Even though Red Bull had already confirmed the driver’s and constructors titles since the Indian GP last month, with three races remaining, it was Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus F1 teams who had their sights set on the second spot in both championship tables.
By Saturday’s qualifying sessions end, Sebastian Vettel had once again produced a blistering lap in treacherous (wet) conditions to claim his ninth pole position of the season in Brazil on Saturday and looked favourite to bag a victory in Sao Paulo, making it his record 9th race win on the trot this 2013 season.
Race day saw most drivers (all except Vettel) sample their Pirelli dry’s for the first time over the race weekend, scrambling to gather any form of useful feedback and data on a track that remained dry for the first time over the highly eventful yet watered-down race weekend. Of all the cars on the starting grid, it was just the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez who were visibly ready to gamble on strategy, choosing to start on hard compound tyres over the medium compound setup chosen by the majority.
When the five red lights went out, it was second-place starter Nico Rosberg who got the better of Vettel by the Senna S, while his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton managed to leapfrog Fernando Alonso to third. But the four-time world champ was soon ahead of his German compatriot by the same corner the following lap, as with Hamilton and Alonso. Fernando’s Ferrari seemed to have the edge over the Mercedes cars who appeared to be losing out to the rest on sheer straight line speed.
Mark Webber who started off fourth, had a phenomenal drive in his final stint out in a competitive F1 race. It didn’t take long for the Red Bull driver to overtake both the Mercedes cars to apply pressure on the Alonso’s Ferrari by lap 12. The Australian got the better of the Spaniard the following lap and managed to bring his Red Bull car home second, 10.452s behind his his four-time world champion teammate.
Romain Grosjean was an the first to retire from the race in his Lotus with a spectacular engine failure, while the second car piloted by Heikki Kovalainen – who was filling in for his Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen – was on a mission to prove Flavio Briatore wrong for saying that Lotus had made a huge mistake by giving Kovalainen a drive. Well, Heikki didn’t really manage to justify or prove a point to the Italian businessman, after having started the race 11th to eventually finish 14th.
Jenson Button had a brilliant 247th race of his career moving up to 4th ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes after starting 14th on the grid. This was McLaren's best finish of the season. His teammate Sergio Perez had an equally memorable final drive in his McLaren coming home 6th after starting 15th.
Mark webber had spent a little more time than he would have liked to on his first pitstop on lap 24 when lost time in the pits after Vettel created a team lineup, and came back out on track behind the Ferrari of Alonso, but was eventually able to overtake the Ferrari – now on hard compound tyres – for the second time in the race on lap 26.
Hamilton and Massa were busy battling for fourth place by lap 27, when Felipe picking up a drive-through penalty for putting all four wheels of his Ferrari over the white line that marked the entry to the pit lane, while still racing. The Brazilian was audibly disappointed with that fact on his last race with the Maranello-based team over the team radio.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil caused a bit of a flurry on lap 45 when he managed to un-lap himself past race leader, Vettel.
Lap 48 of the Brazil GP this year was epic. With Valteri Bottas making an effort to unlap himself past the Mercedes car of Lewis Hamilton by using DRS at Descida do Lago. Hamilton who didn’t see charging Williams car the which resulted in Bottas’s right rear wheel coming clean off his Williams, forcing him out of the race, with a puncture to the left rear of the Mercedes car. Fearing the safety car out on track, the Red Bull team called Vettel in early for a change of tyres. The mechanics who were expecting Webber to come in were taken by surprise when Vetttel pulled in to the puts and weren’t ready for the quick change of tyres, that caused a line up in the Red Bull garage. This gave Fernando Alonso, now on his second set of medium rubbers, an opportunity to catch up to and challenge Webber for second place. Hamilton, who managed to limp back to the pits for new tyres, was handed a drive through penalty of his own the next lap.
As rain clouds now looking more and more threatening with 20 laps to go, Charles Pic bowed out of the 2013 F1 season with a broken rear suspension on lap 61. The track temperatures did drop with a slight drizzle towards the end of the race, but it wasn’t enough for the drivers to pit and switch to intermediates.
Emotions ran high by the end of the race as Vettel recorded his 13th of the season followed by his now customary post-race doughnut celebration, and the German national anthem sounded for a record nine times all thanks to one man Red Bull driver. Mark Webber signed off Formula One career feeling the wind in his hair after taking off his helmet on his last in lap on an F1 circuit, as he bid his final adieu to the fans. By finishing second, and Hamilton down in ninth, Webber had claimed third spot on the driver’s title list.
So the 2013 season is done and dusted with Redbull marking both, their fourth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championship victories on the trot with 596 and 397 points respectively. Mercedes ended the season second in the constructor’s table with 360 points, six clear of third placed Ferrari, with Lotus in fourth with 315. McLaren finished their dismal season fifth with 122 points ahead of Force India, Sauber, Torro-Rosso and Williams, Marussia and Caterham.
The 2013 GP in Brazil was the last race of sorts for many of the current drivers, who will shift across the paddock to a different team for next season (like Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo) or some (like Mark Webber) who made their final appearances on an F1 circuit, as a competitor. The Sao Paulo GP this year also marked the end of the era of those glorious sounding naturally aspirated 2.4-litre V8 engines, with the introduction of the 1.6-litre turbo V6 motors in next year’s season. We’ll be there to cover each and every bit of the rollercoaster that commences in March 2014. Until then…
F1 2013 Brazil GP provisional results
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1h32m36.300s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull +10.452s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +18.913s
4. Jenson Button McLaren +37.360s
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +39.048s
6. Sergio Perez McLaren +44.051s
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari +49.110s
8. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber +1m04.252s
9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1m12.903s
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
20. Charles Pic Caterham 58 laps
21. Valtteri Bottas Williams 45 laps
22. Romain Grosjean Lotus 2 laps
Overall driver’s Championship standings
1. S. Vettel 397
2. F. Alonso 242
3. M. Webber 199
4. L. Hamilton 189
5. K. Raikkonen 183
6. N. Rosberg 171
7. R. Grosjean 132
8. F. Massa 112
9. J. Button 73
10. N. Hulkenberg 51
11. S. Perez 49
12. P. Di Resta 48
13. A. Sutil 29
14. D. Ricciardo 20
15. J. Vergne 13
16. E. Gutierrez 6
17. V. Bottas 4
18. P. Maldonado 1
Overall constructor’s Championship standings
1. Red Bull 596
2. Mercedes 360
3. Ferrari 354
4. Lotus 315
5. McLaren 122
6. Force India 77
7. Sauber 57
8. Toro Rosso 33
9. Williams 5