Red Bull were one of four teams on the grid not changing their driver line-up for the new season. Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel was with Mark Webber for the fifth season running, and this time, their car was purple(ish). It was generally assumed that given the monumental regulation changes for 2014 and essentially no changes for 2013, teams wouldn’t sway a whole lot from their 2013 positions. This would suggest a Red Bull/Ferrari battle with McLaren throwing their hat in the ring.
At the first race in Australia, Red Bull were more dominant than could have been expected, with Vettel taking pole from team-mate Webber. However, the team’s dominance was eradicated in the race and Vettel dropped to third behind Raikkonen and Alonso, while Webber finished sixth at his home round.
In Malaysia, Vettel once again took pole position while Webber qualified fifth. During the race, despite a predictable poor start by Webber, he took the lead after the final round of pitstops. Vettel was right behind his team-mate and the team issued the multi-21 team-order which means that car 2 (Webber) stays ahead of car 1 (Vettel). The order was sent and so Webber turned his engine down, thinking Vettel would obey the order. On the contrary, Vettel attacked Webber, to the soundtrack of team-principal Christian Horner’s desperate cries of “this is silly, Seb, come on”. After several tense laps, Vettel got past his team-mate and won the race. The fallout was immense and would divide fans, particularly against Vettel who, as a result, would be booed at several of the remaining races.
Webber came back from the three week break with steel in his heart. The ho
stilities between the two team-mates were at an all-time high and Webber’s form was no less improved when his team under-fuelled the car and he was disqualified from Qualifying. While in the race, he collided with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and following a pit-stop, his wheel came loose at the hairpin, causing him to retire on the spot. Vettel, in the meantime, finished just shy of the podium when he crossed the line fourth.
The Bahrain Grand Prix marked Mark Webber’s 200th Grand Prix and he celebrated this milestone by qualifying fifth and then incurred a three-place penalty for the collision with Vergne in China, with team-mate Vettel lining up second on the grid. Vettel eventually won the race and Webber finished seventh. Vettel and Webber were third and eighth on the grid respectively, and finished fourth and fifth in Catalunya.
Although Red Bull had held a firm grasp on the Monaco Grand Prix in recent years (Webber winning ’10 and ’12, Vettel winning ’11), they failed to take the lead of the race from pole-man Nico Rosberg who went on to become the races eventual winner. They did, however, join him on the podium with Vettel second and Webber third. As if to make up for not winning in the principality, Vettel took victory from pole at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Webber qualified fifth, but failed to make the podium when he was hit by Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde mid-race. He went on to finish fourth.
Before the British Grand Prix, Webber announced that he was to leave the sport at the end of the season to head to the World Endurance Championship with Porsche. This, naturally, led to a scramble for the t0-be vacant seat at the World Champions, especially from the Toro Rosso ranks. It was at Silverstone, mere minutes from his home, that he made the announcement, and Webber was essentially a British citizen – adored by the fans at the race he won twice. As such, he was looking to win his second-home race. He qualified fourth behind Vettel, but after a bad start and contact with a swiping Romain Grosjean, he dropped to fifteenth. His front wing was also damaged, which further hurt his chances. Race-leader Hamilton dropped from the lead following a tyre delamination and Vettel inherited the lead. That was until a gearbox failure saw him creep to a stop, much to the delight of the crowd. Rosberg took the lead but Webber was charging. In the end, he finished 0.7 behind race-winner Rosberg, who had been losing a second per lap to Webber up to that point.
The next race was the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. It seemed like fate was in Webber’s favour as this was the track at which he took his first pole and first win in 2009, and was definitely one of his strongest tracks. On the other hand, Vettel had a home-race curse, having never won a race in Germany OR in July. Webber started third behind Vettel, but was faster than his team-mate as the race progressed. He seemed like a threat to Vettel, who now lead his home Grand Prix, until a convenient but unfortunate and uncharacteristic pit-mistake saw him drop from the race; released from his pitbox without his rear right tyre attached, the Pirelli flew clear of the RB9 and struck an FOM Cameraman, who, excluding some bruising, was otherwise okay. Vettel won the race. Vettel took second on the grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix while Webber started far down in tenth. Vettel dropped to third in the race while Webber progressed to fourth.
Coming back from the summer break, the Red Bulls lined up second and third on the grid; Vettel ahead of Webber. Vettel took the lead from Hamilton on the first lap when Hamilton made a mistake coming from Eau Rouge. He was untouchable while Webber, who dropped to sixth off the line, battled to fifth by the time the chequered flag flew. Vettel won the race.
Vettel took pole at the Italian Grand Prix, much to the dismay of the local tifosi. Webber joined him on the front row, but was pushed down the order by a fast-starting Felipe Massa. He was overtaken by Fernando Alonso in a stunning pass around the outside of turn 5, but Webber eventually finished third when Massa fell down the order. Vettel cruised to victory. He also took pole at the Singapore Grand Prix which proved to be a monotonous affair as he strolled to victory. Meanwhile, in the other car, Webber was losing his KERS and was then had his engine burst into flames, thus ending his race on the last lap. Post-race, Alonso stopped on-track to pick his friend up and carry him back to the race, prompting the stewards to give both men a reprimand. As it was Webber’s third reprimand, he was handed a ten-place penalty for the next race in Korea.
Penalty included, Webber started down in thirteenth. Vettel, yes, again, took pole and, yes, once again strolled to victory. Webber wasn’t as lucky as was t-boned by Force India’s Adrian Sutil in the middle stage of the race, causing his car to, again, burst into flames and cause his immediate retirement.
Webber, as if to make up for his recent bad luck, took an unexpected pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix. Vettel lined up second but eventually dropped behind his team-mate when his team decided to put him on an alternative strategy which, luckily for him, handed Vettel the victory, ahead of Webber who finished second. It was back-to-normal though as Vettel took pole and subsequent victory at the Indian Grand Prix. Webber, fittingly, retired with an alternator as his team-mate’s typically flawless car won him secured the World Championship for both driver and constructor.
Webber took pole in Abu Dhabi but was beaten off the line by Vettel who was again undefeatable and disappeared into the distance, leaving Webber to battle for second. Webber finished second while Vettel, predictably by now, won another race. In Austin, Vettel won again but Romain Grosjean separated him from Webber who finished third. The threat of rain gave hope that the almost eternally impregnable dominance by Vettel would be somewhat hampered in the unpredictable conditions, but as the race remained largely dry, he was free to cruise to victory for the thirteenth time of the 2013 season, while Webber, suitably, finished second to finish his career in the shadow of his team-mate.