Monday, November 28, 2011

Webber Grabs Brazilian GP Finale as Vettel Stumbles

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Started on March 27th in Australia, the 2011 Formula 1 season's 19-race schedule comes to an end as the 24-car grid assembled to run the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos circuit. With the drivers title and manufacturer title locked up races earlier, the last grand prix event of the season served an importance as a single race to reinforce or to demonstrate where they place against firm Formula 1 competition. The Red Bull Racing team and the recently crowned two-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel had spent an entire proving themselves as a near unbeatable benchmark for the premier open wheel series. In Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying, Vettel and his recognized #1 Red Bull-Renault took pole ahead of teammate Mark Webber.
Though forecast strongly insisted that rain would become a factor for the Brazilian Grand Prix race, all 71 laps proceeded on a dry 4.309-kilometer race track. Taking some complexity out of this event as drivers ready to start running at Interlagos, the all-too-common occurrence of Sebastian Vettel's record 15th pole of the 2011 Formula 1 season resulted in the German driver's Red Bull-Renault losing the field on the start.
Behind Vettel early was teammate Mark Webber and the McLaren-Mercedes runners. The main adversary for Red Bull Racing this season, neither McLaren race car of Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button could keep up to the blue and yellow race machines for this Brazilian Grand Prix. In typical fashion, the Ferrari team cars of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ran close to the McLaren-Mercedes. Providing some front-running action at Interlagos, Alonso was able to pass then-fourth place Jenson Button for position on the 11th lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Appearing as if it could be another textbook event for the Red Bull-Renault of Sebastian Vettel, the late-race mechanical gremlin came back to bite the lead car. Experiencing shifting problems, the Renault engine could be put in a dangerous position of granading. Leading, Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull Racing team decided to reduce short-shift his way through the rest of the event reducing his race pace. As Vettel fought the battle against a gearbox issue, his Australian teammate Mark Webber rose to the occasion for Red Bull Racing. Similar to the dominating style of the 2011 Formula 1 champion, Webber stormed like lightning around the Interlagos circuit setting one fastest lap after another. Finally on lap 13, the #2 Red Bull-Renault powered by his team car enjoying a rare feat in what had been a 2011 season spent in Vettel's shadow. Mark Webber's mission for returning to the championship-contending performance level of 2010 was clearly on display for the Brazilian crowd.

Gearbox problems were a plaque that captured more than Vettel. Indiscriminately, transmission issues slowed one McLaren F1 driver and a pilot from Lotus Renault GP. Middle way through the Brazilian Grand Prix, winner of the previous Formula 1 race at Abu Dhabi Lewis Hamilton suffered a race-ending mechanical failure in the transmission. Despite the total of three gearbox problems in the event, only Lewis Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes would fail in finishing the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Lotus Renault GP, it was the hometown runner Bruno Senna who was reportedly dealing with minor gearbox hiccups.

While Senna finished the grand prix with the wounded Lotus Renault GP race car, the Brazilian driver's day would be impacted early when he tangled with Mercedes GP driver Michael Schumacher. In defense of 9th position, Bruno Senna made contact with Schumacher's resulting in the Mercedes GP car getting a punctured Pirelli tire. Senna received a drive-through penalty by Formula 1 race stewards for the move. Both Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher continued the event but would not challenge for points in this final race of 2011. As their teammates collected non-point outings, the Mercedes GP and Lotus Renault GP team vehicles would leave with top-10 results. Nico Rosberg brought his Mercedes GP car home 7th while Vitaly Petrov climbed from 15th to 10th helping Lotus Renault GP secure 5th in the manufacturer points over Force India.

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Force India team in this final 2011 grand prix in Brazil, the team left accomplishing a feat identical to the major Red Bull Racing and Ferrari teams. Resulting in both team cars collecting points at the end of 71 laps, Adrian Sutil led the Force India squad in 6th place while Paul di Resta followed in a respectable 8th position. Kamui Kobayashi brought the Sauber team 2 final series points with a 9th place result aiding the team's effort to maintain 7th place in the Formula 1 constructor standings for 2011.

Untouched, Mark Webber sailed to the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix win resulting in the Australian's first and only victory for the Formula 1 season. Webber preserves an honour of winning a grand prix in three consecutive Formula 1 race seasons after what was 7 years of perseverance with teams like Minardi, Jaguar and Williams F1. The Brazilian Grand Prix also becomes a significant milestone for Mark Webber as the first locale the Red Bull Racing driver scored multiple wins on the circuit (Webber won the 2009 race at Brazil).
Showing his championship-caliber determination, Sebastian Vettel brought his Red Bull-Renault across the line 16.9 seconds behind teammate Mark Webber. After relinquishing the lead, Vettel's event dealing with the gearbox issue resulted in a brief overshooting of a corner but was otherwise a successful drive keeping the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button almost 11 seconds behind.

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Winning their 12th of 19 Formula 1 races in 2011, Red Bull Racing ties McLaren in 1984 and the 1996 Williams F1 team for victories in a single season. Despite some dents in the team's armour at mid-season, Red Bull Racing maintains itself as the consistent team to beat heading into 2012.

As cars crossed the start/finish line for the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix, the possible completion of Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello racing career is one of the news items dominating speculation for 2012. Finishing his home grand prix in 14th place for Williams F1, the vacated ride (that will be propelled by Renault power next season) is one of many questions that will dominate the next few months ahead of the March 2012's Australian Grand Prix.
Until that day, Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel, in particularly, drink the champagne of 2011 victories again the strongest force in Formula 1. 

2011 Formula 1
Brazilian Grand Prix
Race Results
  1. 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
  2. 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
  3. 4 Jenson Button McLaren
  4. 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
  5. 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
  6. 14 Adrian Sutil Force India
  7. 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
  8. 13 15 Paul di Resta Force India
  9. 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
  10. 10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
  11. 19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
  12. 18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
  13. 17 Sergio Perez Sauber
  14. 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
  15. 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
  16. 21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
  17. 9 Bruno Senna Lotus Renault GP
  18. 20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
  19. 25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing
  20. 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
  21. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
  22. 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
  23. 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1
  24. 24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing

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