a contrast today was to yesterday, when we were unlucky to lose five grid positions owing to a gearbox-change penalty,” Perez said, “but I think we made a very strong recovery this afternoon. I was praying for heavier rain at the end of the race, so that I could have a go at making up some more positions. But unfortunately I had to save fuel in the final laps, which meant I couldn’t really attack Nico as hard as I’d otherwise have been able to.”
It drizzled lightly on and off and here and there during the race. The track was not wet enough for the drivers to switch to rain tires but it was slick.
Hulkenberg wound up eighth.
“I had a good start and nice battles in the first few laps,” the Sauber driver said. “Then I was by myself for most of the race. The problem today was too much understeer. Because of that the front tires were ruined pretty quickly, which cost us time. But finishing eighth is a solid result and it puts me in tenth place in the drivers’ championship, which I have never achieved before. That is a good feeling.”
Hamilton passed Daniel Ricciardo to claim ninth, and the latter rounded out the top 10 in his Toro Rosso.
“The conditions were very difficult with the occasional drop of rain,” Ricciardo said. “From the cockpit, it’s actually quite difficult to judge how much rain there is. You see a few drops on your visor, look at the guy in front of you and if he doesn’t go off, you assume it’s dry.
“We were not very quick from the start and I was struggling with cold graining on the front right. We did try and rebalance it during the race, but we struggled in terms of pure pace, so I was quite happy to come away with a point.
“At midnight tonight I become an Infiniti Red Bull Racing driver, but for now I just want to say thank you to everyone at Scuderia Toro Rosso, here at the track, back in Faenza and at our wind tunnel for two fantastic years.”
As for the man that Ricciardo is replacing at Red Bull, Webber walked away from F1 with his head held high.
“To finish on the podium with arguable the two best guys of the generation we’re in at the moment – I hold them in very high esteem – I’m happy with the finish and I’m happy to go and do something different now,” Webber said. “It was a special day for me, all the people that helped me get here. Australia. And the team, of course.”