It couldn’t end any other way could it? The threat of rain that so many wanted to create a thrilling finale to the Formula 1 season didn’t materialise, but in any case if it had done would it have changed the result? I don’t think so, Sebastian Vettel has simply been immense and in a way it would have been wrong for 2013 to finish in any other way other than with Vettel taking his ninth consecutive win and 13th of the year.
He didn’t have it all his own way this time, Nico Rosberg qualified alongside him on the front row and took the lead into the first corner. He held the lead for all of one lap as Vettel tucked into his slipstream on the start finish straight and was easily through. He pulled a gap and was gone.
Only a fumbled pit stop stopped him from executing an almost perfect race. When Valtteri Bottas attempted to un-lap himself from Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver moved over on the Finn just slightly that it broke the left rear wheel sending the Williams driver careering off the circuit. Red Bull immediately thought that a safety car could be called so brought Vettel in a lap early.
Unfortunately and as happened far too often, this compromised the race of Mark Webber who was due to pit that lap. As they rushed to get Vettel’s tyres out, the German was sat there losing time. He had only been 12 seconds ahead of Webber, so now he was stacked behind. It made no difference in the end, Vettel was released back into the lead while Webber maintained his second place.
Vettel reeled off the laps, a few drops of water did nothing to slow him down and he took a comfortable win followed by his now customary doughtnuts. It typifies just how brilliant he has been this year. He has got better every year he’s won, and being only 26 years old he can get better still.
Next year there are plenty of regulation changes including with the power trains or engines as most people like to call them, aero rules are also significantly altered and it’ll be a hard task for Red Bull to continue to repeat their success, especially after they kept on developing this year’s car longer than most other teams.
However, they have Adrian Newey still heading up the design team, and they still have Vettel, who I’ve no doubt could mix it with the more lauded talents of Fernando Alonso and Hamilton. It’s not going to be an easy task for anyone to beat them next year. As Vettel says on the radio, they’ve got to enjoy these victorious moments because you don’t know when it could stop. But right now, you’d be a fool to think that Red Bull won’t be right up there competing at the front again in 2014.
Webber finishes F1 career in style
Before Mark pops off to the World Endurance Championship with Porsche he had one more race to take part in, and he gave his all as he signed off with a superb showing of race craft and passing that puts many far younger drivers to shame.
He made his traditional poor getaway, and dropped to fifth, but he was soon pulling the moves to get up the order. His pass of Lewis Hamilton into turn six around the outside was brilliant, but just another one to add to a collection of great moves.
He was soon ahead of Rosberg too and set about getting on the tail of Alonso. These two have had numerous bouts before and this one was just as good as they Webber stalked the Ferrari. It was so good that after the first pit stops when Webber had a slow stop and came out behind the Ferrari, they did it all over again. Webber was just on it all race and even had a go at closing his team mate down, but just couldn’t manage it.
He’d obviously have liked to go out with a win but unfortunately Vettel has just become too good with this current generation of car. It’s all change next year, and Webber deemed it appropriate that this was a time to get out of the F1 circus. Probably the correct thing to do but after a race like this it seems like he’s still got much more to give.
However we shouldn’t forget that he has been soundly beaten this year by his team mate. It’s true that most of the time if a Red Bull had a problem then it would be on Webber’s car. It’s also true that a few contentious decisions went in the favour of Vettel. But I think from an outsiders point of view he got given a good crack at Red Bull.
He nearly and probably should have won the 2010 championship. Things went against him, perhaps Red Bull made a few dodgy calls, but I feel that he tied up towards the end and let it get away from him. He still put in a fantastic season but unfortunately he’s only ever equalled that kind of performance on a few weekends since, and not consistently like that year.
It’s the one that got away, but Webber has had a great career, some of the qualifying laps in his early years, especially in the Jaguar were of the highest quality while some of his race drives in the glory years of Red Bull could not have been bettered by anyone.
McLaren end year on a high
Jenson Button had a smile on his face for the first time in what seems like months. He may have qualified a rather poor 14th, but he worked his way up quickly and efficiently and made the strategy work for him. He actually ended up in a rather comfortable fourth place, albeit with Hamilton and Felipe Massa having suffered drive through penalties.
But the fact Button got ahead of Nico Rosberg on pace and then kept him back will have pleased him and the team no end as they head into 2014. McLaren will want to forget this year completely, they haven’t even recorded a podium for the first time since 1980. At least it sets them up for the winter, especially as the departing Sergio Perez also managed to secure sixth place after suffering a gearbox penalty that meant he started from 19th on the grid.
He had a tremendous drive and was only a handful of seconds behind Rosberg after he’d hounded him for several laps. Perez moves on though and the exciting talent of Kevin Magnussen moves in but it would have been nice for Checo to have had another year, I only hope he manages to find a drive for 2014. But with the money that backs him I’m sure he’ll be fine.
Battles in the pack
Despite another Vettel win and the lack of rain, the race was generally quite exciting. It was an interesting spectacle as teams had to gamble on the best set up in a wet qualifying while knowing that race day was probably going to be dry, or at least dryer. In the early laps there were numerous changes of position as everyone found their wheels on a dry track for the first time this weekend.
Alonso was an early mover as he made up ground after losing his third place grid slot at the start. He soon passed Hamilton and Rosberg to move up to second before he succumbed to Webber’s attacks. The Ferrari though looked particularly fast in race conditions and Alonso was able to keep in the number 2 Red Bull’s wheel tracks for several laps before eventually fading, but he was never too far away.
Alonso finished in third and cemented his second place in the drivers championship. It’s been a good year for him again as he’s driven as well as ever although I do feel he suffered a dip in form in the middle as he realised that yet again Ferrari were not going to deliver the goods.
You’ve got to think that the Alonso/Ferrari relationship has to deliver at least one championship, but if it’s not next year, a separation could come sooner than what’s written on the contract especially as the rumours go that the new Ferrari turbo engine is the weakest of the three manufacturers behind Mercedes and Renault.
Alonso was apparently meant to give up his podium to Massa who had another barnstorming start, and got up from ninth to sixth, before passing a few more to lie fourth. He was holding off Hamilton when he got a drive through penalty for cutting the pit entrance to much. Apparently he had been warned before but it seems a particularly churlish penalty, but then rules are rules. He still fought back to end his last race for Ferrari with a seventh.
Mercedes had set their cars up for a wetter climate, so it was not too much of a surprise to see them suffering with a lack of straight line speed. Rosberg initially took the lead but was easy prey as Vettel hunted him down over the first lap. He dropped through the field and even had to yield to his team mate as his tyres went off. He still just about managed to maintain a decent fifth place.
Hamilton would have finished higher than his eventual ninth if it hadn’t have been for his clash with Bottas which left him with a puncture and then his subsequent drive through. He didn’t know what happened but it didn’t look like he realised Bottas was alongside him, and he moved just slightly enough that it was probably his fault the clash happened. He managed to scramble back up to ninth but that was a fairly poor payback from what looked like a promising race.
Hulkenberg continued to put himself in the shop window with a decent eighth, but it looks likely that if he is to have a seat next year it’ll be a midfield one. Lotus don’t seem to be getting the deal with Quantum sorted to bring more money into the team which means they might have to go for a driver who brings money to the team which is a sad state of affairs. Paul di Resta could only manage 11th, but he is a driver who should be in F1 but at the moment it looks like he could end up with no seat at all.
The final point went to Daniel Ricciardo in his last race for Toro Rosso before he moves to the big team next year. A competent driver, but when he and Jean-Eric Vergne had locked out the fourth row, you might have expected Toro Rosso to bring home a few more points than they did. Another team to suffer from a set up directed too much towards wet weather perhaps?
Lotus had an appalling last race of the year. Romain Grosjean had qualified sixth but at one point looked like he could snatch pole position. His engine went after just two laps, but the end of the season has been a real fillip for Grosjean’s career as he seeks to lead Lotus into a new era next year.
Marussia maintained their 10th place in the constructors ahead of Caterham.
It is the end of the shrill V8, but the dawn of the turbo
So next year it’s all change. Gone will be the V8’s and in come 1.6 litre Turbo’s with various energy recovery systems which make the cars far more road relevant. The racing will certainly be different next year and the sound not quite as loud, but they’ll still be the best and fastest racing cars in the world.
The main question is can anyone stop Red Bull? As 2014 gets closer we’ll begin to learn more about how everyone’s doing, but you have to believe that with such fundamental rule changes, the order is bound to be mixed up, already we’re getting glimpses of who might be leading the back, with Mercedes rumoured to be on the right track while Ferrari could face further struggles next year.
I think we can safely assume that Red Bull will continue to mix it at the front but you have to believe they won’t have own F1 quite as much as they have done this year, the future is an exciting one.
There's still things to be sorted with drivers too with a number of seats still up for grabs as the off season starts. There's going to be a lot of negotiations and worrying winter thoughts for a lot of drivers.
But this past season has been good. It might not have been a battle to the end, but it was one of just a perfect combination of man and machine, and when that happens, they become unbeatable. Vettel and Red Bull were that perfect combination and this year they made history.
Final Result after 71 laps:
1. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull
2. Mark Webber - Red Bull
3. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari
4. Jenson Button - McLaren
5. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes
6. Sergio Perez - McLaren
7. Felipe Massa - Ferrari
8. Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber
9. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
10. Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso
11. Paul di Resta - Force India
12. Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber
13. Adrian Sutil - Force India
14. Heikki Kovalainen - Lotus
15. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso
16. Pastor Maldonado - Williams
17. Jules Bianchi - Marussia
18. Giedo van der Garde - Caterham
19. Max Chilton - Marussia
R. Charles Pic - Caterham - Suspension
R. Valtteri Bottas - Williams - Accident
R. Romain Grosjean - Lotus - Engine
all photo's taken from autosport.com