December 6th, 2013 (F1plus/H. Hough).- It is little over a week since the chequered flag fell in Brazil to signal the end of the 2013 season. It was a season that saw Sebastian Vettel break records on his way to a fourth world championship.
The German took the championship lead after round three and was never caught. In early August he already had a commanding 38 point lead and he ramped up his charge in the second half of the season, winning the last nine races.
The 2013 season saw Red Bull remain at the front; Mercedes become serious title contenders, and McLaren slip down the order. Romain Grosjean transformed from ‘first-lap nutcase’ into a regular podium finisher and five rookies got their first bite at the F1 cherry. Over the course of 95 sessions – free practices, qualifying, and races – 27 drivers completed 57,045 laps. Five test drivers got Friday running with Heikki Kovalainen being promoted to a race seat for two races, to sit in for Kimi Räikkönen when he ended his season early to have back surgery.
Rodolfo Gonzalez, Alexander Rossi and James Calado made Friday appearances for their respective teams, with 2014 driver Daniil Kvyat also getting two runs for Toro Rosso. Mercedes completed the most laps of any team, a grand total of 5,590, while Marussia completed fewest laps (4,786). Monaco was the race which saw most laps completed with drivers lapping the Principality 3,828 times. In contrast, laps at the Shanghai International Circuit were completed just 2,652 times.
McLaren may have had a highly disappointing season, slipping down to fifth in the order, but they made history by becoming the first Formula One team to have both cars classified at every race. Out of a total 38 classified finishes, Marussia, Mercedes and Ferrari all had 35. Force India and Toro Rosso both had the same amount of classified finishes and the fewest out of all the teams – 30 each.
Despite Jenson Button and Sergio Perez being classified at every race, they did have retirements although these came in the last ten percent. Max Chilton was the only driver to actually finish every race, albeit most of those finishes came one or two laps down.
Champion Vettel finished 18 of 19 races – all 18 in the points, 16 on the podium and 13 wins. He didn’t finish lower than fourth in the whole year.
In qualifying it is no surprise that Vettel had the best record of any driver. He is the only driver to have made it through to Q3 at every race. His average qualifying position for the year was 2.05 with nine pole positions contributing to the overall figure.
Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber all made it through to Q3 at all but one races, with seven pole positions in total for Webber and Hamilton. Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was the only other driver to claim pole position – which he did on three occasions – making it a clean sweep for Red Bull and Mercedes.
Along with the aforementioned drivers, Räikkönen, Felipe Massa, Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, and Button were the top ten qualifiers of the year. Other drivers to make it through to Q3 were Perez, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Jean-Eric Vergne, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez. Five drivers had a better year in qualifying than they did in races, losing out overall in terms of starting position to grid position total.
Hulkenberg lost four places overall, Webber lost eight, Hamilton and Ricciardo lost 30, and Rosberg lost 31 positions.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gutierrez gained most when looking at his starting position and his classified position. In total he gained 51 places with eight his biggest gain at one race. Other big gainers throughout the year were Charles Pic and Chilton with 46, di Resta with 43 and Räikkönen with 42.
These figures do not take into account when a driver was not classified. Of course it is all well and good gaining positions but it matters little when there are no points involved. At the end of the day, Formula One is all about racing for points and winning races and championships.
Vettel’s impressive charge throughout the year resulted in him becoming champion for the fourth time. He didn’t finish every race and he didn’t gain many positions from his place on the starting grid; but when he did finish, he finished consistently on the podium. His nearest rival for most of the season, and the driver who finished second, was Alonso. He was 155 points down on the Red Bull driver by the season’s end.
The Ferrari car was not up to scratch with the likes of the Red Bull and the Mercedes, but Alonso’s driving got him to where he finished. He also finished consistently in the top ten and had one DNF, like Vettel, as well as one classified finish outside of the points. But his average finishing position was 3.84, and he only won two races, compared with Vettel’s dominating 13.
To put Vettel’s domination into even more perspective here are a few more figures. In the past five seasons (2009 – 2013 inclusive) Vettel has won 38 races. In that same period the last four world champions (Button, Hamilton, Räikkönen and Alonso) have won a combined 41 races.
Vettel won over a third of that total in 2013 alone while the other four could manage only four wins between them. When Vettel dominantly won the championship in 2011 he won 11 races but the other three drivers (minus Räikkönen who was off rallying) won seven races between them. With the big regulation changes for next season, many teams and drivers will no doubt be hoping that 2014 will be the year that they can beat Vettel.