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Webber Drives Off To Porsche After Ride In Brazil

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 27 2013

Mark Webber bid Formula One adieu finishing second in Brazil. (Formula One file photo)

Sebastian Vettel’s relentless rewrite of Formula One’s record book continued during last Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, where the German’s latest victory shared the spotlight with the retirement of teammate Mark Webber.

The four-time/reigning World Driving Champion, Vettel closed the 2013 season in Sao Paulo with his record-tying ninth consecutive victory and 13th overall in 19 events. Vettel finished 10.452-seconds ahead of Webber, his Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault teammate, with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Scuderia Ferrari in third.

Vettel’s ninth win in a row tied the record set by Italy’s Alberto Ascari of Ferrari spread over his world championship seasons in 1952-53. And Seb’s 13th win tied fellow-German Michael Schumacher’s single-season mark set in 2004, also with Ferrari. Vettel’s winning time was 1 hour, 32.36.300-seconds at an average speed of 198.202 mph after 71 laps/190 miles around the 2.6-mile/15-turn Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.

But before answering the usual round of questions about his records, Vettel deferred to Webber. The Australian closed his F1 career with nine wins in 217 races (215 starts) en route to joining Porsche’s revived Prototype sports car racing program for 2014.

“Yeah, it was a very good finish to my career,” Webber said, “a good fight with all the guys I’ve enjoyed fighting with for most of my career – Seb, Fernando, Lewis (Hamilton), Nico (Rosberg) – all the guys who have been in the window for the last five or six years. I want to thank the team; I enjoyed the last few laps. It was a very nice way to finish. I want to thank everyone in Australia. I wouldn’t be here where I am without the support in the early days.

“It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable career. A great journey, one of which I’m proud of, and there’s been so many people who have played a special role in my career. They know who they all are – thank you very much if you are watching. And enjoy watching Formula One next year with these guys, but off to Porsche and looking forward to it.”

Looking to savor the sights and sounds of his final moments in an F1 car, Webber removed his helmet on his cool-down lap.

“Yeah, I was tearing at that time,” said Webber, 37, who made his F1 debut with a fifth-place finish for Minardi in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix. “Look, it’s not easy to get the HANS Device system away from the helmet so I spent half a lap trying to get the left hand side off. So I finally got it there but the cars are bloody noisy with no helmet on, I know that much. It was really noisy, all the vibrations and you can hear lots of things that you don’t want to be hearing with the helmet on, that’s for sure.

“It was good to get it off, obviously (for) the marshals, the fans, to see… in this sport, it’s not always easy to show the person that’s behind the wheel. We can in lots of other sports but in Formula One we’ve always got the helmet on so it was nice to drive back with the helmet off. Only time you’re seen with the helmet off is on the podium if we have a good day which we did both, so nice to get it off. In the last sector, I got it a little bit jammed, so I think the marshals were a little bit worried that I couldn’t turn left but in the end, no, it was fine. It was a nice moment to come back, a little bit of a different touch to bring the car back.”

Vettel, who bagged his ninth pole position of the season on Saturday on a wet racetrack, admitted he was “quite sad” to see the season come to an end. “I think the last couple of races, really since the summer break, to win every race is unbelievable,” said Vettel, 26. “The car has been phenomenal. Just kept getting better. Big, big thank you to the team, big thanks to Renault.

“Mark, obviously it’s his last race, we’ve been teammates for a very, very long time. After all we didn’t have the best relationship but I think we always had tremendous respect for each other. And together I think we’ve been very, very successful for the team.”

Webber said he would miss competing on some of F1’s “special circuits,” including the famed Monaco street course, Suzuka in Japan and Silverstone in England.

“When you have the car in the window, particularly in qualifying, there’s not much that can please a driver more than having the car on the edge and having yourself on the edge in the ultimate machine,” said Webber, who qualified on-pole for 19 F1 races. “That is something which I will miss. But you also have to respect that you want to make sure that you’re getting the best out of yourself in that scenario. If you think you’re a little bit off, then it’s not as rewarding as it once was. I will miss those scenarios.

“I will miss, I think, also the perfection that goes on in this game, especially with a team like Red Bull, the amount of work that goes in, the details. It’s quite inspiring to watch the relentless approach with the work; that’s something which I’ve learned a lot and I will take it to future challenges around the corner.”

Webber – whose F1 career included stops at Jaguar (2003-04) and Williams (2005-06) before signing with RBR for the 2007 season – said he definitely won’t miss F1’s globe-trotting travel demands.

“I’m not young but I’m not old, I’m in the window,” said Webber, who notched his 42nd career podium. “It’s a good time for me to get that balance, a little bit less intensity in the private life and also in the professional life. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be pushing hard with Porsche, obviously. I will be pushing very hard with those guys but in this game, you need to be on it all the time and I’m finding that more and more difficult. It’s a chance for me to finish strongly, which I’ve done.”

Vettel was working on a 13.1-second lead over Webber when Seb made his second pit stop on Lap 47 amid confusion caused by a collision between former world champion Hamilton of Mercedes AMG and Williams/Renault’s Valtteri Bottas. Vettel lost half his advantage waiting for his RBR crew to rush new Pirelli tires in from the garage. Webber, meanwhile, was forced to sit behind Vettel for his tire change. The chaos of that stop – a bid by RBR to pre-empt potential deployment of the safety car – allowed Alonso to claim second place. Webber promptly moved back into second on the 48th lap but could not overtake his teammate in intermittent rain.

“Obviously we didn’t have any dry running, which was quite exciting when we started _bit of an adventure to find braking points, etcetera,” said Vettel, who lost the lead to Rosberg and his Mercedes off the line but regained the point at the conclusion of Lap 1. “I could open a gap and control that for more or less the rest of the race _ until we came in for the second stop, which was a last-minute call. I think we were afraid of a safety car at that stage.

“I came in, hoping everybody was ready. I think I had three wheels on the car but I was waiting for the front right. For some reason, last year and this year, it seemed to be the front right that… yeah, they let me wait for a little bit. I saw that obviously Mark was queuing behind me and I wanted to go and there was a bit of chaos in the pit lane but it was obviously fine to get the right tires in the end, get out again and I still had a bit of a gap.

“We obviously lost to Fernando at that stage, both of us, but was still able to have a little bit of a gap and control that until the end, which was very helpful to get through traffic and with the rain coming in and going _ you could really see it from the car. The fog was coming and the rain clouds. You didn’t know how strong the rain was and in the end it was fine all the time to stay on dry (tires) but a little harder rain and it could have been a different story. So, lucky to get away with that.”

Alonso’s third-place result was his first podium since the Singapore Grand Prix on Sept. 22. “I think to finish the season on a high is always better,” said Alonso, the Spaniard who won two of the season’s first five races but finished a massive 155-points behind Vettel in the final Drivers’ standings. “We missed this podium finish from many races and today we had a chance. Obviously maybe with rain conditions, a wet race, maybe we had a little more performance than on the dry but at the end to finish behind the two Red Bulls is the maximum we could achieve and I’m happy for that.

“The last race for Mark as you touched – we will miss him, that’s for sure. A great driver and a great person. Last race also for Felipe (Massa) in Ferrari, which we wanted to help in whatever way to try to celebrate a podium finish with Felipe or something but he got a drive-through (penalty) unfortunately (for crossing the pit lane line). Mixed emotions today but happy to finish 2013 which has been an amazing year in terms of fighting and the number of points we achieve, I think.

“We didn’t win the championship, which is the goal every year. And for next year we reset again, start from zero and new motivations.”

The 2014 season will see Alonso teamed with Kimi Raikkonen, who won the 2007 world championship for Ferrari but spent the last two seasons with Lotus/Renault. On the technical front, 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 power units will replace the current 2.4-liter V8s, a change that along with revised chassis specs are viewed as keys to perhaps ending Red Bull Racing’s stranglehold on the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.

The final Drivers’ standings saw Vettel with 397 points to Alonso’s 242 followed by Webber at 199, Hamilton with 189 and Raikkonen’s 183 despite missing the final two races after undergoing back surgery. Red Bull topped the Constructors’ total with 596 points followed by Mercedes AMG with 360, Ferrari’s 354, Lotus/Renault’s 315, McLaren/Mercedes’ 122, Force India/Mercedes at 77 and Sauber/Ferrari with 57.

Vettel’s 39th career victory in 120 starts left him two short of tying triple world champion Ayrton Senna of Brazil for third on the all-time list, another record quest that will begin next spring.

“Next year is an unknown,” said Vettel, whose Adrian Newey-designed RB9 chassis now is obsolete. “I’m sure we will push very, very hard and I’m sure we will fight a lot to maintain our position. But there’s no guarantee that next year will be like this year. With the new regulations coming in, I think nobody really knows where he will stand. You will have the big teams in front but the question is who and the question is also in terms of gaps. Certainly there’s a reason to believe that next year the gaps will be bigger and the season will be less consistent for everyone. It’s unknown at this stage, but generally I think we need to remember and therefore enjoy the moment and the days we’re having.

“As I see it now, it’s just a number (his records). But hopefully one day, when I’ve got less hair and chubby, then it’s probably something nice to look back to.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

FIA Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix results with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine, laps completed, time/differential:

1. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 71, 1-hour, 32.36.300-seconds

2. (2) Mark Webber, Australia, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 71, plus 10.452-seconds

3. (3) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, 71, plus 18.913-seconds

4. (5) Jenson Button, Great Britain, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, 71, plus 37.360-seconds

5. (9) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG Petronas, 71, plus 39.048-seconds

6. (6) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, 71, plus 44.051-seconds

7. (4) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Scuderia/Ferrari, 71, plus 49.110-seconds

8. (11) Niko Hulkenberg, Germany, Sauber/Ferrari, 71, plus 64.252-seconds

9. (10) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes AMG Petronas, 71, 72.903-seconds

10. (19) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 1 lap

11. (14) Paul di Resta, Great Britain, Sahara Force India/Mercedes, plus 1 lap

12. (12) Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber/Ferrari, plus 1 lap

13. (15) Adrian Sutil, Germany, Sahara Force India/Mercedes, plus 1 lap

14. (7) Hekki Kovalainen, Finland, Lotus F1 Team/Renault, plus 1 lap

15. (18) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 1 lap

16. (16) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams F1 Team/Renault, plus 1 lap

17. (22) Jules Bianchi, France, Marussia/Cosworth, plus 2 laps

18. (21) Giedo van der Garde, The Netherlands, Catherham/Renault, plus 2 laps

19. (23) Max Chilton, Great Britain, Marussia/Cosworth, plus 2 laps

20. (20) Charles Pic, France, Caterham/Renault, plus 13 laps (suspension)

21. (17) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams F1 Team/Renault, plus 26 laps (accident)

22. (8) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus F1 Team/Renault, plus 70 laps (engine)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 27 2013
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