Sebastian Vettel claimed his 8th straight victory in the 2013 Formula 1 season at the Circuit Of The Americas in typical dominant fashion, looking unchallenged all day from the point he emerged in the lead after turn 1. A magnificent Romain Grosjean made it to 2nd place to claim his 4th podium in 5 races, resisting a strong challenge from the 2nd Red Bull of Mark Webber late on to stop a Red Bull Racing 1-2.
Off the start, both Vettel and Webber in P1 and 2 made solid getaways, however Grosjean directly behind looked very strong. With Webber squeezed by his team-mate going into the apex of turn 1, both Grosjean and Hamilton behind jumped the Australian to go 2nd and 3rd behind the ominous Vettel.
Elsewhere, Hulkenberg was forced to drop down to 5th place due to following Webber’s tight line into turn 1 and Perez managed to jump Alonso into 6th place down the hill into turn 2.
There was to be some drama on lap 1, as the Force India of Adrian Sutil was seen flying across the racetrack down the long back straight and into the wall triggering the safety car, with the German out of the race. From replays it had looked like contact with the Sauber of Esteban Guttierez caused the incident, with the Sauber man also coming into the pits with a puncture and going straight on to the harder compound tyres.
After a short 3 lap safety car period the race was restarted on lap 5, with Vettel making a good jump on Grosjean and Hamilton behind – claiming a 1 second lead by the time the cars had hit turn 1. This grew to 1.9 seconds after the first racing lap after the safety car, and from there the signs were clear this was to be Vettels race to lose.
Hamilton during the early stages of the race was losing time to Grosjean, and Webber behind was looking determined to make up for yet another bad start – closing in on the Mercedes to within DRS range.
By lap 9, Bottas was proving his qualifying result of 9th was no fluke, and was settling down to a strong race in 8th place. His team-mate however was not fairing as well. Pastor Maldonado was shown the black and orange flag by marshals due to dangerous front wing damage, meaning the Venezuelan had to pit.
Up front, Webber’s increased pressure on 3rd place man Hamilton was starting to show and the Mercedes man was looking increasingly frustrated behind the wheel. By lap 13, the tyres were starting to go with Hamilton losing 9 tenths of a second in the middle sector alone. The Aussie got a great run off the long back straight utilising DRS and went the complete long way around Hamilton into the tight hairpin – almost catching him by surprise, but he was up to 3rd.
By lap 18, Vettel was simply cruising up front, enjoying a lead of over 7 seconds to Grosjean behind. This triggered the inevitable radio message by Rocky to slow down during this stint on the medium tyres and focus on distance rather than raw speed to protect the tyres – after the German set consecutive fastest laps.
This was greeted by a typical Vettel response of yet another fastest lap, and therefore his advantage was now over 8 seconds at the head of the field.
The Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen was the first man to pit on lap 18 and therefore trigger the 1 stop strategy phase, going onto the harder compound tyre for his only scheduled stop of the afternoon. It was not until lap 23 that the front runners decided to start coming in though, with 6th place man Perez pitting for the harder compound tyres after holding off the charge of Fernando Alonso behind.
Lap 26 and it was Hamilton this time who decided to make his way down the pitlane for the harder compound tyres, pitting from a highly lonely 4th place. He was joined soon after Alonso, who emerged from the pits in front of 6th place man Perez to jump him during the 1st pit stop phase – the Mexican ruing his luck of getting held up by the long running Jean Eric Vergne on the harder compound tyres.
The top 3 pitted over the next 3 laps, with Grosjean the last man to do so on lap 30 – showing Lotus’s ability to nurture the tyres over an initial stint. All drivers maintained their position in the top 3, however the highlight was a 2.3 second stop by Mark Webber which matched Red Bull’s best pitstop of the season earlier on in Malaysia.
By lap 29, the Sauber of Guttierez who had pitted at the very start of the Grand Prix due to contact was starting to lose pace. Both 7th place Alonso and 8th place Perez put strong moves on the Mexican over the course of the next two laps to consolidate their positions they enjoyed before the first pitstop phase had begun.
Up front the race for the final podium positions was getting very tasty indeed. Webber was showing some great pace in clean air on the hard tyres, and on lap 39 took over half a second out of Grosjean alone. This brought him close to DRS range and it was starting to look ominous another Red Bull 1-2 was on the cards.
The 2 men who could not make a 1 stop strategy work were both Guttierez and Massa. Whilst Guttierez could not be really faulted having made his stop at the end of lap 1, things were not looking good for Massa too outside the top 10, as Ferrari put him on the medium compound tyres to try and make inroads of those ahead of him.
As the race entered it’s closing stages, the race within the top 6 was really hotting up. By Lap 44, Alonso was starting to up the pace quite dramatically in 6th place, closing in on Hulk at a large rate of knots. By Lap 45 the deed was done into turn 1 with the help of DRS, the Spaniard undercutting the Sauber man on the apex and getting better traction off the corner.
The race was easily under the control of Vettel, however the team still felt in necessary to come over the radio and tell the German to manage the harder compound tyres over the course of the 29 lap stint. Vettel responded that he was aware of the situation and dropped his pace slowly as we entered the final 10 laps with a comfortable cushion behind.
It was in the final 10 laps that Webber was once again showing a resurgence in pace in the hope of nabbing 2nd place off Grosjean. However by lap 54 and some experimenting with KERS usage, he declared over the radio his rear tyres had gone and therefore had to settle for 3rd place.
Behind, Hamilton was comfortable in 4th, but the Hulk in 6th was getting incredibly large in Alonso’s mirrors – the Ferrari looking like it had ran out of tyres. A last gasp lunge into turn 1 on the final lap by Hulk was slightly misjudged, letting Alonso back through on the undercut at the apex and therefore he had to follow the Spaniard over the line for 5th and 6th.
But the day was Vettels with yet another victory, his 12th this season, in what has been a completely dominant year. 13 victories in a season, and 9 straight victories could be two records that are achieved by Vettel in Brazil – it would take a very brave man to bet against it.
But for me, the driver of the day had to be Valterri Bottas, who dragged his Williams into a fantastic 8th place – the Finn showing mesmerising pace all weekend with the non coanda exhausted FW35. Well done to him and Williams who tripled their total points for the season in the race alone.
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||56||1:39.17.168||1||25|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||56||+8.3||2||15|
|11||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||56||+81.0||10|
|12||18||Jean-Éric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||56||+84.5||14|
|16||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||56||+96.8||11|
|17||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault|||55||+ 1 Lap||17|
|18||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||55||+ 1 Lap||19|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||55||+ 1 Lap||18|
|20||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||55||+ 1 Lap||22|
|21||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||54||+ 2 Laps||21|
Adrian Sutil – Force India Mercedes – Lap 1
Constructor World Championship