2013 Brazilian GP: Nine-in-a-row Sebastian Vettel leads retiring Webber in Red Bull 1-2
World Champ equals Ascari and Schumi; Webber bows out in style; Hamilton drive-through for Bottas clash; Button finishes fourth
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 24/11/13 9:27pm
Michael Schumacher's nine-year-old tally for the most victories in a single season, and arguably most impressively of all given the record has gone unmatched for 60 years, Alberto Ascari's benchmark of nine straight race wins were equalled by the brilliant German at Interlagos on Sunday as the 26-year-old delivered yet another masterclass in front-running speed and style.
Vettel's 39th career win wasn't quite as serene as the majority of his triumphs since the summer break - he lost the lead, albeit only for one lap, to Nico Rosberg at the start and then a late Red Bull call to pit in fear of a Safety Car at the second round of stops meant the German's tyres were initially not ready for him. But the reality was that his rivals were again only ever clutching at straws.
Unsurprisingly, given their infamously frosty relationship, there was also no sentiment from Vettel towards retiring team-mate Mark Webber, the Australian experiencing a familiar story in his 215th and final F1 start as he finished ten seconds behind the sister Red Bull in second place.
Yet given the 37-year-old had admitted his motivation for F1 had started to wane long before his decision back in June to call it quits, Webber's second place - which secures him third place in the Drivers' Championship at the expense of Lewis Hamilton, who finished ninth - underlined that the popular Australian retires still near the peak of his game at the top table of world motorsport.
Indeed, after mirroring Vettel in losing a position off the line, Webber also proved he heads to sportscars with all of his overtaking skills as sharp as ever with incisive moves on both Mercedes drivers and, twice, Fernando Alonso during an entertaining run to second.
The season's top-three championship finishers were represented on the podium with Alonso enjoying his strongest Sunday since Singapore to round off Ferrari's frustrating year with third.
However, the Spaniard's ninth podium of 2013 - and team-mate Felipe Massa's seventh place on his Ferrari swansong - were not quite enough for the Scuderia to overhaul Mercedes for the other key battle of note at Interlagos: second place in the Constructors' Championship.
Mercedes held on to the runner-up spot behind runaway Red Bull by six points despite enduring a disappointing end to their breakthrough campaign, early leader Rosberg falling to fifth and Hamilton ending up ninth after a drive-through penalty.
Hamilton had been on course for fourth but was clobbered with the sanction after stewards judged that he had caused a collision with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas by moving over on the Finn, who was a lap down but running on fresher tyres, at the end of the backstraight.
The contact sent the Finn spinning off the circuit, while Hamilton suffered a puncture and had to pit immediately. His later trip through the pits compounded his frustration and leaves him looking towards 2014 when Mercedes are eyeing the onset of the new turbo regulations to take on Red Bull.
But while the penalty proved disappointing for one Briton, it let in another as Jenson Button took a season-best fourth place for McLaren.
The Englishman's charge through the field - he had started 14th - was reminiscent of the day he won the title at the same circuit four years ago and ensured McLaren, while ending a season without a podium for the first time since 1980, at least avoided a first full campaign in their long and illustrious history without a top-four finish.
McLaren's best result of 2013 was strengthened by their outgoing driver Sergio Perez, after a pre-race gearbox change had dropped the Mexican to an even more unpalatable 19th on the grid, racing hard to sixth.
The 23-year-old therefore leaves Woking, potentially for Force India, after his surprisingly brief 12-month stint with his head held high after four consecutive points finishes.
Over at Ferrari and the end of Massa's rather lengthier team stay ended in on-track frustration as the Brazilian, running in fourth at the time, felt heavily aggrieved by a drive-through penalty for crossing the white hatching marks on the pit entry.
"This is unacceptable, it is unbelievable FIA, unbelievable," an irritate Massa wailed over the team radio when being informed of the punishment, before then gesticulating with his arm out of the cockpit when trundling down the pitlane to serve the penalty.
With the Ferrari number two eventually coming home seventh, Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed another consistent race en-route to eighth for Sauber with Hamilton and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the final points finishers of 2013.
Ricciardo now heads for the second Red Bull seat over the winter to replace his retiring countryman but Vettel, on cloud nine after an unbeaten second half of 2013, will take quite some shifting from the head of the F1 tree.