Brazil GPR Race Recap: Vettel wins generally dry & exciting race, Webber, Alonso podium

Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, despite losing the lead on the start to Nico Rosberg. Mark Webber finished second behind his teammate, after scrapping with third place Fernando Alonso multiple times throughout the race. Jenson Button, who started on the hard compound tyres, opposite the rest of the field, would finish fourth after a charge through the field. Though Rosberg started second and went into T1 first, he would soon drop down the order on a wetter race setup, finishing fifth. Though Lewis Hamilton had made his way to third on the first lap, a drive through penalty after a collision with Valtteri Bottas would drop the Briton down to a ninth place finish. Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa, and Nico Hulkenberg would split the Mercedes teammates, with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the points paying positions.

Early stages of the race were impossibly thrilling, as the top four changed places and pushed each other as hard as possible. Webber and Alonso in particular provided much entertainment. Then, as Vettel began to increase his lead, the action shifted to the middle part of the field. Button charged from a poor starting position, passing his fellow drivers easily and with determination. After the Hamilton-Bottas incident, things got messy, with Vettel diving into the pits ahead of his teammate. He had to wait for the crew to bring his tyres instead of Webber’s. Though rain fell continuously through the latter half of the race, it was never enough to force a switch from the dry tyres.

Vettel (1:26.479) ran away with pole, despite a delay in Q3 running as torrential rain hit the Interlagos circuit during Saturday’s qualifying sessions. Rosberg qualified second, six tenths off Vettel’s time. Though the recitation of facts indicated Vettel set his time before conditions worsened or was lucky enough to catch an improving track, neither happened. Vettel simply took off in his Red Bull, set a time, set a slightly better time, and no one on the same intermediate tyres during the same final runs could catch the four time champion. Alonso felt confident after qualifying that he could have bested Rosberg’s time to start on the front row instead of qualifying second, if he had not had a moment in T4. He did and will start on row two, next to Webber. Hamilton and Grosjean rounded out the top six qualifiers.

Neither McLaren driver made it to Q3. Though Perez again out-qualified Button, the Mexican driver crashed heavily in the harder rain at the end of Q2. That ended the laps of the few drivers behind him, but likely made little difference as those men were already losing time in the rain. Perez was unhurt, but his McLaren suffered extensive damage. He would get a five-place gearbox penalty after McLaren was forced to change his gearbox before the race. Kovalainen, substituting for the recovering Kimi Raikkonen, had been quick in Q3, but was not quick enough in Q2. He qualified eleventh, while teammate Grosjean was sixth fastest. Maldonado joined the usual drivers in the relegation zone in Q3, along with Sauber’s Gutierrez.

Rain dampened everyone’s spirits through the weekend, with all three practice sessions run in some sort of damp conditions. Rosberg led both Friday sessions, with Webber on top of the timesheets Saturday morning. Hamilton, Vettel, Button, Alonso, Kovalainen, Grosjean, Bottas, and Hulkenberg all had a turn or two in the top five at the end of a practice session. Though it rained heavily throughout, Perez in Q2 suffered the only major incident of the weekend to that point.

Race Start:
Despite the entire weekend’s soggy conditions, the race got underway in dry conditions with rain possibly threatening. Only Button and Gutierrez chose the hard tyres to start, with all drivers given a free choice of compound for the dry start. When the lights went out, Vettel stayed to the outside and kept Alonso behind him. That allowed Rosberg to take the lead, with Hamilton also able to take fourth from the balked Alonso. He would attack the Briton in response, but Hamilton kept him behind. Alonso continued to look for any way around Hamilton, but at the end of the first lap he remained fourth. Massa had moved up on the start, around the outside at T1 and would move from to sixth from ninth.

Rosberg led Vettel to the line ahead of them, but Vettel managed to beat him across the line and into T1. Alonso similarly passed Hamilton as they came across the front straight in a synchronized switch from second to first, fourth to third. Webber looked to follow Alonso through and did so, slotting Hamilton back to fifth halfway through the second lap. At the end of L2, Vettel led Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Massa, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Ricciardo, and Button as the top ten. Vettel then had nearly a second and a half lead, only to increase it by another second on the next lap.

Grosjean, who had been dicing with Ricciardo, lost his Renault engine with a huge amount of oil and smoke. He pulled to the side of the track at T14, but only momentarily took attention from Alonso attacking Rosberg. The Spaniard easily passed the German, whose Mercedes lacked straight line speed with a wet setup. Webber began worrying Rosberg quickly thereafter.

At the end of L5, Vettel had nearly five seconds on Alonso, with Rosberg and Webber close behind. They continued to scrap, with the Australian looking to take advantage with DRS. He was not quite close enough, as Rosberg began leading a train of Webber, Hamilton, and Massa as Alonso gained a clear gap. Rosberg would fall prey to Webber as they entered T1 to start L7, with Webber going to the outside and taking the racing line through the Senna esses, as well as taking third.

Meanwhile, Grosjean had been forced to run back to the paddock. Back in the racing, Button moved up to eighth with a pass on Ricciardo. Just before, Gutierrez and Perez took a moment to pass Sutil a bit too closely for the German’s taste. Perez would not fare well, with the stewards looking into an incident on L1 between him and di Resta, for forcing another driver off the track. No further action would be taken.

End L10 of 71/Early Pit Stops Begin:
Mercedes came across very clearly on the radio, telling Rosberg “if you’re struggling with your tyres…don’t hold up Lewis.” Hamilton passed on L11, even as Webber harried Alonso for second. Vergne made the first pit stop of the race on L11. By the end of that lap, Vettel had more than nine seconds gap back to Alonso. Webber pulled out from behind Alonso on the front straight and took second into T1 on the inside.Meanwhile, Perez and Bottas had been fighting over the final points position. Bottas held tenth, only to have Perez go over, under, and around the Finn. Button continued his charge through the field on the hard tyre, neatly sliding through on Hulkenberg for seventh.

Ricciardo pitted for his first stop on L15. On the track, Massa became the next driver to pass Rosberg. He took fifth from the German decisively. Though Maldonado complained that his tyres were failing, Williams told him to stay out with showers due to arrive soon. Kovalainen pitted from fifteenth on L16, while Mercedes told Rosberg that there would rain in ten minutes. Ferrari disagreed, telling Alonso that no rain was expected for twenty minutes. Bottas pitted on L18, as did Sutil just behind him. The latter would gain a place in pit lane, on the fast work of the Force India crew. They rejoined in the path of Vergne, who would muscle his way ahead of Bottas. The Finn would fight back, taking position from Vergne. That would last only momentarily as Vergne re-passed him, then Kovalainen followed through.

End L20 of 71/Pit Stops Begin in Earnest:
Massa and Perez pitted on L20 as a few drops of rain began falling. They stayed on dry tryes. Back on the track, Kovalainen attacked Vergne for seventeenth. They went back and forth for a turn or two, but the Finn remained ahead. Button, Hulkenberg, and di Resta all pitted on L21, with Button rejoining on the medium compound, in case no rain fell. Alonso and Hamilton pitted on L22.

On the track, Button, Ricciardo, and Maldonado went three wide on the front straight, with Button taking eighth from Ricciardo. He was on a roll, next taking seventh from Gutierrez just a turn or two later, around the outside at T6. Gutierrez would pit the next time around, with Rosberg doing so as well. The scrapping continued on the track, with Hulkenberg looking for a way around Maldonado.

Webber pitted from second, with a slow, five second pit stop from Red Bull. The left rear wheel gun seemed to have a difficult time connecting. Alonso, pushing hard, set the race fast lap and managed to take advantage of the slow stop from Red Bull and take second again. Vettel pitted as he began L25. His stop was a quick and typical 2.6s. The slow stop might matter little, as Webber sat directly behind Alonso and looked for a way around the Spaniard. On L26, Webber went through on the front straight. Alonso had a look soon thereafter, pushing hard for any way to get through on Webber. Behind them, Hamilton was pushing Massa for fourth.

In the midst of the scrapping, van der Garde and Pic pitted for Caterham. By the end of L27, all drivers but Chilton had stopped. He did so on L28. Vettel led Webber by nearly eleven seconds, with Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Perez, Hulkenberg, and Ricciardo rounding out the top ten.

Vergne made his second pit stop on L28, even as those on the ground indicated that a few more drops of rain had begun falling. On the radio, both Massa and Hamilton seemed to indicate that they were having trouble with their KERS. Meanwhile, the stewards were investigating Massa for crossing the white line on pit entry. Rob Smedley would inform Massa to watch crossing the white line on pit entry. On replay, Gutierrez and Bottas were shown coming together into T1. Both remained undamaged and continued on.

Massa, locking up into T1, came under attack from Hamilton who also locked up as he looked for a way through. The stewards soon assessed Massa a drive through for crossing the line at pit in, for doing so with all four wheels without actually entering the pits. Mercedes informed Hamilton, who backed off the Brazilian slightly. Upon learning of his penalty, Massa was quite exasperated on the radio, yelling “unbelievable!” He did not serve the penalty when told to do so by Smedley, but did do within the rules required time. He waved angrily on his way through the pit lane, as did the crowd on the front straight.

Halfway (End L36 of 71)/Second Pit Stops Begin:
Kovalainen pitted for the second time on L36. At the end of that lap, Vettel led Webber by almost twelve seconds, with Alonso another five back. Hamilton was seven seconds behind Alonso but lapping more quickly than his former teammate. Button, Rosberg, Perez, Massa, Hulkenberg, and Ricciardo rounded out the top ten. Sutil, di Resta, Gutierrez, Maldonado, Bottas, Kovalainen, Vergne, van der Garde, Pic, Bianchi, and Chilton completed the running order at halfway.

Button, who was encouraged to look after his right front tyre, informed his race engineer quite calmly to not speak to him in braking zones. Sutil made his second stop on L38, with a slow stop due to issues on the front right. The leading drivers settled in after the early scrapping and pit stops, stretching out their gaps before stopping for the second time in the latter half of the race. As laps ticked away, the rain continued to drip. Ricciardo made his second stop on L43, while Button and Massa did so on L44. Button had a slow stop with right front trouble, allowing Massa to close the gap in the pit lane. Maldonado also pitted on that lap. Back at the front, Sutil unlapped himself by passing Vettel. The leader had posted a slow lap with traffic around him.

Rosberg and Perez pitted on L46, staying in the same order they pitted in. Massa, having come up behind di Resta, pushed through on the pit straight to take ninth into T1. The Brazilian radioed to Ferrari that rain was falling. At about the same time, Vettel allowed Ricciardo through and back onto the lead lap. L47 saw Bottas spin and lose his rear tyre. The Finn was looking to unlap himself, taking the slipstream around Hamilton. The Briton seemed to have little idea Bottas was alongside and turned into the Finn. The contact forced Bottas into a spin and off the track, giving Hamilton a flat as well. He would suffer some floor damage as well.

Vettel, Webber, Alonso, and Vergne all pitted as drivers dove into the pit lane for hard tyres from the medium. Red Bull was not ready for Vettel, and was instead ready for Webber’s scheduled stop. The crew had to hustle Vettel’s tyres out for him. Hamilton had been forced to limp around to the pits with his flat. Other drivers pitted speedily as well, likely worrying about a possible safety car. The incident would come under investigation from the stewards.

20 Laps Remaining of 71:
At the end of L50, Vettel led Webber by just under six seconds. Alonso was on Webber’s gearbox, with a safe gap of nearly twenty seconds back to Button in fourth. Rosberg, Perez, Massa, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, and Sutil rounded out the top ten. Hamilton would not long remain eighth, receiving a drive through for causing a collision. Though Hamilton wondered if the collision had really been his fault, he served the penalty. Van der Garde also received a drive through penalty, though his was for ignoring blue flags.

Meanwhile, the rain fell a bit harder in the pit lane. Sutil pitted for his third stop with sixteen laps to go. On the track, Rosberg had come under pressure from Perez, who was on a race fast first sector. Mercedes reminded Rosberg that “it is important to retain position in front of Perez.” He soon pulled a second gap on the Mexican driver through traffic. Hamilton would improve his position, passing Ricciardo for tenth and putting the second Mercedes back into the points. Further back, Gutierrez had made his way through on Kovalainen for twelfth.

10 Laps Remaining of 71:
Pic ended his race with a broken suspension and a spin, pulling his Caterham to the side of the track at T4. Marshals would be forced to push the car up the hill to a corner workers stand. Vettel led by eight seconds with ten laps to go. Webber, Alonso, Button, and Rosberg remained the top five under the local yellows as the rain continued to fall lightly.

Vergne looked to pass Maldonado for fifteenth, diving up the inside at T1. Maldonado drove for the racing line, resulting in contact and a spin for the Williams driver. He rejoined next to Button, who came upon him as Maldonado flicked the car back onto the track. With five laps to go, the lapped Maldonado allowed Rosberg and Perez through as well.

Rain fell as continuously as it had for a while, lightly but not enough to require a switch to intermediate or wet tyres. No one in the top ten was then within the DRS detection zone of the man ahead, though Gutierrez was a half second behind di Resta in eleventh. Sutil caught them on the final lap. In the end, Vettel ran away with the race as he did so often in the season, bringing home his ninth straight win and again performing donuts before heading to the podium. Webber followed, finishing second in his final F1 race. He took his helmet off on the cool down lap, waving and weeping as he returned to parc ferme. Alonso finished where he started in third. Button completed his charge from a poor starting position to fourth, while Rosberg stayed fifth. Perez, Massa, who did his own set of donuts, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, and Ricciardo all finished in the points.

Final Positions, 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix:

1. Sebastian VettelRed Bull 2
2. Mark WebberRed Bull10.42
3. Fernando AlonsoFerrari18.92
4. Jenson ButtonMcLaren37.32
5. Nico RosbergMercedes39.02
6. Sergio PerezMcLaren44.02
7. Felipe MassaFerrari49.13
8. Nico HulkenbergSauber64.22
9. Lewis HamiltonMercedes72.93
10. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1 Lap2
11. Paul di RestaForce India1 Lap2
12. Esteban GutierrezSauber1 Lap2
13. Adrian SutilForce India1 Lap3
14. Heikki KovalainenLotus1 Lap2
15. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1 Lap3
16. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1 Lap2
17. Jules BianchiMarussia2 Laps2
18. Giedo van der GardeCaterham2 Laps3
19. Max ChiltonMarussia2 Laps3
 Charles PicCaterham13 Laps1
 Valtteri BottasWilliams26 Laps2
 Romain GrosjeanLotus69 Laps 
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