Vettel and Webber ready for one last battle

By Alan Baldwin

REUTERS - Sebastian Vettel wants to end the Formula One season with a record win, while Red Bull team mate Mark Webber would love to call time on his 12-year grand prix career with a farewell victory in Brazil.

There can be only one winner of Sunday's season-ending race at the ramshackle amphitheatre that is Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit, but the outcome may not be quite as predictable as recent form would suggest.

No favours will be offered, even less accepted, between two fiercely competitive men whose relationship as they reach the end of their long road together as team mates is cold but professional.

"Mark would not want to be gifted a win," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told reporters at Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix after Vettel became the first driver to win eight races in a row in a single season.

"It would be great to see him win his final race, what a way to sign out," he said.

"But Sebastian is going to be going for that record as well and as usual it will be a straight fight between the two of them."

Vettel has won 12 races so far this season, one short of Michael Schumacher's 2004 record of 13, and can also equal the 60-year-old record of nine consecutive wins chalked up by Italian Alberto Ascari in 1952-53.

Webber has not won anything this year, denied victory in Malaysia after Vettel ignored team orders to hold station and passed the Australian. If there was ever a time for payback, this would be it.

The oldest driver on the grid, at 37, made abundantly clear in Austin that he was ready to move on for a fresh start racing Le Mans sportscars with Porsche but also showed that he is still very fast.

With both championships won weeks ago, and Webber having nothing to lose, team orders become meaningless at this point - unlikely to be heard or acted on.

GOOD HAND

Vettel will be the favourite, as ever, and won at Interlagos in 2010, but Webber's track record is not to be dismissed. He won in Brazil in 2009 and 2011 and was runner-up in 2010.

If the straight-talking Australian does not win, or finish on the podium, any disappointment will be short-lived and easily outweighed by the positives.

"I've got one week to go, I will leave the paddock very satisfied. I've been dealt a very good hand, very proud of what I've achieved," he said after finishing third in Austin with his parents watching.

"I never thought I would do that when I left Queanbeyan in Australia, to have had the results I've had, to have worked with the amazing people I've worked with, to race against amazing drivers on the best tracks in the world.

"I've learned a huge amount about myself, about everything ... it's the next chapter, when I step out of the car for the last time I will be fine with it. Back to the UK Sunday night, walk the dogs on Tuesday morning."

Sunday will also be a day of other farewells.

Williams-bound Brazilian Felipe Massa will race for the last time for Ferrari, after being with the Italian team since 2006, while the V8 engines will scream one last time before the new era of turbocharged V6 units is ushered in.

Whether it will also be the end of Ross Brawn's time as Mercedes team principal, or a farewell for various drivers currently unsure about their futures, will be decided further down the road.

Mexico's Sergio Perez will be in the cockpit of his McLaren for the final time in a race that will also mark the end of the team's partnership with mobile phone operator Vodafone.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Next Race
Shanghai, China
April 20, 2014
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