Ranking the Best Races of the 2013 F1 Season

Fraser Masefield@@fmasefieldContributor INovember 27, 2013

Ranking the Best Races of the 2013 F1 Season

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    The 2014 Formula One season will go down in the history books as a record-breaking one for Sebastian Vettel.

    Because of the measure of the young German's dominance and the fact that he won the final nine races of the season, the season will not be remembered as a classic.

    But if we look beyond the Vettel victories alone, many of the races in a season that marks the end of the V8 era threw up great racing and incident aplenty that makes some of them classics in their own right.

    Here is a review of the 2013 season, looking back over each race and ranking them in the order of least memorable to most exciting.

    As always, please feel free to have your say below.

19. USA: Vettel’s Bull Runs Riot in Texas

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    A well-attended second-ever US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas was not the most memorable by any stretch of the imagination, but it did have its moments.

    In winning the race by a more comfortable 6.2 seconds than it would appear on paper, Sebastian Vettel became the first driver in the history of the sport to win eight consecutive races in a single season.

    There was drama early on as Pastor Maldonado punted a furious Adrian Sutil into retirement. Then came a bizarre radio exchange between eventual fourth-placed finisher Lewis Hamilton as he barked at his team, "You need to give me some feedback, man, tyres, temperatures,” as reported in The Guardian.

    Talking point: Lewis Hamilton goes radio ga ga over his team’s tyre feedback.

18. Spain: Home Favourite Provides Driving Masterclass

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    The Spanish Grand Prix rarely ever throws up absolute classics, as the Circuit de Catalunya venue is the traditional test bed for F1 cars.

    This year, we were treated to a Fernando Alonso masterclass on his home turf as the Ferrari driver executed his four-stop strategy to perfection to win from Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.

    But with most teams opting for a four-stop strategy there was heavy criticism of Pirelli after the race with many fans struggling to keep track of exactly what was going on.

    If Alonso hadn't won so brilliantly on his home turf, the race would only have been remembered for Pirelli's shortcomings.

    Talking point: Confusion reigns for race fans as cars spend almost as much time in the pits as they do on track. How many stops is too much?

17. China: Alonso Takes Away First Season Victory

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    Fernando Alonso’s first win of the season came two races earlier at the Shanghai International Circuit, and it was another comfortable win for the Spaniard by 10 seconds from Kimi Raikkonen.

    It may have been closer, but Raikkonen finished the race with a damaged front wing and nose cone after hitting Sergio Perez early on.

    Not so fortunate was Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez, who ran into the back of a furious Adrian Sutil, taking both cars out of the race.

    And Mark Webber was also the victim of a collision with Jean-Eric Vergne that resulted in him losing his right rear wheel at turn 14.

    Talking point: Gutierrez has his first rookie moment, misjudging his braking to take out Sutil.

16. Australia: Raikkonen Win Hints at Close Season

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    The opening race of the season often throws up one or two surprises, with nobody fully knowing the strength of the opposition when the racing properly gets underway.

    So it proved, as Kimi Raikkonen drove a blinder of a race to take victory from his starting grid slot of seventh to win from Fernando Alonso and pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel.

    Raikkonen's long second stint proved the deciding factor and served notice that the Lotus chassis was well-suited to making Pirelli’s tyres last longer than expected.

    Yet the race was otherwise light on incident, aside for a decent scrap between old rivals Lewis Hamilton and Alonso.

    Talking point: Alonso and Hamilton slicing and dicing.

15. India: Vettel Claims Record Fourth Successive Title

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    The Indian Grand Prix will go down in history as the race where Sebastian Vettel clinched his fourth successive drivers’ title, and Red Bull won their fourth successive constructors’ crown.

    In truth, the race itself was short on drama, with Vettel romping to a victory by fully 30 seconds from closest challenger Nico Rosberg.

    Mark Webber was expected to mount a challenge, but he clipped Fernando Alonso on the opening lap before his race came to an end with an alternator failure.

    As it was, Romain Grosjean took third after Lotus teammate Kimi Raikkonen was ordered to let him pass on fading tyres after a curt radio exchange, and Felipe Massa also passed the Finn.

    Much of the excitement actually came at the end of the race when Vettel treated the crowd to a series of donuts to celebrate his record achievement on what may be the last ever Indian Grand Prix.

    The race stewards did not see the funny side and slapped a 25,000 fine for not following protocol and returning directly to parc ferme.

    Talking point: Seb Vettel's donuts not to stewards taste.

14. Abu Dhabi: Vettel Leaves Rivals in the Dust

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    As with Singapore, Abu Dhabi always provides a spectacular setting for grand prix racing in that the race starts at dusk before artificial light takes over as the night closes in.

    But like Singapore, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was only really memorable for the dominance of Sebastian Vettel's driving, the German romping to victory by just over 30 seconds from teammate Mark Webber.

    As in India, Vettel celebrated equaling his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher’s record of seven straight victories by wowing the crowd to a series of victory donuts.

    Talking point: Vettel equaling Schumacher’s record and celebrating with donuts.

13. Singapore: Vettel Turns Lights out on Opposition as Webber Turns Hitchiker

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    The Singapore Grand Prix always provides a spectacular event, as it is the only full night race of the season.

    The race provided another utterly dominant performance from Sebastian Vettel, who led practically from start to finish, but he saw his early advantage eroded by a safety car period brought about by Daniel Ricciardo smashing into the barriers at Turn 18.

    It was not the end of the drama as Mark Webber was forced to drop back from fourth with a gearbox issue before retiring a lap from the end of the race.

    The Australian then took the chance to hitch a lift back to the pits on the sidepod of second-placed Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.

    Closed Circuit TV monitors revealed that Webber had actually come fairly close to the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on their slowing down laps, and he was slapped with a 10-place grid penalty as a result.

    Talking point: Webber's hitchhiking antics prove too dangerous for race stewards.

12. Japan: Vettel Wins Tactical Battle

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    Not every race has to involve multiple overtakes, crashes and controversy to go down as a classic, and this year's Japanese Grand Prix was a case in point as race tactics provided the intrigue.

    It was very nearly all over for Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap as his front wing clipped Lewis Hamilton’s right rear tyre. It resulted in minimal damage for Vettel but led to the Mercedes' retirement with a puncture that also damaged the car's floor.

    With Romain Grosjean getting the jump on both Red Bull's into the first corner, the race then came down to a fascinating strategic battle with both Vettel and Grosjean on a two-stopper and Webber opting for three.

    Vettel remained behind Grosjean until after his final stop, but because he pitted eight laps later, he quickly closed on the Lotus with fresher tyres and was past with 13 laps remaining.

    His tyres failing, Grosjean was also passed by Webber with only a lap remaining.

    Talking point: Grosjean unable to keep Webber at bay on the final lap.

11. Canada: Vettel Victory Not Popular with Local Fans

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    Sebastian Vettel stretched his lead in the championship standings with a straightforward victory in Montreal in a race relatively devoid of incident.

    The German led from pole and stretched away to win by 14 seconds from second-placed Fernando Alonso, who passed old rival Lewis Hamilton late in the race after the Mercedes was held behind Adrian Sutil's Force India on his final stint.

    Giedo van der Garde incurred the wrath of Mark Webber after the Caterham driver turned in on the Australian at the hairpin, damaging his front wing and ruining his chances.

    "I don't know if he has a lot of concentration to drive the car in terms of what is straight ahead of him," fumed Webber on Sky Sports.

    For whatever reason, Vettel was not a popular winner with the Canadian crowd, many choosing to boo the race winner on the podium during his victory speech. It would be the first of many during the season.

    Talking point: Vettel booing on the podium starts a worrying trend.

10. Brazil: Vettel Makes It Nine in a Row as Massa Denied Fitting Ending

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    With the drivers’ and constructors’ titles already done and dusted, the final race of the season had something about an end-of-term feel about it.

    But with Vettel chasing a record-equaling ninth successive race victory and several drivers fighting for their very F1 futures, there was still plenty to play for.

    Lotus also had an outside chance of third in the constructors’ standings, but that went up in smoke when Romain Grosjean retired with an engine failure on the opening lap.

    It wasn't quite to be a fairy-tale ending in Mark Webber's final race in F1, as Vettel romped to yet another win, but the Aussie was a popular second after holding off Fernando Alonso.

    Alonso himself may well have finished fourth as he revealed he would have handed his podium spot to teammate Felipe Massa in his final race for Ferrari.

    But the Brazilian was denied that sentimental tribute when those pesky race stewards slapped a drive through penalty on him for crossing the pit entry line—a decision Massa labelled afterwards as unacceptable on Sky Sports.

    Talking point: Were race stewards too hasty in their decision to penalise Massa for what appeared a trivial misdemeanour? 

9. Italy : Vettel Spoils the Tifosi’s Fun

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    The hordes of passionate Ferrari fans, known as the Tifosi, did not quite get the result they wanted as Sebastian Vettel beat their hero, Fernando Alonso, to the checkered flag to win the Italian Grand Prix.

    The race was a walk in the park for the German, whose only hiccup was a flat spot into the first corner as he held off the challenge of Felipe Massa, who eventually finished fourth.

    Monza has provided great racing in the past, but this Italian Grand Prix was not one of them—the highlight being Lewis Hamilton's exciting charge through the field to ninth after dropping to the back of the field with a puncture.

    After the boos for Vettel on the podium in Canada, it was always going to happen in Italy with Vettel beating home favourite Alonso and Vettel made light of the fact in saying on Sky Sports, “We are in Italy, I'm dressed in blue. ... I said to the guys on the in lap, the more booing we get, the better we've done today.”

    Talking point: Lewis Hamilton's exciting charge through the field.

8. Belgium: Greenpeace Stunt Overshadows Vettel Win as Rain Stays Away

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    A favourite of fans and drivers alike, the historic Belgian Grand Prix set in the Ardennes is well known for throwing up classic races, mainly due to the high likelihood of a rain-interrupted race.

    Sadly this year the rain stayed away, and it helped Sebastian Vettel to a comfortable 16.8-second win over chief rival Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

    Most of the action came courtesy of a fine drive from Alonso, who produced a series of fine overtakes after starting from ninth on the grid, including taking Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton into Eau Rouge, as well as passing both Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg.

    Kimi Raikkonen fell foul of a bizarre retirement as one of his visor tear-off strips became jammed in one of his brake ducts, leading to excessive heating and brake failure.

    Even after the race, there was one more moment of drama as carefully placed banners unfurled on the podium via remote control as part of Greenpeace's stunt to protest against Shell's plan to continue drilling for oil in the Arctic.

    Talking point: Alonso's series of daring overtakes en route to an impressive second and the Greenpeace podium stunt.

7. Germany: Vettel Takes First Home Win as Webber Wheel Hits Cameraman

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    It was surely never in doubt that Sebastian Vettel would come out on top in his home race in Germany.

    Yet Vettel had never before won his home race, and the victory looked in doubt until the very end as the Red Bull driver had to withstand late pressure from the Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen to win by just a second from the Finn.

    Vettel led from Webber early on, but the Australian's race came to a dramatic end during his first stop when his right rear wheel detached and struck FOM cameraman Paul Allen, resulting in a broken collarbone, several broken ribs and a hefty 30,000 fine for Red Bull.

    It was not the end of the drama. Having retired with a fiery engine failure, Jules Bianchi's pilotless Marussia then rolled back down the bank and onto the circuit, leading to a safety car period.

    Nobody can say that Vettel didn’t earn his first win in Germany as he kept his head when others were losing theirs.

    Talking point: Cameraman lucky to escape with a few broken bones.

6. Hungary: Hamilton Bags First Mercedes Win

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    The Hungarian Grand Prix marked Lewis Hamilton’s coming of age as a Mercedes driver as the Englishman put in a near-flawless performance to win his first race for the famous German marque.

    Hamilton often proved supreme over one lap in 2013, and he laid the foundations for his success by grabbing pole and leading into the first corner before executing a perfect three-stop strategy to win from Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

    The battle for second was much closer, with Raikkonen having to withstand a late Vettel charge with the Red Bull on fresher rubber, and Mark Webber also impressed after carving his way to fourth after a disappointing qualifying that saw him 10th on the grid.

    Romain Grosjean may well have done better than sixth had he not hit Jenson Button while attempting to pass at the chicane, resulting in a retrospective drive-through penalty, and he was then given a drive-through penalty after passing Felipe Massa off the track.

    Talking point: Hamilton’s victory looked to be the start of things to come.

5. Monaco: Rosberg Emulates Father with Maiden Monaco Win

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    The Monaco Grand Prix is renowned for its glitz and glamour as much as for the on-track action, which is often a let-down due to the lack of overtaking opportunities around the circuit's tight and twisty confines.

    Whoever takes pole position usually wins the race, and this year proved no exception, but Nico Rosberg was made to work for his first Monaco victory in a dramatic race that saw two safety car periods and a red flag.

    A massive crash involving Felipe Massa at Sainte Devote brought out the first safety car, and the Brazilian was stretchered off to hospital in a neck brace.

    The red flag then came out on lap 45 after Pastor Maldonado's Williams was launched into the air and into the barriers at Tabac after Max Chilton moved in on him towards the braking zone.

    Sergio Perez then provided some entertaining racing, passing both teammate Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso at the Nouvelle Chicane before trying one pass too many on Kimi Raikkonen coming out of the tunnel, resulting in a collision, his retirement and the wrath of the Finn who recovered to finish 10th.

    In taking his first victory at Monaco, Rosberg became the first son to emulate his father with victory around the Principality, taking the victory exactly 30 years later.

    Talking point: Two big crashes involving Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado.

4. Bahrain: Vettel Dominates in the Desert

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    Having fought off the early attentions of Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel disappeared into the distance to take a dominant second win of the season.

    Despite the comfort of Vettel's win, the action behind the German made it a race to remember with overtaking aplenty. Fernando Alonso again looked to be Vettel’s biggest threat until his DRS stuck open on Lap 5, and it took two pit stops to fix the problem. The Spaniard then fought his way through the field without the aid of his DRS to finish an impressive eighth.

    Lotus juggled their tactics with Kimi Raikkonen managing his tyres expertly on a two-stopper to finish second while Romain Grosjean's late charge on fresh rubber after his third stop saw him pass Paul di Resta for third in an exciting finish.

    And Sergio Perez incurred the wrath of McLaren teammate Jenson Button after an exciting duel saw contact between the pair before the Mexican finished sixth. Per Andrew Benson of BBC Sport

    I'm not used to driving along a straight and having a team-mate coming alongside me and wiggling his wheels at me, and banging wheels at 300kph. ... Banging wheels at 300kph isn't something we do in Formula 1 normally, so it's a new thing for me. Maybe this is the way we go racing now, I don't know. But it's not the way I want to go racing. 

    We'll have to have a little chat I think because I don't like banging wheels at 300kph. That's dangerous.

    Talking point: Button’s war of words with his new teammate.


3. Korea: Vettel Wins Amidst Drama

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    The Korean Grand Prix marked Vettel's fourth victory in succession, but the race was one of the most dramatic and chaotic of the season.

    It all began on the opening lap when Felipe Massa spun on the way down to Turn 3, almost collecting teammate Fernando Alonso in the process.

    Following the first period of pit stops, Nico Rosberg managed to pass teammate Lewis Hamilton but then suffered a bizarre failure as his front-wing assembly collapsed on him, forcing him to limp back to the pits in a shower of sparks.

    Next up to suffer misfortune was the McLaren of Sergio Perez as this front-right Pirelli tyre spectacularly delaminated, although he recovered to finish 10th.

    The result of Perez’s delaminating was a safety car period, and on the restart, Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of a lapse in concentration from teammate Romain Grosjean to pass into Turn 1.

    Having had to concede position twice before in the season, Grosjean expected his team to order Raikkonen to surrender back the position, but instead, they told him to continue racing.

    Moments later, Adrian Sutil lost control of his Force India into Turn 3 and took both himself and Mark Webber out of the race. With Webber’s Red Bull set ablaze from the crash, a fire truck was deployed to deal with the situation and joined the circuit in a dangerous position with the cars still racing.

    Fortunately, race director Charlie Whiting responded in time to deploy a safety car and Vettel went on to take victory under late pressure from Raikkonen.

    Talking points: Should Lotus have asked Raikkonen to hand position back to Grosjean? New procedures concerning the deployment of fire trucks must now be looked at.

2. Malaysia: Vettel Ignores Team Orders to Win

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    "Multi-21 Seb," said a furious Mark Webber to his teammate after Vettel had blatantly ignored team orders to fight and pass the Australian to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    Webber had been leading the race after the final pit stops, and Vettel was issued the order "Multi-21" to hold station behind Webber until the end of the race.

    But with the season only two races old, Vettel didn't want to know and fought Webber for position before passing with 13 laps of the race remaining.

    Vettel initially apologised for his "mistake," saying that if he could undo it he would. He later retracted it by telling BBC Sport (above video), "The bottom line is that I was racing. I was faster. I passed him. I won."

    For the record, Lewis Hamilton took third from teammate Nico Rosberg after the latter obeyed team orders to remain behind Hamilton despite seemingly having the faster car as Hamilton acknowledged on BBC Sport.

    "I can't say it's the best feeling being up here today. If I'm honest I really feel Nico should be standing here."

    Talking point: "Multi-21 Seb!" Enough said.

1. Great Britain: Pirelli Blow-Outs Make for Chaotic Race

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    Surely the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was the race that had it all this year and mainly thanks to the fallibility of Pirelli’s fast-wearing tyres.

    Lewis Hamilton looked well-placed for victory early on after leading away from pole, but a dramatic tyre blow-out on Lap 8 dropped him to last. The fact that he was able to fight his way back to fourth was some achievement but also owed much to the drama that was to follow as tyre failures on a further five cars threatened the cancellation of the race.

    Felipe Massa's tyre then failed two laps later, and a similar failure for Jean-Eric Vergne brought out the safety car. Perhaps the most dramatic delamination occurred when Sergio Perez's tyre exploded. Fernando Alonso requiring catlike reflexes to avoid the shards of metal and rubber catapulting towards his cockpit.

    When the dust settled, Sebastian Vettel looked set for victory before retiring with a technical issue with 11 laps remaining. It made for a dramatic finish as Mark Webber closed on Nico Rosberg after a second safety car period to remove Vettel's Red Bull.

    Webber was swarming all over the back of Rosberg with two laps remaining and surely would have won the race but for a poor start that dropped him to 13, but the German held out for a dramatic victory.

    Talking point: Pirelli's dramatic tyre delaminations force a rethink over tyre durability.

A Season to Remember or One to Forget?

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    So that concludes our brief look back on every race of the 2013 season, the last in the era of the V8 F1 machines.

    Although the season belonged to one man, it was one of intense racing and drama aplenty.

    What were your highlights of the 2013 season? Is it one that will live long in the memory, or was it a Vettel procession that turned the sport into a borefest?

    Have your say below.