Webber Takes Victory at F1 Season Finale in Brazil After Gearbox Problem for Vettel


Both Red Bull drivers get off the line without any problems at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix  - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Both Red Bull drivers get off the line without any problems at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

 

Mark Webber took advantage of a gearbox problem for Sebastian Vettel at the Brazilian Grand Prix to take his first victory of 2011.

The world champion still finished second though; with Jenson Button joining the Red Bull drivers on the podium after a late overtake on Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa was the highest place Brazilian, finishing fifth behind his Ferrari team-mate but Lewis Hamilton retired after a gearbox problem of his own.

The forecast rain never came, despite the weather radars predicting precipitation at various stages of the afternoon.

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Jenson Button pulled away from the lights in the same order they started: first, second and third respectively. Fernando Alonso got past Lewis Hamilton into the first corner to move up to fourth, and Felipe Massa made it up past Nico Rosberg off the line to run sixth in the early laps.

Michael Schumacher, for once, had a poor start, and was overtaken by Paul di Resta. However, the seven-time world champion re-took tenth position from the Scot on the first corner of the second lap. Another driver who failed to get away well was Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian dropped from twelfth down to nineteenth on the first lap.

By the end of Lap 5, Vettel had a 2.8 second lead over his team-mate, who was a further 3.0 seconds ahead of Button and, even from that early stage, it seemed that Red Bull were going to have it all their own way once again if it stayed dry.

Things were livened up though in a battle between Schumacher and Bruno Senna. As the two started their tenth lap, Schumacher got into the slipstream of the Renault, and made an attempt to get past the Brazilian in Turn 1. However, Schumacher across his adversary slightly, and the two touched.

Schumacher seemed to have the position after this, but Senna then tagged him for a second time. This gave Schumacher a left-rear puncture, and had to limp back to the pits. He emerged one lap down, albeit with a nice fresh set of tyres. Senna lost some of his front wing end-plate in that second collision but, when pitting a couple of laps later for some new tyres, his team neglected to change the wing. Senna was later given a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.

As Schumacher was crawling back to the pits, Fernando Alonso demonstrated how overtaking should be down by getting past Button around Turn 5.

Vettel was told by his team that he had a gear box problem, and advised the world champion to short-shift through his second and third gear. The gap between him and Webber did narrow slightly, but Vettel did not look unduly troubled.

Jenson Button was the first of the front-runners to pit, coming in at the end of Lap 15. Alonso and Hamilton pitted on the next lap. Alonso came out ahead of Button, but Hamilton was out behind his team-mate – no-one made or lost any positions. Vettel pitted at the end of Lap 17, and Webber came in one lap later.

Felipe Massa, who was late to make his first stop, then led for a few laps. However, he lost the lead on Lap 21 when Vettel cruised past him using DRS. He pitted at the end of that lap, and he emerged back out behind Hamilton in sixth place.

Timo Glock became the first retirement of the race when, on exiting the pits after his first stop, the left-rear tyre of his Virgin fell off. It bounced around the pit lane exit before coming to a halt, but luckily it did not hit anything.

Mark Webber continued to narrow the gap to his team-mate as the race continued. At the end of Lap 25, the gap was 2.3 seconds, and the Australian was putting in a few fastest laps to put pressure on Vettel.

At the start of Lap 30, as the gearbox problem continued to get worse, Vettel conceded the race lead to his team-mate.

Button was the first of the front-runners to make his second stop, taking on a set of the harder tyres at the end of Lap 31. Hamilton pitted at the end of Lap 33 and, unlike team-mate Button, he took on another set of the soft tyres. He re-joined the track behind Button. Alonso made his second pit stop a couple of laps later, and he took on soft tyres like Hamilton.

On Lap 37, Hamilton was notified that he also had a gearbox problem, but was told by his team that there was nothing he could do about it.

Webber pitted from the lead at the end of Lap 38, Vettel followed one lap later. Both took on another set of soft tyres and so, like Hamilton and Alonso, the Red Bull drivers would be required to make another stop before the end of the race.

Massa, on a different strategy to the top five cars, did not make a second stop at the same point of the race. He was caught and overtaken by Button in a straightforward manner using a bit of DRS. Hamilton closed up to the Ferrari, with everybody anticipating another episode in the two drivers' season-long spat. However, McLaren brought Hamilton in at the end of Lap 44 for his final stop, putting him on a set of the harder Pirelli tyres, with 25 laps of the race to go.

However, Massa came in one lap later for the same type of tyre, and emerged just ahead of Hamilton. Once again, the battle was on!

Or not…! We were denied a final act in the Hamilton vs. Massa saga when Hamilton's gear box finally gave up on Lap 48.

Twenty laps from the end of the race, Webber had a lead of exactly 6.0 seconds over Vettel. Alonso was a further 11.2 seconds back in third, Button was 6.4 seconds behind him in fourth, and Massa was 29.3 seconds behind Button in fifth. Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov made up the rest of the top ten.

Button pitted at the end of Lap 53 to take on another set of the hard tyres. Alonso made his final stop one lap later, and Webber made his third stop at the end of Lap 58. Vettel took his hard tyres on Lap 59.

After his final stop, Button set a few fastest laps, and crept up to the back of Alonso's third-placed Ferrari about ten laps before the end of the race. With some brilliant driving and, of course, the almost ubiquitous DRS, Button got up into the podium positions on Lap 62.

Button continued to push once he was past Alonso, but Vettel was over ten seconds down the road with less than nine laps remaining. However, he kept going, hoping to pile more pressure on both Vettel and his dodgy gearbox.

Mark Webber set a fastest lap on each of the last three laps to take his first victory since Hungary 2010 and bringing the curtain down on F1 in 2011.

The two points claimed by Kamui Kobayashi in ninth place meant that Sauber finish the season seventh in the constructors' championship, ahead of Toro Rosso.