The Inside Line: Unforgettable season for Vettel but not F1
By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Sebastian Vettel had arguably the most dominant season in the history of Formula One, winning his fourth successive world championship and scoring a record number of wins during the year.
Red Bull captured its fourth straight constructors' title as well. But Vettel and Red Bull's supremacy made for a lackluster ending to the season, much like 2011.
Vettel and Red Bull had already wrapped up the drivers' and constructors' championships with three grand prix left. The only thing of interest for the remainder of the F1 season was Vettel's win streak. In last Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, he matched Alberto Ascari's 60-year-old record of nine victories in a row and tied Michael Schumacher's 2004 season record of 13 wins.
The 26-year-old German accumulated 397 points for the season, which was 155 points more than his closest competitor, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari.
"It's sad in a way to see it come to an end," Vettel said of his season.
Vettel will attempt to surpass Ascari's record when the 2014 F1 season begins on March 16 in Melbourne, Australia.
For now, Vettel will enjoy the fact that he has placed himself among the greatest drivers in F1 history. He joined his fellow countryman, Schumacher, and the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio as those drivers who have claimed four or more championships in a row. Frenchman Alain Prost had quadruple titles, not consecutively, during his career.
"I think it's very difficult for me to realize probably now and in the next couple of weeks what we have achieved again, and in particular this year at the end of the season," Vettel said. "I think in terms of a certain record with Alberto Ascari you can't really compare it, since it's at a completely different time. If you consider the fact that in the fifties the races were much longer and there were a lot of things that were breaking down, much more than nowadays where it's very professional, reliability is exceptionally good for everybody.
"I think his record still stands out a lot. So at the end of the day, as I see it now, it's just a number, but hopefully one day when I've got less hair and chubby, then it's probably something nice to look back to."
Two years ago, Vettel captured his second straight championship in dominating fashion. He was untouchable that season, leading in the championship point standings from start (Australia) to finish (Brazil). Vettel clinched the title with four races to go.
Last year's championship did not come easy for Vettel, as he beat Alonso by just three points.
Kimi Raikkonen, in his final year with Lotus, began the season by winning the March 17 Australian Grand Prix, but one week later, Vettel took over the points lead with his controversial win in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel held the top spot for the rest of the year.
The 2013 season, though, did have its share of drama on and off the track.
WEBBER BOWS OUT OF F1
Vettel and his teammate, Mark Webber, have been at odds with each other in the past, but after Malaysia, their relationship sunk to an all-time low.
Emotions ran high between the two Red Bull drivers when Vettel made a bold pass on Webber for the lead in the late stages of the Malaysian GP. After the race, Webber criticized Vettel for disobeying a team order, "Multi 21," which was a command issued to Vettel by his team to not overtake Webber.
There had been speculation that Webber might depart Red Bull in wake of the incident in Malaysia. Webber did remain with the team for the rest of the season, but in June, the Australian revealed that he was not only leaving Red Bull but F1 as well when the season concluded.
Webber ended his career on a very high note in Brazil where he finished second to Vettel.
"Formula One is a sport which I've loved," Webber said. "I could've never dreamt of the career that I've had, the tremendous highs and the tough lows."
Webber made his F1 debut with Minardi in 2002 and has been with Red Bull since 2007. The 37-year-old driver scored nine wins and 13 poles and made 42 podium appearances in 215 career grand prix starts. Webber is joining Porsche's new sports car program in the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship for next year.
"I'm very excited about it," he said. "The first year will be different of course, different schedule, different type of racing, different people, but at this time of my career, it's a perfect balance between adrenaline and working hard with a fantastic brand such as Porsche."
During his cool-down lap in the Brazilian GP, an emotional Webber took his helmet off and waved to the crowd who applauded him for his career in F1. He was later showered with champagne by Vettel and third-place finisher Alonso during the podium ceremony.
"We didn't have the best relationship, but I think we always had tremendous respect for each other," Vettel said of Webber. "I think together we've been very, very successful for the team."
Webber placed third in the championship standings, 198 points behind Vettel.
Red Bull finished the season with a 236-point margin of victory in the constructors' championship standings. Vettel and Webber gave the team a 1-2 finish in four of the 19 grand prix this year.
"It's been a remarkable year, and it's going to take a little bit of time to reflect on what we've achieved and what we've done," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "It's incredible for the whole team."
MERCEDES, PIRELLI REPRIMANDED FOR ILLEGAL TIRE TEST
Mercedes and Pirelli, the sole tire supplier for F1, got into a little bit of trouble with the sport's governing body, the FIA, for an unapproved tire test held in May at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. In addition to its reprimand, Mercedes was suspended from participating in a three-day test session in July at Silverstone Circuit in England.
After learning of the private session in Barcelona, Red Bull and Ferrari filed a protest that Mercedes used its 2013 car, the W04, to test the current Pirelli tire. Red Bull and Ferrari argued that Mercedes and Pirelli violated F1 regulations in regards to the test.
Pirelli had issues with its tires during the season, particularly in the June 30 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Several competitors experienced left- rear tire failure, including Mercedes driver and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton. Days later, the FIA took a number of measures to quickly resolve the tire problems. Pirelli made significant alterations to the tires for the German Grand Prix, which was held one week after Great Britain.
McLaren endured one of its worst seasons in F1. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, who replaced Hamilton this year, failed to give the team a podium finish this season. Perez finished no better than fifth (India), and Button's best result was fourth (Brazil).
But McLaren did have some good news to report for the season.
"McLaren became the first team in Formula One history to have both its cars classified in every grand prix during the season," team principal Martin Whitmarsh said in Brazil. "McLaren completed 99.17 percent of the season's total possible race distance - 7,139 miles (11,488 km) out of a possible 7,198 miles (11,584 km) - which is not only better than every other team managed this season but is also a new world record, beating the previous record of 98.30 percent, set by BMW-Sauber in 2008."
McLaren finished fifth in the constructors' standings. Mercedes placed second, followed by Ferrari and Lotus.
Perez is now out at McLaren, while newcomer Kevin Magnussen will replace him for 2014.
NEW RIDES FOR RAIKKONEN, MASSA NEXT YEAR
Raikkonen is returning to Ferrari next season, while Felipe Massa is heading to Williams.
Raikkonen drove for Ferrari from 2007-09, winning the world championship in '07. The Finn took a two-year break from F1 but returned in 2012 to drive for Lotus. But Raikkonen had not been in the best of relationships with Lotus, especially in 2013, as he claimed the team had not compensated him for the season. He had threatened to not compete in the United States and Brazil unless he received payment.
"I knew that my contract would end (with Lotus) at the end of this year, so obviously, I had to make some kind of decision what to do for next year, and now it's been done," Raikkonen said in September.
Raikkonen did miss the USGP and Brazilian GP due to back surgery. He had been suffering from back problems during the second half of the season. Raikkonen opted to have the surgery following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix earlier this month so his upcoming season with Ferrari would not be impacted.
Just before Ferrari's announcement of Raikkonen, Massa revealed that he was leaving the Italian team at season's end. The Brazilian had been with the Ferrari for eight years. Massa is replacing Pastor Maldonado, who spent three seasons with Williams.
"I really believe I can do a lot with Williams," Massa said. "Everything is changing, brand new rules for the championship, so I think it's also a good time that we start something new, different."
MORE GRAND PRIX IN 2014
After failing to make it on this year's F1 calendar due to financial reasons, the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey is on the schedule for next season, though it is listed as provisional.
New Jersey, Austria, Mexico and Russia have been added to the 2014 schedule, which features a record 22 grand prix.
11/27 19:49:47 ET