Mark Webber finished 2011 on top as he scored his second victory at Interlagos to end a difficult season on a high. Webber led a one-two for Red Bull Racing at the Brazilian Grand Prix, as teammate Sebastian Vettel finished in the runner-up spot.
Webber screamed up the hill at Interlagos and dipped toward the pit wall with a salute, winning the race and setting the fastest lap as well. Vettel followed 17 seconds later with Jenson Button trailing in third, winning his battle with Fernando Alonso.
Before they’d got around to parc fermé, the forklifts were in the pitlane, beginning to pack down and prepare to go home, another F1 season out of the way. Red Bull Racing were blissfully raucous though, with just a touch of relief. They’d brought both cars home well ahead of the field but it needed some careful management to achieve.
"We’ve had an incredible year, the team and myself." –Sebastian Vettel
Vettel had got away in the lead, followed by Webber with both planning on a three-stop, four-stint race. Early in his first stint, however, Vettel was informed of a gearbox problem. He was asked to turn the engine down and short-shift in second gear. The problem got worse as the race went on -- third gear was next, and finally every gear.
It wasn’t enough to stop Vettel setting personal bests as his fuel load came down, but it was enough to ensure he couldn’t give Webber a race.
“I got the message ‘we have a gearbox issue’ and the main priority was to finish the race,” said Seb. “I realized Mark would be catching up and the most important thing would be to help the team win. I didn’t know whether I would see the checkered flag or not.”
Webber took the lead on lap 30 of the 71. He’d never been more than couple of seconds behind Vettel and may have challenged anyway.
“It was actually brewing into a reasonable little battle with Seb and I," Webber commented. "Obviously in motor sport you take them as they come. After [taking the lead] it was really just down to covering off whatever Fernando [Alonso] might be able to do.
“With 10 laps to go I started to think ‘OK, it’s nice to finish the year with a win, nice to finish with the car feeling good underneath you, nice to have my second victory in Brazil.’”
Behind the Red Bulls, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were jostling for third, fourth and fifth. Hamilton would eventually stop with a gearbox problem more serious than Vettel’s. Alonso and Button, though, were attached the whole race. Button started third but the Ferrari driver was snapping at his gearbox from the first corner. Alonso got past with a little bit of help from some on-track debris but showed himself worthy of third place by pulling out a small lead.
Button though, had been uncomfortable on the softer tire all weekend and stormed back when changing to the harder of the two compounds. He took third back on lap 62, though Alonso made him work for it. It was more than enough to ensure Button finished the Drivers’ Championship in second place but Webber’s victory was enough to jump Alonso into third.
Vettel of course, romped to the title some time again, and perhaps that was why today he didn’t look like a man who had lost something. “I’m very happy,” he said “It’s an amazing result for the team to finish first and second.
“The fact is Mark won and he deserved it. He drove a very good race and had very strong pace. We’ve had an incredible year, the team and myself, so there’s nothing to complain about.”
And with that they disappeared down to the garage, dripping champagne in their wake.
Follow Red Bull Racing on Twitter for more news and exclusive info.