Sunday, 27 November 2011

Aussie Grit Wins Brazil GP

Mark Webber of red Bull finally won a Grand Prix on Sunday as the 2011 Formula One season signed off in Brazil.

The Australian has been completely overshadowed by team-mate Sebastian Vettel this year, with the latter taking the chequered flag 11 times as he romped to the world championship.

It appeared as though Vettel was on his way to victory number 12 in Sao Paulo but he instead finished second after his car developed a gearbox problem.

Webber's win, his first since last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, was much-needed and yet it was not enough for him to clinch second place in the drivers' championship. That honour goes to Jenson Button, who finished third at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.

Button therefore ends the year with 270 points, with Webber climbing to third overall on 258 points, one more than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who finished fourth in Brazil. Lewis Hamilton ends the year fifth after retiring on Sunday with a gearbox failure.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fifth in the race ahead of Force India's Adrian Sutil, with Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP), Paul di Resta (Force India), Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and Vitaly Petrov (Renault) completing the top 10.

Although there has been much talk of rain before the race, it remained dry throughout. Vettel made his customary quick getaway at the lights and led his team-mate by over a second at the end of an opening lap that saw Hamilton drop to fifth behind Alonso at the first corner, with Massa also moving up a place ahead of Rosberg.

As Vettel continued to pull away from Webber, the second Red Bull driver also pulled comfortably clear of Button. The lead McLaren had Alonso's Ferrari in his mirrors - that is until the Spaniard passed him around the outside into turn six on lap 11.

By that stage, Michael Schumacher had been forced to pit after a collision with Bruno Senna as the pair disputed ninth place at the first turn, part of the 'S' named after the latter's three-time world champion uncle.

The Mercedes driver attempted to pass his Renault rival around the outside but was left trundling back to the pits with a punctured left rear tyre, with Senna pitting soon after because of wing damage and then handed a drive-through penalty for the incident.

Vettel's lead was just under three seconds by lap 14, when Red Bull informed him of the gearbox problem and instructed that he should short shift from second gear. Button became the first of the frontrunners to pit on lap 16 and he was soon joined by Alonso and Hamilton.

The leader stopped on lap 18, with Webber doing the same one lap later. Massa therefore picked up the thread before Vettel passed him for the lead on the long run up towards the start-finish straight at the end of lap 20.

Massa finally stopped on lap 22, with the top six running order unchanged. Sutil was seventh ahead of Rosberg, with Petrov ninth ahead of Di Resta.

Webber was by this stage taking tenths out of Vettel's lead, with the gap under a second by lap 28. He took the lead at the start of lap 30 after Vettel, whose lap times hardly suffered throughout the race, let him through into turn one.

Vettel's problem seemed to be catching, though, because McLaren informed Hamilton of something similar not long after he stopped for a second time on lap 34. He pitted two laps after his team-mate, with Button this time opting for the harder, medium compound - meaning he could in theory run to the end of the race.

Button passed Massa for fourth on lap 39, with Alonso, Webber and Vettel joining Hamilton in pitting for soft rubber. Webber by now led Vettel by 4s, with Alonso third ahead of Button, Massa and Hamilton.

The latter pair, who have been involved in five incidents this season, were soon in close company again but Hamilton could not find a way past and instead pitted again on lap 45, this time taking on medium tyres. However, he lasted just three more laps before his gearbox problem became terminal.

Massa, meantime, had stopped for the medium tyre and was promoted to fifth behind Button, with Alonso third but making no headway on Vettel. The latter, in fact, had set the race's fastest lap on lap 45 before being instructed to slow down and manage his gearbox problem.

Behind Massa, Sutil passed Rosberg for sixth place into turn one on lap 51 - the Force India driver having tried and failed to pull off the same move one lap earlier - while Di Resta was eighth and the first of the lapped runners.

Despite switching to the harder tyre before his rivals, Button was in again on lap 52. Alonso pitted soon after and with the pair retaining third and fourth places, they set about duelling for the final podium place.

Button had closed right up to Alonso by the time the Red Bull drivers made their final stops. The McLaren man tried, and failed, to make the pass into turn one but soon got by in the DRS zone on the back straight.

Button now had second place in his sights and with seven of the race's 71 laps to run, it briefly looked as though he had the pace to catch and pass Vettel, who also had a quick off at turn five. The gap soon stabilised, however.

Following his seventh career victory, Webber admitted to feeling "very good".

The 35-year-old, who also won the race in 2009, added: "We had a little bit of the rub of the green, and it would have been nice to have had a battle with Seb to the line.

"But it's a win and I'll take it because I've had enough bad luck, so it's a very important win for me and the team, to finish on a high.

"I enjoyed doing the last few laps. It was a nice way to finish."

Reflecting on his gearbox problem, Vettel said: "It was a real shame because I had a good start and I was able to pull away.

"But I had to manage the problem, short shifting, using higher gears throughout the race.

"Nevertheless Mark drove a fantastic race and deserved to win.

"Overall we've had an amazing season, and it would be over the top being upset, so we'll take second and a one-two finish for the team.

"Now we're all ready for the winter, to recharge our batteries and come back strong for next year."

Button admitted to a "difficult race" up until the time he changed to the harder tyre as he "didn't have the pace" on the softs.

He said: "We decided to put the harder of the tyres on for the last two stints. It worked pretty well for me, and I was able to make the pass."

Schumacher eventually finished 15th, two places ahead of Senna, while Pastor Maldonado (who crashed his Williams on lap 28), Timo Glock (whose Virgin shed its left rear wheel following a pit stop on lap 23) and HRT's Vitantonio Liuzzi joined Hamilton on the retirement list.

Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello finished 14th in what could be his F1 swan song after 19 seasons. The Brazilian, who was making his 322nd grand prix start, had qualified 12th on the grid but dropped to 20th after making a poor getaway.

1 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1hr 32mins 17.464secs, 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:32:34.447, 3 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:32:45.102, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:32:52.512, 5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:33:24.197, 6 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India at 1 Lap, 7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP at 1 Lap, 8 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India at 1 Lap, 9 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 10 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault at 1 Lap, 11 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap, 12 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap, 13 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap, 14 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams at 1 Lap, 15 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP at 1 Lap, 16 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 at 2 Laps, 17 Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault at 2 Laps, 18 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 at 2 Laps, 19 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing at 3 Laps, 20 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 at 3 Laps Not Classified: 21 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) HRT-F1 61 Laps completed, 22 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 46 Laps completed, 23 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 26 Laps completed, 24 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 21 Laps completed

Drivers' championship:
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 392pts, 2 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 270, 3 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 258, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 257, 5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 227, 6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 118, 7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 89, 8 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 76, 9 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 42, 10 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 37, 11 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 34, 12 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 30, 13 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 27, 14 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 26, 15 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso 15, 16 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 14, 17 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 4, 18 Bruno Senna (Bra) Renault 2, 19 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1, 20 Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) Sauber-Ferrari 0, 21 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 0, 22 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 0, 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) HRT-F1 0, 24 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 0, 25 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 0, 26 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 0, 27 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) HRT-F1 0, 28 Karun Chandhok (Ind) Lotus F1 0

Constructors' championship
1 Red Bull 650pts, 2 McLaren 497, 3 Ferrari 375, 4 Mercedes GP 165, 5 Renault 73, 6 Force India 69, 7 Sauber-Ferrari 44, 8 Scuderia Toro Rosso 41, 9 Williams 5, 10 Lotus F1 0, 11 HRT-F1 0, 12 Virgin Racing 0