Webber wins his first race of 2011

Everything finally went Mark Webber’s way at Interlagos on Sunday, as he took the lead from fast-starting Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel on the 40th lap as the double world champion suffered from an overheating gearbox.

Mark Webber celebrates his victory
Mark Webber celebrates his victory

Vettel had opened a lead from pole position but was obliged from the 13th lap to nurse the transmission, turning down his engine, shortshifting and using only the higher gears in a manner he later likened to Ayrton Senna and his drive here in 1991 except that, as he quickly pointed out, Senna won.

As Webber simply blew into the distance, setting three fastest times in the last three laps to celebrate an overdue success after a tough year, Vettel kept going at a pretty good pace on a day when McLaren and Ferrari came up short, and was able to finish 10s ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button who worked back to third place after being overtaken by Fernando Alonso's Ferrari on the 11th lap.

The Red Bull one-two hoisted Webber into third place in the drivers' championship, 12 points adrift of runner-up Button, but a crucial solitary point ahead of Alonso.

The Spaniard had seemed set for a podium finish, as Button and McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton lacked pace on the softer Pirelli tyre. But Button switched to the harder tyre as early as Lap 31 whereas Alonso didn't until Lap 54, and thereafter the roles were reversed. The McLaren showed Red Bull speed at last, as the Ferrari struggled, and on the 62nd lap Button retrieved his podium slot, leaving Alonso fourth well ahead of team mate Felipe Massa.

Hamilton's disappointing afternoon ended with transmission failure on the 47th lap after he had struggled in fifth place.

An excellent sixth place fell to three-stopping Adrian Sutil after an uncompromising fight with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, and with two-stopping Paul di Resta eighth it was another good race for Force India. They finished just four points shy of Renault, in sixth place overall in the constructors' championship.

Mercedes' Michael Schumacher, however, lost his chance of points after an early brush, ironically on the approach to the Senna S, with Bruno Senna. The Brazilian was running well in ninth place at the time but his race fell apart thereafter as he was given a drive-through penalty and later struggled with gearbox troubles on his Renault. Schumacher sustained a puncture and fell to the back of the field before climbing to an eventual 15th.

Ninth place for Kamui Kobayashi was sufficient to keep Sauber in seventh place overall as Renault's Vitaly Petrov defended 10th position and the final point from late attack by Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso. Sauber thus ended the year with 44 points to Toro Rosso's 41.

Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi was 12th ahead of Sergio Perez, who lost places after a spin while Rubens Barrichello was Williams' only finisher in 14th, in what could be have been his 327th and final F1 appearance, after Pastor Maldonado stopped out on the track after 26 laps.

Behind Schumacher, Heikki Kovalainen's 18th position ensured Team Lotus of the lucrative 10th place overall, with Senna 17th ahead of Jarno Trulli's Lotus, Jerome D'Ambrosio's strongly-driven Virgin and Daniel Ricciardo's HRT. The Australian had been trailing team mate Tonio Liuzzi, whose car stopped with 10 laps to go.

Timo Glock's Virgin had been the first retirement, after losing its left rear wheel as it left the pits after the German's pit stop on the 21st lap.

 

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