Red Bull Racing clinched their first F1 Constructors’ World Championship at Interlagos as Sebastian Vettel led a 1-2 finish ahead of Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso was third and he goes to Abu Dhabi with an eight point lead over Webber. If he finishes second whatever the other two do, he is world champion for the third time.
It was a difficult result to swallow for Webber, who would have been only one point behind Alonso if the team had backed him. But that is not their philosophy and you can debate the rights and wrongs of that. It would have helped as Webber struggled a bit for pace at Abu Dhabi last year, it’s not really his kind of circuit. Alonso has the Red Bull pair exactly where he wants them.
The race start was decisive. At the getaway, Hulkenberg held the lead into turn 1, but lost it to Sebastian Vettel down the back straight. Webber lost a place to Hamilton into Turn 1, but managed to repass into Turn 2. He then forced Hulkenberg into a mistake in Turn 3 and moved through to second place.
Alonso attacked Hamilton at the end of lap one, but then pushed Hamilton into a similar mistake to Hulkenberg at turn 3 and he was through. For the second time in two races Alonso had passed his great rival by forcing him into making a mistake.
Alonso sized up Hulkenberg for a while before making a sublime pass in turn 3 on lap five. But in those first three laps, crucially, he lost 10 seconds to Webber in second place.
Hamilton struggled to follow him, radioing his team that he had ‘no grip’. The McLarens seemed to struggle for pace in the early stages, Jenson Button was passed by Michael Schumacher.
Button was the first to pit for hard tyres on lap 11, which triggered a similar move from Ferrari with Massa and Williams with Barrichello.
Barrichello had a problem at his stop, while Massa pitted a second time, as a wheel had not been fitted properly. On lap 15 Hulkenberg pitted and was jumped by Button.
Hamilton stayed out, now racing Button – who had started 11th – for position. He pitted on lap 20 and rejoined ahead of his team mate.
Alonso meanwhile was on the same pace as the Red Bulls but he had a 10 second margin to Webber from the time lost behind Hulkenberg.
Alonso pitted on lap 25 for hard tyres and rejoined second. This triggered a move by Vettel who pitted on lap 26. Webber pitted a lap later and rejoined second, the pit stops changing nothing.
Nico Rosberg impressively kept his soft tyres going longer than his peers and was running fifth before his stop. he rejoined behind Button in seventh behind Kobayashi who was running long on hard tyres in the opening stint.
Around lap 30 Alonso asked his engineer about his relative pace to the Red Bull cars, weighing up whether to push his engine to try to catch or whether to conserve the engine with Abu Dhabi in mind.
Webber was pushing hard at mid distance, knowing that Vettel’s engine was on its third race while his own was on it second.
Barrichello was forced to pit on lap 36 as he had a puncture after contact with Alguersuari. Hulkenberg meanwhile was down in 10th place, albeit behind Sutil and Kobayashi who had not stopped.
Webber continued to push hard, getting the gap down to 1.5 seconds, as the pair came upon a train of eight cars all fighting for position. Massa was first and Webber lost 3/10ths to Vettel lapping him.
The team told him that his engine temperatures were high, so he had to short shift on gearchanges. Inevitably he felt that it would have been helpful, but he also knew he could not count on it.
On lap 50, Tonio Liuzzi crashed heavily at the Senna S triggering a safety car. This allowed Alonso to close the gap on the Red Bulls and gave Kobayashi a great chance with new soft tyres and a closed up field.
Also taking the opportunity to pit for new softs under the safety car were the two Mercedes, two McLarens and Massa. Rosberg’s race was ruined by a chaotic stop by Mercedes, seemingly not knowing which tyres to put on.
Hamilton was now fourth on new tyres at the restart. Vettel had the luxury of two cars between him and Webber at the restart.
It was a bad day for Brazilian F1 fans, with Massa 15th, Barrichello 17th, Senna 21st and Di Grassi out.
If Red Bull wanted to maximise their chances of winning the drivers’ title they would have prioritised Webber today, but they do not have that philosophy and so the task is difficult for both Red Bull drivers in Abu Dhabi.
“Today is about the team, ” said a disappointed Webber of the Constructors’ Championship success. “People like Adrian Newey, David Coulthard, who out a lot of work in, Christian Horner. We have some soldiers back at base. Adrian pushes them hard. We’ve hit a few logs in the river along way but I want to thank everyone.”
Asked whether he wished the team had allowed him to win, Webber said, “It helps but it’s not in the team’s philosophy. Fernando got some points in Hockenheim, but that’s happened many times in the past.”
Asked whether he would allow Webber through to take the title if the top three in the closing stages of the race were the same as today, Vettel said,
“We will see where we are. Operating those cars on the limit you are never certain. In my case it’s straightforward I need to get the result. We both know how to act. We had some moments we are not proud of. In that situation it is obviously something that we would think of.”
In reality he would have no choice as for a Red Bull driver to hand the drivers’ championship to Alonso in that scenario is unthinkable. But there are many other permutations in the final race of this classic championship.
BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX, Interlagos, 71 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h33:11.803
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 4.243
3. Alonso Ferrari + 6.807
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 14.634
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 15.593
6. Rosberg Mercedes + 35.300
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 43.400
8. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
9. Kubica Renault + 1 lap
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
15. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
16. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
17. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
18. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
22. Klien HRT-Cosworth + 6 laps
1. Alonso 246
2. Webber 238
3. Vettel 231
4. Hamilton 222
5. Button 199
6. Massa 143
1. Red Bull-Renault 469
2. McLaren-Mercedes 421
3. Ferrari 389
4. Mercedes 202
5. Renault 145
6. Williams-Cosworth 69