German driver Sebastian Vettel ended the 2013 Formula One season in typically record-breaking style on Sunday when he claimed a commanding victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix ahead of his retirement-bound Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
It was Vettel's ninth successive victory since the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July, his 13th of the season and the 39th of his career.
This meant he extended his own record of consecutive wins in a season, equalled Italian Alberto Ascari's historic record of nine straight wins stretched across two seasons from 1952 to1953 and also equalled fellow-German Michael Schumacher's total for one season, set with Ferrari in 2004.
Webber came home second, 10.452s behind the 26-year-old four time champion, with in third two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
Jenson Button finished fourth for McLaren ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Sergio Perez in the second McLaren and Felipe Massa, who marked his final race with Ferrari by finishing seventh.
German Nico Hulkenberg, who is set to leave Sauber for a return to Force India, finished eighth ahead of luckless Lewis Hamilton, who suffered a collision, a puncture and a drive-through penalty in his Mercedes, and 10th place Australian Daniel Ricciardo, in his final race for Toro Rosso before replacing Webber at Red Bull.
On the first dry day of the weekend, with an air temperature of 19°C and a track temperature of 24, there was high tension in the build-up to an emotional finale to the 2013 season.
On lap four Romain Grosjean, who started sixth, was forced to retire with a blown engine, his first non-points finish in six outings.
Vettel had the race in his grip and by lap 13 following a flurry of pit stops he led Webber by almost half a minute.
Behind, Massa was given a drive-through penalty for crossing the pit-lane entry area, but after receiving instructions to come in, he drove straight on – and backed off from his normal speed to slow Hamilton – until lap 35 amid loud protestations.
"This is unbelievable, FIA," screamed Massa as Hamilton patiently regained fourth and with it a considerable boost to Mercedes bid to finish second, ahead of Ferrari, in the championship.
On laps 47 a collision between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas resulted in left rear damage to the latter's Williams and Hamilton's right rear tyre being punctured.
Hamilton was blamed and had to serve a drive-through penalty, a puzzling decision, but one that spiced up the teams' scrap for second in the title race.
At the end of that lap, Vettel, Webber and Alonso all pitted with the champion keeping a 6s lead, despite problems with his front right wheel in the pits, and the Australian working tirelessly in pursuit.
Hamilton, hampered by damage to his car, still managed to climb back to ninth as the rain intensified.
Team-mate Rosberg hung on in fifth, hoping to help Mercedes stay second ahead of Ferrari in the title race – a prize worth around €10-million.
The combinations of accidents and penalties enabled Button to climb to fourth with 10 laps remaining, his and the team's best result of one of their worst years. – AFP