World Champion Sebastian Vettel set a record for poles at the Grand Prix of Brazil this weekend but couldn’t add to his victory total Sunday when gearbox trouble forced him to finish second to his race-winning teammate, Mark Webber, who mounted the top step on the podium for the first time this season.
Jenson Button drove his McLaren-Mercedes to third place in the season-ending Grand Prix behind the powerhouse Red Bull-Renault constructors champions, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa arriving home fourth and fifth for Ferrari.
Webber’s win and Alonso’s failure to reach the podium gave Webber third place in the season’s standings behind Vettel and Button, 258 points to Alonso’s 257.
Adrian Sutil was sixth for Force India-Mercedes, Nico Rosberg seventh for Mercedes, Paul Di Resta eighth for Force India, Kamui Kobayashi ninth for Sauber and Vitaly Petrov tenth for Renault.
It was not a particularly exciting race but an interesting one, with lots of hard racing from third on back.
Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren gearbox tanked out on him during Lap 37 when he was trying his darndest to get past Felipe Massa, with the Ferrari driver doing everything he could to keep his arch-rival behind him (the two collided five times during the 2011 season).
Said Hamilton, who suffered through a somewhat miserable season: "
"Today, I gave it my all. I enjoyed the race and it's a little bit unfortunate that weren't able to get extra points. I was challenging Felipe at the end and was hoping I could get him but the gearbox didn't last. It's been a long, long year and I'm looking forward to a little bit of downtime with family and friends.
"There is a lot to improve on but I feel it's all positive even though we didn't have a great result today."
Vettel, who spun out of the last Grand Prix at Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, served noticed on Saturday that he intended to try to dominate at Brazil by winning his 15th pole position of the season, breaking Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 set in 1992.
And he let everybody know early that he planned to improve on his previous 11 victories this year by leading from the start in Sunday’s race.
He did that by throwing down the gauntlet and opening up a two-second gap in the first lap over his teammate, who’d slotted into second.
But on Lap 25 of the 71-lap event, Vettel was told by Red Bull engineers that his gearbox was wonky and that he would have to nurse it if he hoped to finish the race. On Lap 29, he slowed to let Webber through and then held onto second despite the best efforts of Button to catch him.
Webber was not jumping-up-and-down excited after the contest, saying that he’d felt in good shape all weekend and that he’d enjoyed the drive, particularly the last two laps when he knew he would win.
"Yeah I feel very good, the car has felt good all weekend," he said. "Seb did a great job for pole but today I had the rub of the green. It would have been nice to race Seb all the way though, but he had a little problem.
"It's a win that you'll take. For Seb, that's bad luck or whatever you want to call it, but it's a very important win for me and the team. It's great to finish on a high. I enjoyed the last few laps in particular, as it's always nice to pit later and cover people off."
For his part, Vettel said he thought it "a real shame" that he hadn’t been more competitive.
"It was a real shame as I had a good start and a very good feeling," he said. "Very early on, I got the call to manage a gearbox problem. I had to turn down the engine and short-shift. It was getting worse through the race and I ended up having to use higher gears.
Then he added: "But nevertheless, Mark drove a fantastic race and he deserved to win."
Button and Alonso had their moments earlier. At the start, Alonso pulled one of his banzai moves from fifth place to get past Hamilton at the start and then bombed by Button on the 11th lap to take third.
However, he had tire problems late in the race and Button was able to recapture third by the checkers.
The only controversy during the race was a drive-through penalty handed to Bruno Senna by the stewards after he and Michael Schumacher had a disagreement over a corner and collided slightly in what simply looked to be one of them racin’ deals.
Schumacher had to pit to replace a punctured tire and, for that, Senna was declared the villain.
Somebody should tell the stewards it’s a race, not a parade.
F1 now will shut down for four months. But rest assured, there will no shortage of news, particularly with Bernie Ecclestone around. In Brazil, He was already stirring the muddy waters around the Austin Grand Prix, suggesting it won't be on the calendar next year, as well as pontificating at length on a number of other subjects.
Never a dull moment, eh?