It was very interesting to watch the body language, facial expressions and camaraderie of the three drivers who finished on the podium at the conclusion of Sunday's Grand Prix of Brazil (click here for complete race story).
Take Fernando Alonso. He'd just finished third for Ferrari and appeared to be quite happy and friendly when kibbutzing with second-place finisher Mark Webber in the cool-down room just before the podium ceremony.
He was smiling and animated and seemed genuinely pleased that Webber had finished his F1 career on such a high. But then he was introduced as the third-place finisher and when he walked out for the trophy presentation, he looked like someone had just peed in his cornflakes.
His shoulders were slumped and he looked dour, even angry. What was that about? I know Alonso is a moody guy but that was just over the top.
And winner Sebastian Vettel, other than reaching over in parc ferme to tap his Infiniti Red Bull teammate Webber on the back, pretty much seemed to ignore him until the champagne showering began, being content to first talk to Christian Horner and then to exchange sign-language messages with whomever in the crowd during the playing of the anthems.
He confused the Brazilian TV presenter who was sent out to interview all three by refusing to talk to her until after she'd interviewed Webber - a somewhat puzzling move that was reminiscent of Michael Schumacher insisting that Rubens Barrichello take the top step of the podium at the 2002 Austrian GP when Rubens had to slow down at the finish to allow Michael to win.
And when he did agree to talk in public about his extraordinary season, one in which he tied Schumacher's record of 13 for most wins in a season and the nine consecutive victories set in 1952 and '53 by Alberto Ascari, he seemed somewhat subdued, unlike 10 or 15 minutes earlier when he'd been screaming with delight in the cockpit of his car on the cool-down lap.
Perhaps he was sorry the 2013 season had come to an end. As he himself had said more than once recently, enjoy it now because whatever it is that Red Bull Racing has had will not last forever.
Maybe - and maybe not. It has been a remarkable run for him and that team. As he noted, they won every race after the "summer break" in August. Nobody else came close to them. That's almost beyond belief.
But even with new engines coming for 2014 (1.6-liter turbo V6s that will replace the normally-aspirated 2.4-liter V8 engines used recently) and bigger air intakes that will have an effect on the design of the cars, it's highly unlikely that anybody else will find themselves ahead.
As long as Vettel, Horner, Adrian Newey and most of the rest of that team are together going into the new era, you can lay money that they will be first out of the gate. Just as Jean Todt and Ross Brawn walked away from Ferrari after the 2008 season (which is something the Scuderia has never recovered from), so also must something of that magnitude hit Red Bull before it will relinquish its perch at the top of the heap.
Sunday's race was just so indicative of the superiority of that team. Vettel was slow off the line and had to follow Nico Rosberg around for the first lap but then it was over. Bang, he passed the Mercedes driver with ease and rode off into the sunset (okay, it was foggy; but you get my drift).
Same with Webber. He collected himself after the start and before long was in second place and that was it until the checkers, too. Alonso qualified third and finished third. What more is there to say?
The drivers of the race, of course, were Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for McLaren-Mercedes. Button qualified 14th and finished fourth, which was an excellent display of driving and teamwork. Perez, in his last race for Mercedes in what was a miserable year for him, went off 19th and was sixth at the checkers, a fantastic performance.
So now we await the start of the 2014 season, in Australia, in mid-March. There will be driver moves, of course, between now and then and some will be a surprise and others won't be. But there will be enough activity to keep the off-season interesting. Some would argue it will be very interesting.
Whatever, have a good winter.
- I hate the blocking in F1, or what David Coulthard refers to a "going defensive." Alonso went to pass Rosberg early in the race and might have missed hitting him by a millimetre as Nico cut across to stop his advance. One of these days, Alice . . .
- Felipe Massa got one of the cheaper penalties in F1 for cutting the corner going onto the pit straight. Really? A drive-through for driving over a white line separating the pit entrance from the straight? I wouldn't be concerned, normally, except for a radio message to Webber after the Massa penalty. It said: "Stay away from the white line . . . we'll get no more warnings." Hmmm. No more warnings. As in Warnings - plural? Did Massa get "warnings?" Other drivers did, apparently.
- Lewis Hamilton got a drive-through for colliding with Valterri Botas, which saw Botas spin out after losing a wheel and Hamilton suffer a flat tire. He couldn't believe why he was penalized. Watch the replay, Lewis, and you'll see.
- The fog that enveloped Interlagos was reminiscent of the fog that used to be commonplace at Mosport in the late 1960s, early 1970s - and the Friday of last Labour Day weekend at what is now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Real pea soup.
- There were a lot of empty grandstands - something I hadn't noticed at Brazil previously. And it was somewhat disconcerting just before the race to see a camera shot from a helicopter of the slums that surround much of the Carlos Pace circuit. So much poverty and so much money, side-by-side. No wonder the drivers and others associated with the F1 circus need armed guards to accompany them between the race track and their hotels.
- Although he didn't win the race, Webber still set fastest lap and finished off his F1 career with a flourish, taking off his helmet on the cooldown lap to better see the crowd and the countryside and to let the fans see him. It was a really interesting move, something I have never seen any other driver do.
It was his 19th fastest lap in 215 Grands Prix. He finished on the podium 42 times. A talented and classy guy who will now race sports cars.
- Esteban Guttierez finished the season as top rookie in points. He will likely be back in 2014. But there are others who might not be, starting with Perez. How about Paul di Resta? Or will he be in the Chip Ganassi Target car (why not have another Scottish driver with an italian name in the No. 10? It's tradition!) Will Jean-Eric Vergne really be back at Toro Rosso? Charles Pic at Caterham? Max Chilton at Marussia? F1 is such a money game now that a lot of seats aren't safe if someone with more moolah shows up.
- The Bahamas Speed Week Revival will return to the streets of Nassau Dec. 4-8 with a Formula Junior race, a classic-vintage Mini race, a race for Austin Healeys and an all-comers race for classsic and vintage racing cars. Speed Week was an annual affair during the 1950s and '60s - Mario Andretti and his buddy, B.C.'s Billy Foster, owned a sports car together that they used to take turns drivingthere - before petering out. It was revived in 2011. . .
- ALDO Racing of Montreal has announced that driver David Bensadoun and co-driver Patrick Beaulé will race in the 2014 edition of the grueling Dakar, the classic 13-day off-road race across Argentina and Chile. The most difficult automobile sporting event in the world, the Dakar covers 9000 km, starting on Jan. 5 from Rosario, Argentina, and ending on Jan. 18 at Valparaiso, Chile.
This column will continue to pay close attention to significant racing stories over the coming "off season" but won't be updated every day or two, as is the case during the regular season when everything's going.
However, I have an extensive motorsport library and several times a week will reprint paragraphs or sections for your reading pleasure from some of the marvelous literature I have at my disposal.
The writing is sometimes superlative and the stories exquisite and, since I spend a lot of my time reading and re-reading this material, I thought that I would share some of it with you.
I hope you enjoy it.
- NORRIS McDONALD