SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel wrapped up the Formula One season on Sunday by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix and becoming the first driver to take nine successive victories in a single year.
The sport’s youngest quadruple world champion, still only 26 years old, also matched fellow-German Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 wins in a season.
“Guys, I am so proud of you. I love you. Remember this, enjoy this moment. Yes. We did it. This is unbelievable,” said Vettel, his voice wavering over the team radio after he took the chequered flag for his 39th career win.
While he celebrated, Australian team mate Mark Webber said farewell with second place, anchoring a one-two in his 215th and final race for the champions before heading to Le Mans sportscars with Porsche.
The Australian removed his helmet on the slowing down lap, feeling the wind in his hair and letting the cheering crowd see his face.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, this season’s overall-runner-up, finished third on a day when the skies over Interlagos failed to deliver the rain that had forced delays to qualifying on Saturday.
The only other Formula One driver to win nine in a row was Italian Alberto Ascari, but his were over two campaigns in 1952-53 at a time when there were not even nine races in a season.
”You can’t really compare it,“ said Vettel. ”In the fifties the races were much longer and there were a lot of things that were breaking down.
“I think his record still stands out a lot. So at the end of the day, as I see it now, it’s just a number. But hopefully one day, when I’ve got less hair and chubby, then it’s probably something nice to look back to.”
Vettel and Red Bull had secured their fourth successive drivers’ and constructors’ titles in India last month and the German has been so dominant that the only hope of an upset had seemed in the hands of the notoriously fickle Sao Paulo weather.
In the end it proved no threat, even if Vettel - on pole position - was overtaken by compatriot Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes at the start.
Vettel passed him back at the start of the second lap and, apart from having his lead over Webber halved at a slow second pitstop, never looked back.
”I‘m actually quite sad this season comes to an end, the German said, with some understatement, in a podium interview after he and Alonso had doused Webber, who ends the year third in the championship, in champagne.
“The second half of the season, to win every race, is unbelievable.”
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion and last before Vettel, finished fourth for McLaren - a result that rescued the team from suffering their worst season since their debut in 1966.
Even so, McLaren still ended a season without a podium finish for the first time since 1980.
Rosberg was fifth for Mercedes, who ended the championship as overall runners-up and six points ahead of Ferrari.
Mexican Sergio Perez was sixth, after starting 19th following a five-place grid penalty, in his final appearance for McLaren with his future uncertain.
Brazilian Felipe Massa, shaking his fists at stewards as he drove through the pits for a costly penalty imposed for crossing a white line, brought down the curtain on eight years as a Ferrari driver with seventh place in front of his home fans ahead of Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg.
“This is unbelievable, unacceptable,” Massa had shouted over the team radio.
Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton was ninth and was also handed a drive-through penalty for a coming together with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas that left the Briton limping back to the pits with a puncture while the Williams shed a rear tyre and retired.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Webber’s replacement at Red Bull next season, was 10th for Toro Rosso.
Marussia won the battle with Malaysian-owned Caterham for 10th place in the constructors’ championship - a position with considerable financial implications for both with only the top 10 getting a share of the revenues.
As an added bonus for Marussia, whose engine partner Cosworth were bowing out along with the now defunct V8, their British driver Max Chilton set a record for a rookie of 19 successive finishes in his debut season.
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, additional reporting by Tatiana Ramil, editing by Tony Jimenez, Toby Davis and Alison Wildey