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The 2013 Season Review - Part Two 29 Nov 2013

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 suffers a blow out.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8 suffers a blow out.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 (L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 celebrate on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 7 July 2013 Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 crosses the line.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9 waits on pole position for the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Race Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 22 September 2013 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 6 October 2013 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9 performs doghnuts at the end of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Race Day, Sunday, 27 October 2013 Second placed Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1, wearing a stetson, in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Race, Austin, Texas, USA, Sunday, 17 November 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 22 September 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9 arrives in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 24 November 2013 Race winner Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 26 May 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32 leads Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Race Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 6 October 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso and Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 2 November 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02 and Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03 at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 24 November 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing and the Red Bull Racing team celebrate.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 24 November 2013

Continued from Part One

Lewis Hamilton had steadily been getting more comfortable in his Mercedes F1 W04 by the time of July’s British Grand Prix, particularly with its brake system. Having qualified on pole he was leading his home race comfortably at Silverstone from Vettel when his left-rear tyre exploded. Other equally dramatic tyre failures involving Massa, Perez and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne quickly followed and, as Rosberg inherited victory after Vettel had retired with a gearbox problem, Pirelli had already begun urgent investigations into what had gone wrong and soon issued mandatory set-up specifications in light of what they learned.

In an effort to curb their excessive tyre wear, some teams were found to have been running the uni-directional tyres the wrong way round (an old ploy often seen in karting) and at camber angles up to four degrees. Now Pirelli mandated that all tyres should be run in one direction only, at no more than 2.5 degrees of camber.

Fingers were crossed there would be no more drama in Germany, as new specification tyres were prepared for Hungary, and to everyone’s relief there were no problems as Vettel won for the first time at home from the charging Lotuses of Raikkonen and Grosjean.

The new tyres were ready for the Hungaroring and featured a revised construction to go with the Kevlar belt that had been introduced in Germany. All of the teams bar Mercedes had tested them at the young driver test at Silverstone, though Mercedes were given data by Pirelli. And, to everyone’s surprise including his own, Hamilton dominated the race ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel to score his first big success with his new team and propel himself into championship contention.

As the teams went into the summer break, nobody could possibly have foreseen what lay in store for the remaining nine races, as Vettel was still within reach with 172 points to Raikkonen’s 134, Alonso’s 133 and Hamilton’s 124.

It was a slap in the face for Red Bull’s rivals when Vettel won at a canter in Belgium, hitherto not one of the best tracks for Adrian Newey’s high-downforce cars, and at Monza where low downforce was again the order of the day, but the most crushing victory came for the German in Singapore where Red Bull’s phenomenal traction made him completely untouchable. Within three races Vettel has stretched his lead from 38 points to 60 points and would have been even further ahead were it not for the heroics of Alonso who somehow kept the his slipping Ferrari team in touch.

By then the emerging pattern was already prompting discussion of how likely it was that Vettel would win all the remaining races, and to everyone’s consternation Vettel did just that, equalling Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 wins in a calendar year, but claiming one of his own for nine consecutive wins in a season. First came a dominant win in Korea, then another at his happy hunting ground of Suzuka, before further victories in India (where he sealed his title with a jubilant display of donuts), Abu Dhabi and the United States. Heading into the final round in Brazil the only question was whether Vettel would ‘gift’ Webber one final win, the Australian having announced his F1 departure for sportscars earlier in the season. The answer was an emphatic ‘no’.

Clearly, the revised tyres introduced in Hungary suited Red Bull more than anyone else, whilst Ferrari and Force India, whose season’s both unravelled somewhat in the second half of the year, were the worst compromised - harsh luck after their careful winter preparation. Raikkonen’s campaign also began to fall apart as the new rubber made his Lotus understeer. That suited Grosjean more, and in the latter half of the season he and Webber, whose car was at last more reliable, proved to be the only men capable of getting anywhere near Vettel.

Korea, Japan and India brought Grosjean a trio of third-place podium finishes, followed by a second in Texas, while Webber was third in Italy and Texas and second in Japan, Abu Dhabi and Brazil to pip Hamilton to third place overall in the drivers’ standings behind Vettel and Alonso.

Mercedes also dipped in the latter half after a promising opening half of the season that included three wins and eight pole positions, four of them in succession for Hamilton. But far from building on his success in Hungary, the Englishman struggled somewhat in the final flurry of flyaways. His races in India and Abu Dhabi were compromised by damage to his Mercedes’ chassis, but when the problem was discovered in time for the races in the United States and Brazil he was right back in the picture. What is undeniable is that Nico Rosberg proved far greater a match for Hamilton than many had predicted, and indeed the German’s strong form helped Mercedes take a much-improved second place in the constructors’ standings, behind Red Bull but ahead of Ferrari, despite some tyre wear trouble over the final races.

Raikkonen’s career at Lotus came to an end two races ahead of schedule when he opted to miss the races in Austin and Sao Paulo to have surgery on a recurrent back injury. The enigmatic Finn should be healed by the time of the first tests of 2014 when he’ll be reunited with Ferrari alongside Alonso.

Raikkonen’s absence, allied to stand-in Heikki Kovalainen’s failure to score points in the United States or Brazil and Grosjean’s dramatic final race engine failure, compromised Lotus’s chance of improving on fourth place in the constructors’ table.

Fifth place in the standings was an embarrassment for McLaren, whose ambitious plan to move ahead of their rivals backfired when the MP4-28 failed to enhance the MP4-27’s excellent competitiveness. They persevered with the car and steadily improved it, but failed to score a single podium for the first time since 1980. Somewhat ironically in a season without major success, they did become the first team in history to have both its cars classified in every Grand Prix.

At one point Force India were ahead of McLaren on merit, but as they struggled to unlock the VJM06’s potential on the revised tyres they slipped backwards, coming under serious threat from Sauber as the Swiss team’s fortunes conversely took an upturn. This was partly because of the new rubber and also because they introduced a revised exhaust system which made a big difference in the C32’s handling characteristics. Hulkenberg was arguably the most impressive driver in the second half of the season after Vettel - his defensive drive in Korea an obvious highlight - but in the end the British team held fast, taking a highly respectable sixth overall with the evenly matched Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.

Toro Rosso were only eighth, which did not reflect what a competitive car James Key’s STR8 was at times. The Italian team’s season was notable for the fierce but friendly battle between Daniel Ricicardo and Jean-Eric Vergne for the vacant 2014 Red Bull seat. The contest eventually went the Australian’s way, though Vergne finished only seven points back from his team mate in the final drivers’ standings.

Williams endured another miserable year, reshuffling their technical team mid-season and scoring just five points. The sole positive was the glimmer of hope offered by rookie driver Valtteri Bottas. The Finn starred in qualifying in both Canada and the United States and he should continue to develop alongside Ferrari exile Felipe Massa next year.

At the back, the battle for tenth place in the constructors’ standings between the two youngest teams, Marussia and Caterham, was as competitive as ever. In the end, Marussia’s superior early season form - and crucially reliability - enabled them to get the better of their rivals for the first time with young Frenchman Jules Bianchi impressing on numerous occasions.

For 2014, Formula One racing will embrace a new dawn of technical change that will impact car and driver alike, in ways some of which aren’t yet known. What is certain is that as the normally-aspirated F1 era is finally bid a fond farewell, it could not have had a greater last hoorah - one in which a young driver, who some already rate as the greatest ever, set new standards of success, the likes of which may never be matched again.

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