Vettel takes ninth straight win to finish 2013 in style

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Sebastian Vettel has finished the 2013 Formula One season in style by clinching his ninth consecutive win at the Brazilian Grand Prix as the forecast rain failed to intervene during the final race of the season, equalling Alberto Ascari’s long-standing record in the process.

The German driver bounced back from losing the lead at the start and a mistake in the pits by Red Bull to finish ahead of teammate Mark Webber, with the Australian driver finishing his F1 career in fine style by producing a solid drive to secure one final podium finish. Fernando Alonso, who had looked quick at the beginning of the race, could not capitalize on the damp conditions and was forced to settle for third place.

The start saw Nico Rosberg attempt to damage Sebastian Vettel’s hopes of clinching a ninth straight victory by making a good start to move down the inside of the Red Bull driver and take the lead of the race. Teammate Lewis Hamilton also made a very good start to jump up to third place from fifth on the grid ahead of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, but both drivers managed to find a way back past the Briton just one lap later. Rosberg’s time at the head of the field lasted just one lap as Vettel swept past him heading along the main straight, and he was soon picked off by Alonso and Webber, with the Ferrari driver quickly setting his sights on the world champion at the front. Felipe Massa also made a good start to jump up to sixth place, whilst Romain Grosjean’s season ended in disappointing fashion as he retired on lap three with an engine failure.

As Vettel began to create a sizeable lead at the front, Alonso soon fell into Webber’s clutches and the Australian driver – racing for the final time in Formula One – quickly found a way past to set up a Red Bull one-two. Rosberg’s poor race continued as both Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa overtook the German driver to leave him down in sixth place ahead of Jenson Button. Alongside McLaren teammate Sergio Perez in seventh, Button was running well and had battled to get back up into the points despite a poor performance in qualifying as the McLaren excelled in the cold conditions. Further back, Jean-Eric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen fought over seventeenth place after early pit stops.

When the front-runners began to pit, Red Bull struggled to turn Webber around quickly due to a mistake in the pits. With Alonso setting the fastest lap of the race at the same time, he managed to get back ahead of the Australian driver whilst Felipe Massa found a way past Hamilton in the stops for fourth place. Alonso was unable to hang on to second place though, falling behind Webber once again when the Red Bull driver had the advantage of DRS, whilst Hamilton kept on Massa’s tail for fourth place. However, Massa was soon handed a drive-through penalty for crossing the white line on pit entry, falling down to eighth place after coming in despite his protests.

McLaren’s impressive race continued as Button moved up to fifth place following Massa’s penalty, whilst Sergio Perez tagged onto the back of Rosberg’s Mercedes as a few spots of rain began to fall at Interlagos. However, Rosberg managed to stay ahead when they pitted on the same lap to emerge between Button and Massa, both of whom pitted one lap earlier. Valtteri Bottas’ race came to an end at turn four when he made contact with Lewis Hamilton, giving the Mercedes a puncture. Red Bull looked to pit their cars, but a slow stop for Vettel due to the tires not being brought out meant that his lead over Webber was halved, whilst Alonso found himself back on the Australian driver’s tail for second place. Vettel quickly set about re-establishing his lead though, but with spots of rain falling, he had to keep one eye on the sky. Amid the drama, Button managed to move up into fourth place for McLaren as Alonso stayed with Webber, whilst Hamilton was handed a drive-through penalty for causing the collision with Bottas.

With spots of rain continuing to fall, Rosberg found himself struggling to hold Perez back in the battle for fifth place, but it took on extra importance as Mercedes looked to stay ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship. Hamilton looked to bounce back from his penalty by working his way back up into the points ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, whilst Rosberg found his feet and pulled away from Perez. Charles Pic’s race came to an early end due to a front suspension failure, meaning that Jules Bianchi became the lead car in the battle for tenth place in the constructors’ championship.

At the front though, Vettel maintained a steady gap to Webber behind him, controlling the race in the damp conditions and keeping his car on track. His engineer ‘Rocky’ warned him that the rain could intensify before the end of the race, leaving him with a few nervy laps in the final stages. However, he managed to keep his car on the track to secure his ninth consecutive win and end the V8 era in emphatic style.

Webber’s second place finish was a fine result as he fought back from a good start and he also set the fastest lap of the race, whilst Ferrari lost out to Mercedes in the race for P2 in the constructors’ championship despite Alonso’s third place finish. In fourth place, Jenson Button recorded McLaren’s best result of the season whilst Rosberg managed to fend off Perez to finish in P5. Felipe Massa’s Ferrari career came to a close in seventh place ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton, with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the points in tenth place.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.