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.

Stroll: Baku F1 podium ‘proves I can be here’

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Lance Stroll is pleased to have answered his critics with his recent Formula 1 displays, believing his podium finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix proves he deserves his place on the grid.

Stroll, 18, stepped up to F1 from Formula 3 with Williams for 2017, aided by financial support from his billionaire father, Lawrence.

Stroll had a rough start to life in F1, failing to finish any of his first three races or score points until the seventh race of the year in Canada.

This kick-started a three-race run in the points for Stroll, the highlight being a charge to third place in Baku after rising through the order in a frenetic race.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Stroll said the timing of his points finish in Canada was of little consideration to him, having always had confidence in his own ability.

“If it comes earlier or later, you almost cannot influence it. But I knew that I was capable of doing results so I wasn’t panicking,” Stroll said.

“I knew that it was all a matter of time. But to really do it in Canada, that was great. A great day, the home race.

“It is much more about other things [than confidence]: me improving the way I drive or me working with the team. We have changed a lot on the car since Baku and that helped me a lot in my performance.”

The result saw Stroll become the second-youngest podium finisher in F1 history, only trailing Max Verstappen and sitting ahead of the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

“It proves that I can be here!” Stroll said. “I did it with a Williams, not a Mercedes!”

Wehrlein not concerned that Sauber performances are overlooked

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Sauber Formula 1 driver Pascal Wehrlein has no concerns that his performances for the backmarker team are being overlooked as he bids to secure a seat further up the grid in the near future.

Wehrlein is part of Mercedes’ junior program, and was an option for the championship-winning marque for 2017 following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement.

Mercedes eventually signed Valtteri Bottas from Williams, placing Wehrlein at Sauber after his 2016 team, Manor, folded during the off-season.

Wehrlein has led Sauber’s charge through 2017, taking eighth place at the Spanish Grand Prix despite racing in a car lacking upgrades and with a year-old engine.

While a career haul of just six points may seem paltry, Wehrlein is comforted by the fact he has lacked the car with which to fare much better.

“My target is to one day be in a team where I can win races, get on the podium regularly and fight for championships,” Wehrlein told the official F1 website.

“Right now I don’t have these tools to make it happen. The weekends where we score points are very, very special for us because we don’t have the car to finish in the top ten often, only if the stars are in the right place!

“And then we have to take the opportunity and bag the points. I am very happy that when the chance was there I was able to grab it. I want to be there when it counts.

“I think it gets noticed that I have scored points in cars that under normal circumstances don’t score points. I don’t worry about that.”

Bottas has flourished since joining Mercedes, taking two race wins and becoming an unexpected contender in the title race alongside teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

When asked if he was worried about Bottas’ success, Wehrlein said: “No, because I cannot influence such a decision.

“Worrying about things that you cannot influence is wasting your time and wasting your strength and efforts.

“Yes, Valtteri is doing a good job and he deserves it.”

Dixon hopes Rosenqvist gets IndyCar drive in the future

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Scott Dixon would like to see Felix Rosenqvist get a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series drive in the future after enjoying a successful second test with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course earlier this week.

Rosenqvist, 25, raced briefly in Indy Lights – among a number of other series – at the start of 2016 before shifting his focus to DTM and Formula E, sitting third in latter’s standings heading into the final round of the season.

After a successful maiden test with Chip Ganassi Racing last summer, Rosenqvist was invited back to Mid-Ohio to conduct some running with four-time champion Dixon and offer the current IndyCar points leader some feedback.

The Swede put in another impressive display, much to Dixon’s delight, who would like to see Rosenqvist join the IndyCar grid in the future.

“Right now, I think he’s got a lot of options, whether it’s Formula E or racing in Japan or throughout Europe,” Dixon told the official Verizon IndyCar Series website.

“Hopefully he can make it to the IndyCar Series at some point.”

Rosenqvist’s current program sees him balance drives in both Formula E and the Japanese Super Formula series, as well as a variety of other ad-hoc appearances in events ranging from the 24 Hours of Le Mans to the Scandinavian Porsche Carrera Cup.

Dipping to Mid-Ohio between the Formula E rounds in New York and Montreal, Rosenqvist was happy with how the test went and the contribution he was able to make.

“I think we had a really good test last year where it was probably more easy to evaluate my performance because there were more cars on track and so on, and it went really well,” Rosenqvist said.

“This year they entrusted me to do the test with Scott to get the free test day that the team gets. I think it was probably more for the preparation of the Mid-Ohio race.

“What I wanted to do was to prepare physically to drive, which I think I was, and just give good data, good feedback and constant lap times. I think it worked really good.”

Renault still chasing top-five F1 constructors’ championship finish

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul remains confident that the team can secure a top-five finish in this years’ constructors’ championship despite sitting eighth with half of the season complete.

Renault returned to F1 with a works team in 2016, but struggled to make much of an impression on-track as it recovered from the financial difficulties that blighted the Lotus team it took over.

While progress has been clear through 2017, the team already more than tripling its points total, it has still struggled to make much of an impact on F1’s midfield.

Nico Hulkenberg has led Renault’s charge, scoring all 26 of it points so far this season, taking an impressive sixth-place finish at Silverstone last weekend.

Renault boldly stated in pre-season that it was targeting a top-five finish in the constructors’ championship, and while it may still be three places shy heading towards the summer break, Abiteboul’s goal remains unchanged.

“We have shown at Silverstone that we are continuing to improve. Chassis developments, in particular the new floor, proved to be positive exemplified from Nico’s eight points and both cars showing strong qualifying pace,” Abiteboul said.

“It’s critical to back up this improvement with both cars finishing in the top ten in Hungary – we want to finish the first half of the season on a positive note.

“To achieve this, we need to put behind our reliability problems. We know our situation and the areas which require more attention.

“Our targets remain unchanged: we want to be sixth by the end of play on 30th July and fifth by the end of the season. A double-points finish is well within our reach.”

Renault currently sits seven points behind sixth-placed Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, and 15 shy of Williams in P5.