Sebastian Vettel broke yet another F1 world record, securing his eighth straight victory of the season at the American Grand Prix; the first driver ever to achieve such a feat.
It was a familiar story as the German driver romped to pole position on Saturday, taking the number one grid slot ahead of his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. But with some drivers still yet to secure a seat for 2014, the fight was on to impress in Austin.
Romain Grosjean took third spot in his Lotus, ahead of a hard-charging Nico Hulkenberg – the Sauber driver is still not confirmed for next season, but qualifying in fourth place can’t have hurt his chances of bagging a drive in 2014.
Especially given he pipped two world champions, demoting Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes to fourth and Fernando Alonso to sixth.
Despite the confirmation this week that Sergio Perez wouldn’t be staying at McLaren, the Mexican put in a strong performance to qualify seventh, ahead of his teammate Button in 13th, as well as Lotus draft driver Heikki Kovalainen (deputising for Kimi Raikkonen) in eighth.
Valterri Bottas in the Williams qualified ninth, while Esteban Gutierrez rounded out the top 10 in his Sauber.
The most interesting story from qualifying concerned Pastor Maldonado and Williams, however.
The Venezuelan is confirmed to be leaving the British squad at the end of this year, and the split has not been acrimonious so far. Maldonado has already outlined that he is happy to be leaving Williams as he feels he has delivered more to the team that it has to him.
The latest instalment of this particular saga played out last Saturday as Maldonado – who failed to make it past Qualifying one, starting the race from 18th – all but accused his team of sabotaging his car. Incredible.
Race day was a little less packed with drama, as Vettel settled into the lead from the start before a safety car period temporarily stopped the racing. At the restart he cleared off once again and stretched out a 1.9-second lead after just one lap. The writing was on the wall for the rest of the field.
Vettel stayed in front to claim his eighth win of the year, having taken victory at every race since F1’s summer break.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean improved one place on his starting position, holding off Webber for second, with the Australian coming home in third.
Lewis Hamilton, who was racing in a new chassis after two large cracks were found in his previous car, improved upon recent performances, coming home in fourth.
The Briton fended of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – who in finishing fifth secured second place in the 2013 F1 world driver’s title – while Hulkenberg brought his Sauber home in sixth.
Maldonado bore the brunt of a poor qualifying, getting caught up with Adrian Sutil’s Force India at the back of the pack, the resulting damage putting him out of the race.
But even his Saturday antics couldn’t take the limelight (once again) off Vettel. The youngest ever four-time F1 world champion just keeps on setting records. And he’s in the frame to potentially equal another.
If he wins next time out in Brazil, the German will match legendary F1 pilot Alberto Ascari’s crown for claiming the most consecutive F1 world championship victories, with nine across the 1952 and 1953 F1 seasons. Would you bet against Vettel? We certainly wouldn’t…