Red Bull gets motorsport fans racing
No matter your allegiance, the men behind the wheel at Red Bull Racing ensured compelling viewing in 2013 – in V8 Supercars and Formula One.
And in both categories one teammate was left to wonder what might have been while the other had grasped greatness by year’s end.
Sebastian Vettel claimed a fourth straight Formula One (F1) title.
But retiring Australian teammate Mark Webber was the people’s champion at an emotional F1 season finale in Brazil.
Jamie Whincup entered V8 Supercars “Immortal” status with a record-equalling fifth championship.
However, veteran Holden co-driver Craig Lowndes showed why the fans’ love for him will never die by accepting his 14-year title drought will remain for now with class – and that famous grin.
On paper, 2013 was more of the same for motorsport fans – but it didn’t make the journey any less interesting.
Vettel had secured yet another F1 title with three races to spare.
Yet Webber drew just as many cheers when he completed his F1 career at Interlagos in November, fittingly in Vettel’s rearview mirror.
Forever the bridesmaid, Webber, 37, finished his final race in second place – his 42nd podium – behind Vettel.
He held it together when he joined Vettel on the podium one last time.
Then again, putting on a brave face had become a specialty of Webber alongside a teammate who had earned his respect but not his friendship.
He walked away from a 215-race, nine-win career on his terms but with some regrets.
Webber admitted that he had struggled with motivation for years in F1 but still felt he was leaving “a season too soon”.
Then there was the frustration of never claiming a championship, a feat he may have achieved if not partnered by the exceptional Vettel.
Their prickly relationship was summed up by the infamous team orders controversy in Malaysia in March.
Then there were the Red Bull conspiracy theories.
Team principal Christian Horner responded furiously to such suggestions after Webber lost a wheel in China in April.
Yet Webber did not rule out the possibility when he evaded a question about why his petrol pump had not worked during qualifying at Shanghai.
But it was all happy families by Brazil.
“It’s been brilliant working with you,” Horner was heard saying on the team radio to Webber.
Vettel may yet be kept honest by an Australian co-driver next year – Daniel Ricciardo.
But that’s easier said than done.
Vettel’s dominance prompted F1 to introduce double points in the final race of upcoming seasons amongst their new changes.
Webber will drive for Porsche in next year’s World Endurance Championship.
And it seems the 2015 Bathurst 12-hour endurance race with Hollywood movie star Eric Bana.
The famous Mount Panorama circuit was the backdrop for what appeared to be a changing of the guard in V8s this year.
Ford’s Mark Winterbottom defied fierce rival Whincup to claim his maiden Bathurst title in 11 attempts and the Blue Oval’s first since 2008.
Still, it was Whincup who again emerged triumphant for the 2013 title – and with Lowndes in his wake.
Lowndes, 39, was on track to claim his fourth title – and first since 1999 – when he led the series by six points before the penultimate round on Phillip Island.
He finished the season 128 points behind Whincup.
It marked the fifth time he finished second overall, including the past three years to Whincup.
Still, Lowndes – who notched a record 94th Australian touring car race win this season – kept smiling.
Whincup will be forgiven for seeing double in his rearview mirror next year.
Scott McLaughlin, who has already drawn comparisons with Lowndes, will spearhead newcomers Volvo next season.© AAP 2014