The Interlagos Circuit at Sao Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere, is the last race of an eventful season. Practice and qualifying was dry but the forecast for race day was wet, so the teams had a tricky time to get set up right for the race.
Qualifying was quite special with Vettel maintaining his supremacy with his 15th pole of the season and beating the previous record held by Nigel Mansell. Webber was consistent with getting second followed by Button, outperforming his teammate Hamilton. Rosberg did well in 6th place just behind Alonso and outperforming his teammate, Michael Schumacher, yet again.
The start was dry and sunny although showers were in the area. Vettel as usual sped away from pole followed by Webber who was under pressure from Button who was being attacked by Alonso who had made another of his demon starts and passed Hamilton. Rubens Barrichello, who lives near the circuit, had a terrible start from 12th position. He bogged down and was overtaken by many from the lower levels and ended up in 19th position. A shame for such an experienced driver in his 19th year in Formula 1 and may not have a seat for next year.
At the start of lap 3 Vettel was powering away and over 2secs in the lead from Webber with Button a further 3 secs behind with Alonso pushing hard using his DRS to attempt an unsuccessful overtake on Button. It was expected to be a 2 stop race, depending upon the weather, with first pit stops around lap 20 or 22. However the tyres seemed to be going off quicker than expected and first stops were made by mid runners on lap 15.
Interesting fights were going on all the way down the field and on lap 10 Schumacher slip streaming Senna along the pit straight overtakes but they both touch and then as they go into the first bend Senna doesn’t leave space and they contact again with his front wing being damaged and Schumacher having to pit with a puncture – not happy. The Stewards review the action and penalise Senna with a drive through for causing an avoidable accident.
On lap 15 Vettel was told to short shift on 2nd and 3rd gears as there was a problem and avoid using all the torque and revs to 18,000. Button pitted for tyres on lap 16 followed by Alonso the next lap with Vettel leaving it to lap 18. By lap 21 Vettel had caught Massa, who was in the lead on a two stop strategy, and using his DRS he passed Massa, who decided to pit at the end of the lap, coming out into 6th place. Mark Webber was catching Vettel and clocked fastest lap on lap 23. The first retirement was Timo Glock who left his pit without the left rear fully attached and consequently the wheel came off and his Virgin car was out. The Stewards made it known that they would review the problem after the race which means that the team may be fined for unsafe release.
On lap 26 there was another radio message to Vettel that there is a serious problem and to short shift his gears on all corners. This was allowing Webber to catch and on lap 28 another message was sent telling him in code to allow Webber past. Maldonado spun into the tyre wall on turn 7 ending his race and Vettel managed to produce the fastest lap even whilst nursing his gearbox. On lap 30 he allowed Webber to pass into the first bend. The team radioed him to care for his tyres and go as far as he could on them as rain was forecast within the next few laps.
On lap 38 a message for Hamilton informed him of a gearbox problem whilst Alonso was putting in the fastest lap of the race. Webber pitted for another set of soft tyres and came out in 2nd place whilst Button was able to pass Massa into 3rd using his DRS. Massa, who was trying to only do 2 stops, was also being caught by Hamilton, but after trying for over 3 laps to pass Hamilton pitted. He came out on hard tyres behind Sutil who was having a storming race in the Force India – he still has not got a contract for 2012, which may be adding a little extra effort! On lap 48 Hamilton pushing Sutil suddenly slows and pulls off the track without gears, so ending a bad year for him as well as being beaten by his teammate for the first time in any formula.
Sutil was still progressing forwards and on lap 49 attempted to pass Rosberg along the pit straight. He thought he had done the job but Rosberg braked later for the first bend on the inside and forced Sutil out. However the next lap Sutil was ready for the counter move and completed the pass successfully into 6th place.
Webber pitted for his last se of tyres on lap 59, coming back out in the lead with Vettel coaxing his gearbox in second place. Button had second wind and was catching Alonso and for three laps they were fighting tooth and nail, side by side with Alonso making his Ferrari the biggest car on the track. They passed and re-passed several tries until finally Button got the better and passed along the back straight into turn 4 and managed to make a gap finishing in 3rd place with Alonso 4th.
Webber finished 1st for the first time this season and jumped Alonso into 3rd place in the championship with Button 2nd. Webber was also able to set fastest lap for each of the last three laps and had to be cautioned by his team to slow down. He was enjoying his moment and ‘Brilliance in Brazil’.
A great season this year with plenty of action even with the dominance of the Red Bull Team and with new regulations next year we look forwards to the teams having cars ready from the beginning of the season unlike this year when the McLarens and Ferraris only improved from half way. The second tier teams are looking to do better next year, Mercedes, Force India, Renault, Sauber and Williams as is Team Lotus who will be renamed Caterham. They managed to finish 10th in the Constructors Championship which means $30m to them from the FIA that will be well spent on design and aerodynamics. Money is just as important at the back of the grid as well as the front.