SEBASTIAN Vettel made Formula 1 history by chalking up an eighth successive victory in a single season after taking the chequered flag at the United States Grand Prix.
After equalling Michael Schumacher’s 2004 feat a fortnight ago in Abu Dhabi, Vettel made the record his own with another comfortable run at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.
Another triumph in Brazil on Sunday would see Vettel equal Alberto Ascari’s all-time record of nine straight wins set in 1952/53, and Schumacher’s victory haul for one season of 13.
Behind Vettel, Grosjean equalled the best result of his F1 career in claiming the runner-up spot, under attack from Red Bull’s Mark Webber late on.
Vettel ultimately cruised to his record win, delighting the fans by performing doughnuts at the top of the back straight, and after delivering an emotional message over the radio.
Told he was a record-breaker again, Vettel said: “I’m speechless!”
He then added: “We have to remember these days. There’s no guarantee they will be forever. We have incredible team spirit. I’m so proud of you guys. I love you.”
Going into the summer break there was the threat of an intriguing fight to the finish between four, potentially five drivers. But since the three-week August holiday, Vettel and Red Bull have been in a class of their own, aided in part by the change in rules due to come into force for 2014.
With significant resources required for the 1.6-litre turbo-charged V6 engines that replace the current 2.4-litre V8s, teams made a call to focus their money and ideas on next year’s cars.
Red Bull, by their own admission, continued to develop this year’s RB9 to the detriment of the RB10 as they were expecting far more of a challenge that simply did not materialise. That, in turn, led to no-one holding a candle to Vettel and the Milton Keynes-based marque, and the sizzling run of success that has resulted in the 26-year-old German claiming another record.
Webber has threatened occasionally, but in front of a great crowd at the Circuit of the Americas, the Australian suffered his now typical poor start.
Instead of putting Vettel under pressure as the field powered up the hill into the turn one left-hander, Webber dropped back to fourth behind Grosjean and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
On this occasion there was no lap one charge from Vettel as that was halted by a safety car when Adrian Sutil clattered his Force India into a barrier after clipping Williams’ Pastor Maldonado along the back straight.
But once the safety car disappeared at the end of lap four, so did Vettel into the distance, although not with the dominance of some races of late which he was won by 30 seconds.
Arguably the one-stop strategy was instrumental as slightly greater care of the Pirelli tyres was required. But Vettel maintained a comfortable gap throughout to Grosjean.
For his part, Webber had one highlight when he passed Hamilton early on and towards the finish put Grosjean under pressure, but as the tyres went off so he had to drop back and collect third.
Hamilton came home fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who was nearly caught by Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg on the final lap. Mexico’s Sergio Perez finished seventh at the end of a week in which he was axed by McLaren.
Valtteri Bottas collected four points for Williams, and his first for the team in his debut campaign, quadrupling their haul for the campaign with eighth. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and McLaren’s Jenson Button completed the top ten, the latter after passing Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo at turn one on the penultimate lap.
After the race, a somewhat dumbstruck Vettel said: “To win this race is incredible. Thanks to the crowd, this is one of the best races we have all year, the whole city going crazy.” Asked about nine in a row, Vettel said: “I’m going to try.”
Grosjean was certainly happy with his second place as he said: “It was a good race, I made a good start getting past Mark and I almost got past Seb.
“I’m very proud to represent Lotus, they’re a great team, and I’m glad to get a podium here in the US. I like this country and I’m looking forward to coming back to this beautiful track and hopefully going one step further.”
As for Webber, he knew his chance was blown by failing to land pole position, admitting: “That cost me a much better result. I had a good launch, but we all wanted to be on the outside going into turn one and I got boxed in.
“But I’m happy to finish on the podium in front of the American fans, I’ll see you next year in a Porsche [in sportscar racing].”