It was more of the same in final year of the 2400cc V8 formula with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull scoring fourth consecutive World Championships, and in dominant style. The title appeared in the balance until the summer break before high-speed punctures in Bahrain and Britain forced Pirelli into a mid-season change of tyre construction. That prompted Red Bull dominance and Vettel won the last nine races to equal Alberto Ascari’s long-standing record and retain his crown with ease. Mark Webber failed to win in what was his last F1 season, although he was robbed in Malaysia when Vettel refused to heed team orders.
Mercedes-Benz proved to be best-of-the-rest but struggled to convert early qualifying pace (as shown by eight pole positions) into a consistent challenge. Nico Rosberg won twice and McLaren-refugee Lewis Hamilton once despite heavy tyre wear from the start of the year. The team’s focus was already on 2014 but finishing as runner-up in the constructors’ standings showed solid progress.
Ferrari began strongly with Fernando Alonso winning twice before publicly growing frustrated as their performance waned once more. Victory in front of his adoring home Spanish crowd was virtuoso Alonso and it was a mark of his prowess that he managed to finish a distant second in the championship. Felipe Massa finished eighth overall in what was his final season with Ferrari.
Despite obvious financial constraints, Lotus produced another competitive car and Romain Grosjean ran Vettel closest in the second half of the season. The previously error-prone Frenchman scored six podium finishes and threatened victory on a couple of occasions. Kimi Raikkonen won the opening round in Australia and finished third in the championship despite quitting the team before the end of the season with his salary unpaid.
Having finished 2012 with the quickest car, McLaren struggled all year and neither Jenson Button nor Sergio Perez finished on the podium. There was early-season contact between the two McLarens and a couple of races (including finishing fourth in Brazil) when Button made the MP4/28 look better than it was. For Perez, his first opportunity with a top team proved disappointing and he was released after just one season.
Nico Hulkenberg spent a single season at Sauber and continued to impress despite the difficult Ferrari-powered C32. Three starts in the top five enhanced his reputation but Hulkenberg continued to be overlooked by Formula 1’s leading teams. Rookie team-mate Esteban Gutierrez struggled although a late stop for new tyres allowed him to set the fastest race lap in Spain. Force India’s Paul di Resta was fourth in Bahrain but was not retained for 2014. Adrian Sutil returned after a year away and all-but-matched his team-mate in the championship.
The highlight of another disappointing year for Williams was newcomer Valtteri Bottas qualifying third in Canada. Daniel Ricciardo outperformed Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso to earn promotion to the parent Red Bull team for 2014.