• Brazilian Grand Prix

Webber leads Red Bull one-two in Brazil

ESPNF1 Staff
November 27, 2011

Mark Webber took his first win of the season at the Brazilian Grand Prix as team-mate Sebastian Vettel struggled to second with a race-long gearbox problem.

McLaren's Jenson Button attempted to put pressure on Vettel in the closing stages but had to settle for third after surge back through the field in his final stint. Button demoted Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to fourth with his late charge but it was too little too late to catch Vettel's ailing Red Bull.

Alonso finished comfortably ahead of his team-mate Felipe Massa and had a strong race, passing Lewis Hamilton at the start and then pulling a fantastic move on Button around the outside of Ferradura early in the race. He fell back on the medium tyres at the end of the race and was passed by Button in the DRS zone.

Massa was a solid fifth and looked set for yet another battle with his year-long nemesis Hamilton when the McLaren's gearbox failed and put the Briton out of the race.

Adrian Sutil had a very strong finish to the season in sixth, ahead of Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Kamui Kobayahsi and Vitaly Petrov who took the final four points positions. Despite the double points finish for Force India, Renault held on to fifth place in the constructors' championship by just four points, while Kobayashi's points gave Sauber seventh ahead of Toro Rosso.

When the expected rain didn't come before the race, it seemed grand prix would follow a well-known pattern as Vettel streaked away in the opening lap to pull out a two second lead before the DRS was activated. Behind him Alonso made a good start to pass Hamilton and pressure Button but settled in to fourth place. Rubens Barrichello - on potentially his last race start - dropped back after bogging down off the line and found himself in 20th place after the opening corners.

As the opening stint unfolded it became clear that the Red Bulls had the pace to dominate, while Alonso seemed to have the edge on the McLaren pair and was soon pressuring Button. While the DRS didn't really facilitate overtaking in to Descida do Lago, Alonso used it to get a run on the McLaren out of turn five and despite being forced to the outside he impressively drove round Button through the high speed Ferradura.

Michael Schumacher was battling with Bruno Senna for ninth place when the paid clashed approaching turn one. As Schumacher passed around the outside before the braking zone he turned across on Senna, causing the Renault to lock its tyres. Further contact occurred at the apex with Senna's front wing puncturing the left rear of Schumacher's Mercedes, and Senna earning a drive through penalty for his troubles.

At the front the race then changed when Vettel was told that he had a gearbox issue and was advised to short-shift in second gear to look after the problem. Having maintained the gap to Webber he was soon told to short-shift in both second and third, but remained over three seconds ahead after the first round of pit stops.

From that point the gap started to drop as Vettel's problem developed further. Timo Glock retiring without a left rear wheel and Pastor Maldonado parking his car in the wall on the outside of Ferradura slowed progress a little, but Vettel was soon told that his problem was "serious" and he responded by telling the team that he would drop behind Webber and look after the car, before radioing in to say "I feel like Senna in 91".

With the leader comfortably in position the battle for fifth between Hamilton and Massa became the closest fight on track. Despite their numerous clashes throughout the year the pair fought cleanly until Hamilton - who had been warned that he had a gearbox problem that he could do nothing about - got a box of neutrals exiting the Curva do Sol and had to retire his car.

With the rain holding off it was quickly becoming a three-stop race, and although Button had pitted for medium tyres during his second stop he managed to keep pace with Alonso ahead and after the final stops was told that he could complete the final stint at qualifying pace. The McLaren appeared to be able to get the harder tyres working much better than the Ferrari, as has been the case so often this season, and soon closed a six second gap before using DRS to pass in to Descida do Lago.

In the battle for sixth it took Sutil two bites of the cherry to pass Rosberg, but eventually his superior pace told. Having passed the Mercedes along the pit straight, Rosberg dived back up the inside. The next time round though Sutil repeated the move and shut the door on the inside quickly to cement the position.

The final aspect of the race was weather Button could catch Vettel for second, and while his pace was strong the gap wasn't coming down at a quick enough rate for the number of laps left. Having dropped over 16s behind Webber, Vettel just eased the car home and was never overly pressured by the McLaren as Button secured his runner-up spot in the championship.

As Webber crossed the line his celebrations were somewhat subdued, but it was the kind of drive that Formula One became used to in 2010 as he showed a clear pace of advantage over the rest of the field, and will look to replicate on a regular basis in 2012 to give Vettel a more sustained challenge.