It was a day of high emotion for Infiniti Red Bull Racing in Brazil as Sebastian Vettel signed off the 2013 season with another historic win and Mark Webber brought the curtain down on his illustrious F1 career with second place to seal the team’s fifth one-two finish of the season.
Seb began the race from his 45th pole position but a poor start allowed Nico Rosberg to steal the lead in Turn One. The Mercedes man wasn't there for long, however. Seb powered past his compatriot on the pit straight at the end of the lap and then streaked away, building a solid gap.
His lead was briefly threatened in his second stop, when both Seb and Mark were simultaneously called in for a pit stop as the team pre-empted a safety car. It didn't come and the late call meant the team weren't ready with the right tyres.
After that, Sebastian marched to his 13th victory this season. The tally puts him level with Michael Schumacher in the standings for most wins in a single season, the former Ferrari and Mercedes driver having notched his 13 victories during the 2004 season.
The win at Interlagos, Seb's second at the Sao Paulo circuit, was also enough to put him level with Alberto Ascari's record of nine successive wins, although Ascari's were spread across the 1952 season and the start of the 1953 campaign. Seb, though, was typically modest about the achievement.
I CERTAINLY LEARNED A LOT FROM MARK- SEB
"I don't want to compare the record that we have got today; it's not fair as it was a different time when Ascari was driving. Cars broke down more often then and teams were less consistent, so therefore it's a different type of record that we have got today," he said.
"My start wasn't so good today, but I was able to get past Rosberg," he said of the race itself. "It was hard to know what was going to happen in today's race. When we came for the second pit stop, it was a late call and then we had to wait for the tyres. We managed to recover with some laps to go."
The four-time champion also took time out to pay tribute to Mark.
"Today was of course Mark's last race," he said. "We didn't have the best relationship, but nevertheless we always had respect for each other on a professional level and whatever was going on off-track, didn't make a difference to us on track and we both pushed each other very hard. I certainly learned a lot from Mark. I learned to become a better driver due to his impressive skills; that's why I consider him one of the best drivers on the grid."
Mark showed that in fine style at Interlagos, delivering a typically tough and uncompromising performance on the way to the 42nd podium finish of his career.
FORMULA ONE IS A SPORT I'VE LOVED- MARK
Starting fourth he dropped to fifth behind Lewis Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel and Rosberg in Turn One. He was soon past Hamilton, however, overtaking the Mercedes on lap two in Turn Six. He then passed Rosberg, who had fallen to P3, and became involved in a tussle for P2 with regular sparring partner Fernando Alonso. Mark passed the Ferrari man under DRS into Turn One on lap 13 but then lost P2 during a slow first stop.
There was no halting the Aussie though and just two laps after his stop he passed the Spaniard once again. From there, it was simply a case of powering to the finish for Mark.
And once past the chequered flag he took time to drink in the atmosphere, removing his helmet to properly enjoy in his final moments in F1.
"It was nice to take the helmet off for the final lap," he said. "In this sport it's not always possible to give things a personal touch. We have the helmets on all the time, so they fans don't always see a Formula One driver in a car without a helmet. It was nice to get it off and see the marshals and the fans; it was just a really nice thing to experience. I heard a lot of noises that I don't normally hear.
"Crossing the line and seeing all the guys was great," he added. "Christian radioed me and said enjoy the last lap, which I did. I did it as slow as I could; it was a very special day. Seb and I have had our challenges over time and it's easier to have a relationship with Fernando, as he's in another team, but to finish on the podium with those two guys – well, they have been the best of this generation. I have raced them a lot and to finish with those guys was nice for me because it meant a lot, showing that I can drive well at the end of my career and that I got the timing right."
IT WAS A FITTING WAY TO FINISH WITH A ONE-TWO FINISH.- CHRISTIAN
Team Principal Christian Horner simply hailed the achievements of both drivers in delivering the team's fifth one-two finish of the year.
"What an incredible way to sign off not only a remarkable season, but also Mark's career in Formula One," he said. "It was a fitting way to finish with a one-two finish. Sebastian claims yet another record and has driven like a true champion this year to have won 13 grands prix in one season; it's a remarkable achievement and will be very difficult to surpass.
"For Mark, it was fantastic that he finished his Formula One career on the podium with a really gutsy drive," he added. "His moves on Rosberg, Hamilton and twice on Alonso showed what a real racer he is and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for the invaluable contribution that he's made to the team, to the four Constructors' Championships that we have won together and for all his hard work and efforts throughout the last seven years. As he moves on to a new challenge we wish the very, very best to him and his family for the future."
The final words though, had to go to Mark, who bows out after 215 race starts, nine grand prix victories, 33 other podium finishes and 13 pole positions.
"Formula One is a sport I've loved," he said. "I could never have dreamt of the career that I've had, the tremendous highs, the tough lows – you know they have to happen and you learn from adversity. The biggest and strongest memories you have are from when you are in the car; it's what we were tuned and trained to do. Driving on the limit is what I was paid to do and what I enjoyed doing. They are the strongest memories you have as an individual at this level."
A fitting sign-off to a great Formula One career.