SAO PAULO, Brazil, November 28 – Mark Webber won his first race of the year on Sunday when he took advantage of Red Bull team-mate and double world champion Sebastian Vettel’s gearbox problems to win the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
Driving with great speed, precision and a near-flawless sense of judgement, the 35-year-old Australian came home 16.9 seconds ahead of his team-mate Vettel to give Red Bull a third one-two of the 2011 season.
It was an excellent drive by Webber who delivered his seventh career win to make sure he finished third in the championship behind Vettel and Jenson Button, who came home third for McLaren.
Vettel, who had already wrapped up his second title, finished with a final total of 392 points ahead of Button on 270 and Webber on 258. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was fourth on 257.
Alonso finished fourth in the race just ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, with Adrian Sutil of Force India and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes sixth and seventh respectively.
Rookie Paul Di Resta came home eighth for Force India, capping an impressive first season with another good result, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber and Vitaly Petrov of Renault.
Webber took the lead after 30 laps of the 71-lap contest when Vettel, struggling with gearbox problems from lap five onwards, accepted the team’s advice to ease off and nurse his car home to second.
“I felt good all weekend. Seb did a great lap for pole. Today I had the rub of the green. It would have been nice to have a race with Seb all the way through but he had a problem,” said Webber.
“It’s a win you’ll take for sure because I’ve had bad luck or whatever you want to call it. It’s an important win for me and the team to finish on a high.”
The race started in hot conditions with an air temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 44 degrees.
Vettel, from his record 15th pole of the year, made a now-customary smooth departure and established a lead of more than a second on the opening lap ahead of Webber and Button.
Behind that trio, Lewis Hamilton was unable to resist the surge from Alonso’s Ferrari as he fought past him to take fourth. Massa also progressed a place to sixth.
By lap three, Vettel was 2.2 seconds clear but Rubens Barrichello, dreaming of a glorious race in what may have been his final Grand Prix, fell from 12th to 19th off the grid.
The order remained unchanged through the opening 10 laps when Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna clashed and the German suffered a puncture to his Mercedes.
The stewards decided the Brazilian deserved a drive-through penalty which effectively wrecked his hopes of shining in his home city race. Schumacher pitted, but his hopes of points were over.
One lap later, Alonso produced a stunning passing move when he flew round the outside of Button to take third place on the outside of turn six.
As the Spaniard made his dramatic progress, Vettel was confirming the news that he had a serious gearbox problem, a difficulty that persuaded him to accept that Webber should lead the race.
After some discussions, he gave up the number one spot to Webber on lap 30, giving him sight of his first win of the season.
As they approached the half-way stage of the 71-lap contest, Webber was out in front ahead of Vettel, Alonso and Button with Hamilton fifth and Massa sixth.
Hamilton retired on the 47th lap with a gearbox failure, parking his car out on the circuit.
“I enjoyed my race and it is unfortunate for the team that I can’t bring in the extra points. I was challenging, but the gearbox problems did it for me. I gave it all I could,” said Hamilton.
Button turned up the heat on Alonso as he pursued a podium finish and he passed him with a well-judged move on lap 61, the last major positional change on a day when Red Bull again demonstrated their overall superiority.