The four-times world champion unsurprisingly signed off 2013 with yet another victory by taking the chequered flag at yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
It was Vettel’s ninth successive win, equalling the all-time mark first set by Alberto Ascari who won the last six grands prix of 1952 and the first three of 1953. Vettel also matched Michael Schumacher’s 2004 haul of 13 victories in a single campaign, a feat set nine years ago that no one believed would ever be equalled.
The 26-year-old, however, has been on a different planet since the summer break, with the Red Bull beneath him bulletproof and unbeatable.
Whether Vettel will be alone with an all-time mark of ten successive wins come the end of the 2014 season-opening race in Australia in March remains to be seen. Yesterday’s race signalled the end of the V8 era as F1 heads into the unknown with the turbo-charged 1.6-litre V6 powerplants, and no one knows who will have the upper hand.
In bringing the curtain down in style on this season, Vettel said: “I am actually quite sad the season is coming to an end. The car has been phenomenal and has been getting better in every race.”
With regard to his achievements this season, a humble Vettel added: “It’s very difficult for me to realise now, and will be over the next couple of weeks, as to what we have achieved this season.
“In terms of the record [Ascari] you can’t compare. It was a different time, the races in the 1950s were much longer, cars breaking down. Today reliability is exceptionally good, so his record stands out a lot.”
Despite the problems that have existed between himself and team-mate Mark Webber over the years, Vettel was at least gracious enough come the podium ceremony. In his 215th and final grand prix before driving for Porsche in sportscars, Webber finished as runner-up. It is customary for the winner to be interviewed first, but Vettel allowed Webber to take the microphone.
“It was a good finish to my career,” said Webber. “I want to thank Seb, Fernando [Alonso], Lewis [Hamilton] and Nico [Rosberg], all the guys who have been up there in the last five or six years. I enjoyed the last few laps in particular, so thanks to the team, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable career.”
At the end of the main press conference, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone handed Vettel a Brazilian flag to sign for Webber, with his the last signature on it as it bore all the current drivers’ names. Webber also took off his helmet and flameproof balaclava on the slow-down lap at the end of the race in order for the fans to see him wave goodbye.
After the heavy rain of the previous two days, the same weather failed to materialise yesterday to spice up the show. Behind Alonso in third in his Ferrari, Jenson Button gave McLaren their highest finish of the year with fourth, followed by Rosberg in his Mercedes and second McLaren of Sergio Perez.
Felipe Massa’s farewell for Ferrari after eight years was ruined by a dubious drive-through penalty for crossing the white line at the entry to the pit lane. Hamilton also served a drive-through for causing a collision with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas – the Finn losing the left-rear tyre of his car while Hamilton’s sustained a right-rear puncture – with the Briton ninth.
In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes managed to edge out Ferrari by six points to claim second place behind Red Bull.