Mark Webber won the Brazilian Grand Prix for the second time today, the seventh victory of his F1 career, but crucially it was his first win of the season and it came about because of a rare technical problem for his team mate Sebastian Vettel.
The World champion rolled in second having survived most of the race with a gearbox problem, which forced him to short shift in second and third gears and eventually to use only the higher gears.
Jenson Button came through after an intense race long battle with Fernando Alonso to claim his 12th podium finish of the season and the eighth in nine races since Hungary, a very strong run, second only to Vettel’s.
Button scored 161 points since Hungary to Vettel’s 176, a much closer ratio than the first half of the season.
It confirmed him in second place in the championship.
“It’s a bit of a relief, the feeling is nice,” said Webber. “In this sport you take them as they come. I can only control what I’m doing. With ten laps to go I thought it’s nice to finish the season with a win and another win in Brazil, always been a good track for me.”
At the start, the top three got away cleanly, while Hamilton lost fourth place to Alonso, another strong getaway from the Ferrari driver, while Massa also gained a place at the expense of Rosberg.
Further back Kovalainen got a flying start gaining four places, but the big loser off the line was Barrichello, possibly starting his last race, who lost seven places.
In the opening stint Vettel pulled away from Webber, while Button’s McLaren didn’t have the pace to live with them and he had Alonso attacking him, making the pass on Button on lap 12, while Senna and Schumacher tangled with damage to both cars. Schumacher punctured a tyre and debris from it was strewn around the track.
Vettel’s tyres started blistering at this point and then he developed a gearbox problem.
Button pitted on lap 15 with Alonso and Hamilton in a lap later and the order stayed the same. Vettel pitted on lap 18 and Webber a lap later. This cost Webber time in the battle with Alonso, who gained three seconds on him through this phase.
Massa delayed his stop, until lap 22, coming in five laps later than his team mate.
Vettel’s gearbox problem got steadily worse through the second stint and Webber closed right in as Vettel had to short shift every corner of every lap.
He let Webber past him on lap 29, as Alonso closed in at a second per lap.
The tyre wear was worse than expected compelling most to go to three stops, however Button was in for a second stop on lap 32, switching to the medium tyre. This strategy was pretty bold, but would be vulnerable if it were to rain and everyone were to pit for wet tyres. But his pace was good on the medium tyre.
Hamilton pitted on lap 34 and went to the soft tyres. He too developed a gearbox problem at mid-distance.
Massa and Hamilton reprised their season long battle on lap 42 as the McLaren attacked despite his gearbox problem. Massa was on worn tyres and needed to stop again, so it was up to Hamilton to judge the risk. The pace was almost 2 seconds slower than the front runners.
Hamilton switched strategies pitting for the medium tyre and Massa reacted and pitted a lap later, holding the place. But Hamilton’s gearbox failed a couple of laps later.
Button had to stop again for another set of medium tyres on lap 53, he had enough of a margin over Massa to pit and rejoin ahead of the Brazilian and then with a new set of medium tyres he went on the attack.
Alonso pitted soon after but the Ferrari’s lack of pace on the medium tyres was again very evident as Button hauled him in and passed him for third place.
Sutil had a great day finishing 10 seconds ahead of Rosberg, he was lapping at the same pace as Massa in the final stint. Whether this was enough to save his drive with the team time will tell.
It was almost enough for Force India to catch Renault in the constructors championship, they missed it by just four points. Meanwhile Sauber just held off Toro Rosso for seventh and Lotus confirmed a very valuable 10th place, the last of the prize money earning positions.
Webber finished off the race with a series of fastest laps, lapping everyone up to sixth placed Adrian Sutil in the process.
BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX, Interlagos, 71 laps
1. Webber Red Bull 1h32:17.434
2. Vettel Red Bull + 16.983
3. Button McLaren + 27.638
4. Alonso Ferrari + 35.048
5. Massa Ferrari + 1:06.733
6. Sutil Force India + 1 lap
7. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
8. Di Resta Force India + 1 lap
9. Kobayashi Sauber + 1 lap
10. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 1 lap
12. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1 lap
13. Perez Sauber + 1 lap
14. Barrichello Williams + 1 lap
15. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus + 2 laps
17. Senna Renault + 2 laps
18. Trulli Lotus + 2 laps
19. D’Ambrosio Virgin + 3 laps
20. Ricciardo HRT + 3 laps