Something about all those wide landscape shots of Sao Paulo made this afternoon’s Brazilian Grand Prix more tense than any we’ve had since Sebastian Vettel began that extraordinary run of wins back in Spa back in August. How skies can look that leaden and it not rain we have no idea, but the sense of jeopardy was welcome. This was not a dull race, despite Red Bull’s one-two.
For a team that’s had its tensions this year, Red Bull looked a happy place to be this afternoon. Vettel deserves the utmost credit and respect for what he’s done — nobody has ever won nine races on the bounce in a single season. And only one man has ever won 13 races in a single season before. Seb sounded genuinely choked on the radio as he once again whispered to the team that he loved them and to cherish the moment, before letting out a loud “YESSSS….” and donutting the hell out of the RB9 again. Webber, meanwhile, had his lid off to better enjoy one last time how an F1 car feels. Nice touch that Mark. Respect.
And good to see Fernando Alonso back on the podium with his chum Webber (with whom he started his F1 career 11 years ago). Alonso has been taking a beating recently what with hitting that kerb at warp speed in Abu Dhabi and then — as he struggled to race with headaches and nausea — his boss suggesting he had fallen short on effort this year. Give him the car to do the job, and he will give you the championship.
The result wasn’t quite enough to give Ferrari second place in the manufacturer’s championship, but might well have been had the stewards not given Felipe Massa a drive-through penalty at the exact moment he was in the middle of the best battle of the race with Lewis Hamilton — effectively the battle for second place in the manufacturer’s cup. Massa would go on to finish seventh and Hamilton tenth.
Still, at least Massa deserved the penalty for clearly crossing the white line delineating the pit entrance. A few laps later Hamilton was awarded his own drive-through, after contact with Valtteri Bottas. How the stewards could have been so certain that was Lewis’ fault we have no idea when even Bottas wasn’t. Still, their contact did appear for a moment likely to set up a grandstand finish.
With just over 25 laps to go, Chrisian Horner was stalking the pit lane looking up for signs of rain. Meanwhile back on the monitors the rest of the team were seeing something else. First, Bottas was picked up by the directors spinning in to the outfield, his left rear tyre nowhere to be seen. Then, there on the screens was Lewis Hamilton, his right rear tyre not doing a very good impression of a circle. Was this Silverstone all over again (after all neither of Pirelli’s compounds had seen action this weekend before today)? Whether it was fear of delaminations or fear of a safety car, Red Bull lost its cool, cocking up Vettel’s pit stop and making Webber wait in line behind.
Just for a moment it all got very close at the front, Vettel ahead of Webber ahead of Alonso, close enough for a shower of rain to have made it anyone’s race. It never quite came, but a lot of people had a good afternoon.
You have to love Sergio Perez. He’s reacted the only way a chap can, having been so roundly mistreated by his team and was the most racey guy on the track this afternoon. Having lost his grid position when the team was obliged to change the gearbox on his wrecked MP4-28 yesterday, he set about his last race for McLaren with a rare gusto, making 13 places, most of them on the track. We salute you Checo.
In the last few races normally that’s where we’d be leaving it for McLaren but not today. In fourth place — two ahead of Perez — after a race in which he actually seemed to be enjoying himself, was Jenson Button in the other MP4-28. That’s McLaren’s best result this season. Fourth place. In the last race. Like Ferrari’s result, a sign that things can be closer next year? Perhaps not. Button and Alonso have a long winter ahead of them, but both seemed motivated to get stuck in as soon as they can. Vettel? Well, he said it on the podium; he wishes this wasn’t it for 2013 and that he could just go on and on.
For everyone else in and around F1, it must be a blessed relief he can’t.